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This is a guest post from Jamie Lundine, who has been collaborating with Plan Kenya to support digital mapping and governance programming in Kwale and Mathare. The original was published on Jamie’s blog, titled Information with an Impact. See part 1 of this series here: Digital Mapping and Governance: the Stories behind the Maps.

Mapping a school near Ukunda, Kwale County

Creating information is easy. Through mobile phones, GPS devices, computers (and countless other gadgets) we are all leaving our digital footprints on the world (and the World Wide Web). Through the open data movement, we can begin to access more and more information on the health and wellbeing of the societies in which we live. We can create a myriad of information and display it using open source software such as Ushahidi, OpenStreetMap, WordPress, and countless other online platforms. But what is the value of this digital information? And what impact can it have on the world?

Youth Empowerment Through Arts and Media (YETAM) is project of Plan International which aims to create information that encourages positive transformation in communities. The project recognizes young people as important change agents who, despite their energy and ability to learn, are often marginalized and denied opportunities.  Within the YETAM project, Plan Kenya works with young people in Kwale County (on the Coast of Kenya) to inspire constructive action through arts and media – two important channels for engaging and motivating young people.

Information in Kwale County

Kwale County is considered by Plan International to be a “hardship” area. Despite the presence of 5-star resorts, a private airport and high-end tourist destinations on Diani beach, the local communities in Kwale County lack access to basic services such as schools, health facilities and economic opportunities. Young people in the area are taking initiative and investigating the uneven distribution of resources and the inequities apparent within the public and private systems in Kwale County.

As one component of their work in Kwale, Plan Kenya is working with the three youth-led organizations to create space for young people to participate in their communities in a meaningful, productive way. There are different types of participation in local governance – often times government or other agencies invites youth to participate (“invited space”) as “youth representatives” but they are simply acting to fill a required place and are not considered  within the wider governance and community structures.

Youth representation can also be misleading as the Kwale Youth and Governance Coalition (KYGC) reports that “youth representatives” aren’t necessarily youth themselves – government legislation simply stipulates that there must be someone representing the youth – but there is no regulation that states that this person must be a youth themselves (they must only act on behalf of the youth). This leaves the system open to abuse (the same holds true for “women’s representative” – you can find a man acting on behalf of women in the position of women’s representative).  Plan Kenya and the young people we met are instead working to “create space” (as opposed to “a place”) for young people in community activism in Kwale County.

The 5 weeks we spent in Kwale were,the beginning of a process to support this on-going work in the broad area of “accountability” – this encompasses child rights, social accountability and eco-tourism. The process that began during the 5 weeks was the integration of digital mapping and social media to amplify voices of young people working on pressing concerns in the region.

To create the relevant stakeholders and solicit valuable feedback during the process of the YETAM work on digital mapping and new media, our last 3 days in Kwale were spent reviewing the work with the teams. On Thursday November 10th, we invited advisors from Plan Kwale, Plan Kenya Country Office, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and officers from the Constituency Development Fund to participate in a half-day of presentations and feedback on the work the young people had undertaken.

By far the work that generated the most debate in the room was the governance tracking by the KYGC. The team presented the Nuru ya Kwale blog which showcased 28 of the 100 + projects the youth had mapped during the field work. They classified the 28 projects according to various indicators – and for example documented that 23 of the projects had been completed, 1 was “in bad progress”, 2 were “in good progress” and 1 “stalled.”

The CDF officers (the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer of the Matuga CDF committee in Kwale County) were concerned with the findings and questioned the methodology and outcome of the work.  They scrutinized some of the reports on the Nuru ya Kwale site and questioned for example, why Mkongani Secondary School was reported as a “bad” quality project. The officials wanted to know the methodology and indicators the team had used to reach their conclusions because according to the representatives of the CDF committee, the auditors gave the Mkongani Secondary School project a clean bill of health.

One important message for the youth based on feedback on their work was the need to clearly communicate the methodology used to undertake the documentation of projects (i.e. what are the indicators of a project in “bad” progress? how many people did you interview? Whose views did they represent?).

There is significant value in presenting balanced feedback that challenges the internal government (or NGO) audits – for example the data on Kenya Open Data documents that 100% of CDF money has been spent on the Jorori Water Project mentioned above, but a field visit, documented through photos and interviews with community members reveals that the project is stalled and left in disrepair. This is an important finding – the youth have now presented this to the relevant CDF committee. The committee members were responsive to the feedback and, despite turning the youth away from their offices the previous month, invited them to the CDF to get the relevant files to supplement some of the unknown or missing information (i.e. information that people on the ground at the project did not have access to, such as for example, who was the contractor on a specific project, and what was the project period).

Kwale youth with staff from Plan Kenya, officers from the CDFC and the local Youth Officer

Samuel Musyoki, Strategic Director of Plan Kenya who joined the presentations and reflections on November 10th and 11th, reported that:

“The good thing about this engagement is that it opened doors for the youth to get additional data which they needed to fill gaps in their entries. Interestingly, they had experienced challenges getting such data from the CDF. I sought to know form the CDFC and the County Youth Officer if they saw value in the data the youth were collecting and how they could use it.

The County Youth Officer was the most excited and has invited the youth to submit a business proposal to map Youth Groups in the entire county. The mapping would include capturing groups that have received the Youth Enterprise Fund; their location; how much they have received; enterprises they are engaged in; how much they have repaid; groups that have not paid back; etc. He said it will be an important tool to ensure accountability through naming and shaming defaulters.

The 5 weeks were of great value — talking to quite a number of the youth I could tell — they really appreciate the skill sets they have received-GIS mapping; blogging; video making and using the data to engage in evidence based advocacy. As I leave this morning they are developing action plans to move the work forward. I sought assurance from them that this will not end after the workshop. They had very clear vision and drive where they want to go and how they will work towards ensuring sustained engagement beyond the workshop.”

The impact of digital mapping and new media on social accountability is still an open question. Whether the social accountability work would have provoked similar feedback from duty bearers if presented in an offline platform (for example in a power point presentation) instead of as a dynamic-online platform is unknown.

The Matuga CDF officers were rather alarmed that the data were already online and exposed their work in an unfavourable light (in fairness, there were some well-executed projects as well). There is a definite need to question the use of new technology in governance work, and develop innovative methods for teasing out impact of open, online information channels in decision-making processes and how this is or isn’t amplifying existing accountability work.  There is definite potential in the work the young people are undertaking and the government officers consulted, from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and local CDF Committee (CDFC) stated that they were “impressed by the work of the youth”.

Within the community development systems and particularly the structure of devolved funding, there is a gap in terms of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) that the CDF committee to date has not been able to play effectively. As Samuel Musyoki stated the youth “could watch to ensure that public resources are well utilized to benefit the communities.” The Youth Officer even invited the youth to submit proposals for assistance in buying GPS gadgets and computers to strengthen this work.

Continuing the on and offline integration

As discussed, the work in Kwale on various issues is dynamic and evolving. The 5 weeks we spent with the teams were meant to provide initial trainings and support and to catalyse action that would be continued by the youth in the area, with support from Plan Kenya. Not only did we provide training to the young people, but Plan Kwale staff were also involved in the process and started documenting their work through the tools and techniques introduced by our team. With these skills, the Plan Kwale staff will support the on-going field mapping and new media work. We are also available to provide remote assistance with questions about strategies and technical challenges.

Some of the future activities include:

  • Holding a “leaders forum” during which the youth interact with a wider cross-section of stakeholders and share their work.
  • Continuing work on their various websites – updating the sites with results from social auditing work to be carried out throughout the last weeks of November, as well as digitizing previous information collected during historical social auditing.
  • Validating the data by revisiting some project sites and documenting projects that haven’t been done yet, gathering stories from some of the Project Management Committees, taking more photos, and potentially conducting surveys within the communities to get more representative views on project evaluations.
  • Each group also needs to develop a more structured advocacy strategy to direct their activities in these areas.
  • All teams expressed interest in developing proposals to submit to the Ministry of Youth Affairs, through the Youth Enterprise Fund and CDF Committee, based on the suggestion of potential funding for this process. Plan Kwale staff, as well as some of the Country Office advisers offered to support the youth in developing these proposals.
  • Most importantly, the teams want to consult the wider community in their respective areas to demonstrate the relevance of YETAM, including the skills they have gained, to the community stakeholders (beyond the relevant government authorities

The potential of new technologies, including digital mapping to promote accountability, is only as powerful as the offline systems into which it is integrated. Without offline engagement, existing community systems of trust and recognition will be threatened and thus undermine any online work. The youth must remain grounded within their existing work and use new technology to amplify their voices, build their network, share their stories and lessons and learn from and engage with others.

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This is a guest post from Jamie Lundine, who has been collaborating with Plan Kenya to support digital mapping and governance programming in Kwale and Mathare.

Throughout October and November 2011, Plan Kwale worked through Map Kibera Trust with Jamie Lundine and Primoz Kovacic, and 4 young people from Kibera and Mathare, to conduct digital mapping exercises to support ongoing youth-led development processes in Kwale county. One of the important lessons learned through the Trust’s work in Kibera and Mathare is that the stories behind the mapping work are important for understanding the processes that contribute to a situation as represented on a map. To tell these stories and to complement the data collection and mapping work done by the youth in Kwale, the Map Kibera Trust team worked with the Kwale youth to set up platforms to share this information nationally and internationally. Sharing the important work being done in Kwale will hopefully bring greater visibility to the issues which may in the longer term lead to greater impact.

Sharing stories of local governance

To support their work on social accountability, the Kwale Youth and Governance Consortium (KYGC) mapped over 100 publicly and privately funded community-based projects. The projects were supported by the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Local Area Development Fund (LATF), NGOs and private donors. As one channel of sharing this information, the Consortium set up a blog called Nuru ya Kwale (Light of Kwale). According to KYGC the blog “features and addresses issues concerning promotion of demystified participatory community involvement in the governance processes towards sustainable development. We therefore expect interactivity on issues accruing around social accountability.” This involves sharing evidence about various projects and stories from the community.

One example is the documentation of the Jorori Water project in Kwale; through the mapping work, the Governance team collected details of the constituency development fund (CDF) project. The funding allocated to upgrade the water supply for the community was 6,182,960 ksh (approximately 73,000.00 USD). From their research the KYGC identified that the Kenya Open Data site reported that the full funding amount has been spent.

A field visit to the site however revealed that project was incomplete and the community is still without a stable water supply, despite the fact that the funding has been “spent.”

Jorori Water Project, built using approximately 6.2 million shillings (73, 000.00 USD)

Read more about the questions the team raised in terms of the governance of CDF projects, including the detailed the project implementation process and some reflections on why the project stalled. This is information on community experiences (tacit information) that is well-known in a localized context but has not been documented and shared widely. New media tools, a blog in this case, provide free (if you have access to a computer and the internet) platforms for sharing this information with national and international audiences.

Addressing violence against children and child protection

Another blog was set up by the Kwale Young Journalists. The Young Journalists, registered in 2009, have been working with Plan Kwale on various projects, including Violence against Children campaigns. The group has been working to set up a community radio station in Kwale to report on children’s issues. Thus far, their application for a community radio frequency has encountered several challenges. New media provides an interim solution and will allow the team to share their stories and network with partners on a national and internal stage.

The Kwale Young Journalists worked with Jeff Mohammed, a young award-winning filmmaker from Mathare Valley. The YETAM project not only equips young people with skills, but through peer-learning establishes connections between young people working on community issues throughout Kenya. The programme also provides young people with life skills through experiential learning – Jeff reflects on his experience in Kwale and says:

Jeff and the Kwale Young Journalists shooting a scene from “The Enemy Within”

“My knowledge didn’t come from books and lecturers it came from interest, determination and persistence to know about filmmaking and this is what I was seeing in these Kwale youths. They numbered 12 and they were me. They are all in their twenties and all looking very energetic, they had the same spirit as mine and it was like looking at a mirror. I had to do the best I could to make sure that they grasp whatever I taught.”

Jeff worked with the Young Journalists on a short film called “the Enemy Within.” The film, shot with flip-cameras, tells the story of 12-year-old girl who is sold into indentured labour by her parents to earn money for her family. During the time she spends working, the young girl “falls prey of her employer (Mr.Mtie) who impregnates her when she is only 12 years old.” Jeff reflects that “early pregnancies are a norm in the rural Kwale area and what the young filmmakers wanted to do is to raise awareness to the people that its morally unacceptable to impregnate a very young girl, in Enemy Within the case didn’t go as far because the village chairman was bribed into silence and didn’t report the matter to higher authorities.” This is a common scenario in Kwale, and the young journalists plan to use the film in public screenings and debates as part of their advocacy work in the coming months.

Jeff and the Kwale Young Journalists shot the film in four days – they travelled to Penzamwenye, Kikoneni and also to Shimba Hills national park to shoot 7 scenes for the movie. Read more about Jeff’s reflections on working with the Kwale Young Journalists on his blog.

Sharing ecotourism resources

The Dzilaz ecotourism team – a group that encourages eco-cultural tourism in Samburu region of Kwale county — also integrated social media into their work. During the last week (November 8th-12th) the group set up a blog to market the community resources, services and products. They also plan to document eco-culture sites and the impact that eco-tourism can have on the community. As of November 10th, 2011 the Dzilaz team had already directed potential clients to their website and thus secured a booking through the information they had posted.

The importance of telling the stories behind the maps

One important component to mapping work is to tell the stories behind the map. The three groups in Kwale are working to build platforms to amplify their grassroots level work in order to share stories and lessons learned. The information documented on the various platforms will develop over time and contribute to a greater understanding of the processes at a local level where youth as young leaders can intervene to begin to change the dynamics of community development.

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This is a guest post/cross post from Jamie Lundine who works with Map Kibera. The original is posted on Jamie’s blog Health Geography.

The Youth Empowerment through Technology Arts and Media (YETAM)  project is a joint initiative of Plan International and local partners in 6 African countries (Cameroon, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal). The project was initially funded by Nokia but is now supported by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Plan Finland. In Kenya, YETAM is being implemented in Kwale County, with youth from 3 districts receiving training in digital media, including audio recording, visual arts, and various new technologies.

In Kwale County, the YETAM project has thus far empowered young people to employ video, audio recording and radio programmes to explore issues of child protection and child rights. Youth have also used information communication technology (ICTs) including Facebook to connect and explore governance issues and discuss accountability within local and national institutions.

Through the YETAM methodology, technology, arts and media are used to “start the conversation” about community issues – a strategy that has also been employed by our teams– through work that started first in Kibera and expanded and evolved in Mathare Valley with the support and mentorship of Plan Kenya.

Our team was first approached by Plan Kenya in July 2010 to support a 3 day mapping and new media training which were components of a week-long training and reflection for the YETAM project.

On October 3rd, Primoz Kovacic, Jamie Lundine, Zacharia Wambua and Maureen Omino joined Plan staff, members of Plan Kenya’s partner youth groups, and District Youth officers from Kwale County to begin a process of youth-led community mapping.  The purpose of the mapping is to support the on-going YETAM project and feed into youth-led advocacy work in the 3 districts. We were very conscious that we did not want to do “mapping for the sake of mapping” but rather hoped to add value to existing projects and programmes through supporting the collection of issue-specific information that could be used together with other information

The first step in the process was a “feasibility assessment.” Our work in Mathare, Kibera, Mukuru and some rural areas (Taita Hills, Mt Elgon) had given us the technical skills and understanding of the opportunities and challenges of digital media, particularly in relation to the type of youth-led advocacy work that Plan Kenya supports, however we were not familiar with the particular environment in Kwale. The first week we spent in Kwale, 30-some youth and Plan Kenya staff convened together at the Kaskazi Beach Hotel in Ukunda (south of Mombasa).

The mapping process involves young people from three of Plan Kwale’s partner organizations. The groups are:

  • Kwale Youth and Governance Consortium – with representations from the National Youth Councils from the 3 districts in Kwale
  • Kwale Young Journalists – a coalition of 14 organizations in Kwale distrct who have been trained to produce audio clips and are working on licensing for a radio station to deal with children’s issues.
  • Dzilza eco-tourism group – a community based organization based in Samburu along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway

We spent the first day of the feasibility assessment going over expectations and exploring the concept of mapping, with practical examples of our work in Kibera, Mathare and Primoz’s work in Taita Hills. The expectations from the youth included “meet new friends” & “exchange ideas”, “know more about mapping”, gain “more skills on ICT and mapping”, understand “the impact of mapping to the community” and “how to contextualize mapping and social life.”  It was clear from the expectations that the youth were excited about and interested in the process we were about to embark on and had come prepared to embrace mapping and digital technology as part of their toolset for advocacy and action within their communities – it is up to us to impart our knowledge to further empower them in their work.

After a morning of discussions, we needed to start to understand the geographic environment and social issues facing the young people in their communities.

This would help us facilitate the mapping process and organize the 3-5 weeks of data collection and field work.

First we asked each group to prepare a presentation of their group including, who they are, where they work, the main issues they deal with and activities they undertake. We also wanted to know the stakeholders they engage with on the various issues and during activities they carry out.

The youth were asked to draw a map of Kwale county. They divided into the three groups – Kwale Young Journalists, Kwale Youth and Governance Constorium and Dzilza. The exercise took longer than expected but the teams had interesting and thoughtful discussions of what features to include on the map and how to represent the entire county – which proved to be more challenging than anticipated.

Realizing the challenges of mapping the entire county and that each group needed to narrow down a smaller geographic region and specific issue to map – on Day 2 we asked the youth to break out into groups and draw the 3 districts that make up Kwale County. Interestingly, they divided themselves into groups based on who lived in what district instead of going into teams based on the region in which their group worked.

The smaller geographic region and the previous days experience made the paper-mapping much easier. The maps were more specific and clear than on Day 1!

Kinango District Paper Map

The youth also identified a wide ranging list of approximately 10 issues for each District. In Msambweni for example, the youth discussed child abuse, sexual exploitation and child trafficking (in relation to the tourism industry in and around Ukunda), drug abuse, disasters such as floods and drought, poor academic performance in schools, early marriages and pregnancy, deforestation, lack of birth registration and ID cards, environmental pollution and squatters. This wide range of issues are important to note and discuss – however for focused advocacy work and 3-5 weeks of data collection it would be unmanageable.

Kwale District Paper Map

So at the risk of discussion fatigue, we took the youth on an afternoon of setting up GPS devices to prepare for field work – to introduce GPS data collection and start to understand the scope of the issues we could focus on.

On the third day we focused on the major issues within each group. We asked the young people to come up with the main issue or challenge their work was trying to tackle, their proposed solution, the action steps required (including relevant stakeholder engagement) and the data required to work toward the proposed solution.

Kwale Youth and Governance Council

The main challenge/issue identified by KYGC was social accountability (or lack of accountability due to poor governance and leadership). Their proposed solution involves “empowering society” through community forums, sensitization of the community on social accountability and “participation and inclusion [of community members] in decision-making process.” This will include activities such as stakeholders meetings, participatory planning & implementation of government projects, community involvement in monitoring and evaluation of projects, involvement of the community in the mapping, making recommendations and impact assessment. The team wants to focus on devolved government funds, including the Constituency Development Funds (CDF).

The data the team requires to support their work in social accountability are the following:

  1. Number of projects (aggregated from the data collection process)
  2. Budget allocation for each project
  3. Community participation (identification, place, project, proposals , capacity project committee)
  4. Relevance
  5. Impact (no of beneficiaries, workmanship, quality)
  6. Observations
  7. Project Categories
  8. Recommendations

Kwale Young Journalists

The Kwale Young Journalists chose to focus on two issues related to child protection: child labour & early pregnancy. The tean proposed that these issues can be tackled mainly through increased awareness of children and parents about the importance of education.

The action steps or activities for this proposed solution include 1) reporting cases of child labour and early pregnancy to the administration and the voluntary children officers 2) guidance and counselling of children and parents 3) holding barazas with the community through the administration 4) introducing life skills clubs in schools and villages (for example music, accounts, and journalisms clubs, etc)

Data required

  1. Reasons and vulnerability to child labour
  2. Forms of child labour
  3. The number of children involved in child labour
  4. The number of parents not taking care of the children
  5. The number of people
  6. The number of orphans
  7. The most vulnerable areas
  8. Family status
  9. Blended families
  10. Number of pregnant girls
  11. Reasons of vulnerability to early sex
  12. Number of schools most affected
  13. Number of girls who have gone back to school after giving birth
  14. Data on the number of reported cases
  15. Data of the effects of early pregnancy

When mapping child protection issues, we are aware that some of this data may be extremely sensitive and has the potential to result in further victimization of children and families if publicized. We suggested to the team to focus on publicly available information, such as information on schools, cases, cases of school-drop out, qualitative and quantitative information on the reasons for school drop-out and safe places for vulnerable children.

Eco-tourism in Samburu

The major issue that the Dzilaz group in Samburu will focus on is eco-cultural tourism and human-wildlife conflict. The causes of tension between tourism and culture, as well as wildlife conservation is exacerbated by the conditions in the semi-arid area, where the Dzilaz group operates. Poor government policy, animal migration and poaching and killing of animals are related issues the group is concerned about. The solutions proposed by the group include a combination of advocacy, participation in policy and livelihood activities. They suggested the community work on afforestation and reforestation, installing proper fencing eg electrical fence along animal migratory routes, enforce good governance policy through community participation with other stakeholders, liaise with the relevant authorities for technical support, for example lobby with KWS to permit us to introduce watching, animal hunting of antelope. Actions toward these solutions include door to door campaigns, awareness meetings, seminars/trainings, empowering communities on policy development, identifying resources for exploitation and meeting stakeholders.

Data required

  1. Points of human-wildlife conflict
  2. Number of people affected by the human wildlife conflict
  3. Distance of one school to another
  4. How many have been compensated for human-wildlife conflict
  5. Degree of damage to people, crops, properties

The brainstorming of data/information that the 3 groups hope to collect is a great start, however several concerns arose – including issues of privacy and child protection. Our on-going work focuses primarily on public datasets so we encouraged the youth to think about public assets rather than private data. We also realized that the type of information the teams are interested in is a combination of qualitative and quantitative information – GPS data collection will be only part of the information solution for this work. This week, Primoz, Zach and Maureen are working with each team to create data collection forms to concretize this information and decide on the strategy for further documentation to support GPS data collection and mapping.

Field work – Mapping Ukunda

The final two days of the feasibility assessment involved data collection and practical field work with the GPS devices. This was to begin to build skills, excitement and a better understanding of the practicalities of mapping.

The team of 30 youth split up into the three teams and divided the area to be mapped among them. Some walked along the main strip along Ukunda beach – from Kaskazi hotel to Congo Mosque – including the small village of Gombado, others mapped the area between the beach front and Ukunda town and the last team mapped Ukunda town itself.  Three hours of walking through the area and collecting data in the hot sun proved to be quite tiring for everyone. In two afternoons of field work the teams collected over 350 points of interest and mapped several roads and paths that were not previously mapped. The youth also learned how to digitize over the GPS points and tracks they had collected in the field to contribute data to OpenStreetMap and begin making a map!

Mapping Ukunda

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mGESA mobile mapping application

I wrote about a mobile mapping tool called mGEOS a few months ago, mentioning that I’d probably get a chance to try it myself in late July. Well that is just what happened.

I was at a workshop on ICT4D, including digital mapping, in Kwale, Kenya, and Peter Njuguna from Plan Kilifi’s District office came to share mGESA (aka Mobile Geographical Services for Africa) with us.

As far as I can tell, the difference between mGEOS and mGESA is that mGESA is a tailored application of mGEOS, designed together with Plan’s community based front-line staff for their specific information collecting and geo-visualization needs in Kenya.

Update: mGESA was the name for the pilot project. The final application is called PoiMapper (see www.pajatman.com). You can give it a try by downloading it and installing it on your mobile!

According to Njuguna, “the application is designed to run on simple mobile phones that have GPS capability and on which you can run applications.” It’s installed on the phone in the picture (update: the phone is a Nokia 6700 classic).

Njuguna explained “In Kilifi, we diverted from the route of going for applications that are there on the shelf or buying an application over the counter. We went the route of developing an application from scratch. We are working with various partners. We have Plan in Finland, we have Plan in Kenya, we have the University of Nairobi and we have the company Pajat in Finland. Plan Kilifi is the implementing office. So that is where we are coming from.”

The project has been on-going for 7 months. The first thing to define, according to Njuguna, was “Why do we need mapping? Why do we need GIS in the first place? Well, we need GIS to enhance the work we are doing and to try to answer some of the questions we are asking on a day to day basis. So that’s why we wanted to incorporate GIS into our work. Everything we’ve developed is towards helping us answer questions and make decisions in our program and sponsorship work. We wanted to build something that would suit our needs.”

The end users of mGESA are front-line staff in Plan Kilifi District office, and eventually in all of Plan Kenya’s district offices. “Kilifi front-line staff have all been involved in developing the application. The first step was developing a list of points of interest, for example, schools, hospitals and health centers, interest groups, water sources, trading centers, and the like; and outlining the kind of information that staff regularly collect about the points of interest for use in their work.

mGESA points of interest

“Developing the points of interest was a challenge,” said Njuguna. “It might look like we just sat down and listed them. But it has been a process. We had to go over and over it. We had to be sure the questions made sense, that the questions that we were asking were the right ones and made sense to people in the field.”

mGESA was tested in the field for the first time in mid-July. Njuguna and the team are hoping to kick off in another 3-4 weeks and start collecting the actual data. When the points are mapped out using the mobile application, then they are uploaded to a server that links with Google (or other) maps. The team is exploring the possibility of getting Kenya maps with administrative boundaries to use as the mapping platform. The data collected in mGESA can be exported into excel and .pdf files.

Peter let me try out mGESA while we were doing some GPS mapping in Kinango. He was using the opportunity to test accuracy, and whether mGESA was pulling in the same coordinates as the Garmin GPS units that we were using (it was). I found the data collection process to be quite simple. You basically arrive to your point of interest, take the point on the phone, and scroll through a menu to select pre-existing information (such as name of the district, type of point, etc.) or fill it in yourself. You can take a photo of the POI if your phone has photo capabilities (which most GPS enabled phones should have). I didn’t get a chance to upload data to the server or the web to see how easy that process is.

Peter Njuguna, ICT coordinator at Plan's Kilifi District Office

The group at the workshop had just been trained on several ICT different tools, so they had a lot of questions about mGESA for Njuguna:

What phones does it work on?
Any phone with GPS and capability to download an application will work.

Does it use up your airtime?

mGESA will work on the phone even without any airtime, but during testing, it seemed to work faster with about 10 shillings of credit (equivalent to about $.13).

Is mGESA free?

No. The application is in development and will eventually end up on the commercial market, via Pajat Management in Finland.

Can the application produce a base map or only points?

It can map points of interest only.  Later on it should be able to map out lines (roads) and areas.

mGESA data points on the web interface

Where do the points of interest go?

The points of interest that are collected on the phone are downloaded via a USB cable onto a computer, in the same way that you would download photographs from a camera. Then the points are uploaded to the on-line platform, and also then they will be visible on top of a Google map or other kind of map.

Is mGESA compatible with Open Street Maps?

Now that we know about OSM, this is something we shall look into, as it could be quite useful.

Will the information that you collect be public or private?

At this point the information will be closed, because the application is still in development.  Also for privacy reasons, some information will be shared and other information not shared. For example, if we are collecting personal information on individuals, or data that could put someone at risk, this will not be shared on the map.

What types of uses will the application be suitable for?

Plan can use mGESA when determining plans for phasing out of one area and moving into another area, for example. Instead of collecting data and indicators on paper, staff and managers can see this information on a map and the information that is collected can help us to know where to work.  Having the points of interest mapped out and linked with development information, and being able to select out different information layers on the map (on the internet) should make these decisions easier and more sound.

Will communities be involved and able to use mGESA for their own purposes?

Yes, communities will be able to use the information collected to make their own decisions. Communities can also purchase mGESA for their own use. We might also say to them, come and bring your phone and we will install this application so that you can use it for your own purposes.

Why are you developing a software from scratch and that costs money to the end user if there are existing tools available?

We know that GPS gadgets are expensive and so we thought – why not look into a mobile option. We also had very specific ideas and needs, and we had people willing to develop the idea from scratch. It’s a customized application based on our existing information needs and systems, and we can collect it by mobile rather than trying to find and purchase GPS units here in Kenya.

Update: see this post on Mobile Active for more information on the continued piloting of PoiMapper.

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Salim (left) with Solomon in Kinango community.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Plan’s Kwale District office in Kenya has been a role model for Plan on how to integrate ICTs into community-led programming to help reach development goals and improve access to children’s rights.

I talked with Salim Mvurya, the Area Manager in Kwale, last week and asked him for advice for the tech community (0.15), corporations (1.19) and development organizations (1.57) who want to build in ICTs for moving towards development goals. He also comments on the importance of realizing that development is changing (4.43). You can watch the video below or at this link. If you’re not patient enough to watch a 6 min video (often I’m not!) or don’t have a strong connection, see the transcript below.

You can also view Part 1 of the video, where Salim gives some background on how Plan Kwale has been using ICTs in their programs since 2003 (1.11), shares ideas about the potential of new ICTs (3.42) and talks about some key lessons learned (5.03). Or you can read the Part 1 transcript here.

Transcript Part 2

ICTs and Development Part 2: advice for tech community, corporations and development organizations

My name is Salim Mvurya, I’m the Area Manager for Plan in the Kwale Development Area.

What advice can you give to outside tech people who want to develop something for a place like Kenya?

I think that to get an idea externally is a good thing, but that idea has to be blended with grassroots. It has to be contextualized, because there are very many good ideas which may not be appropriate at the community level. So I think my advice, for people who have ideas, who have never been to Kenya or Africa or in the field, is to leave the process to be home grown, so that the ideas that are coming from outside are building on existing issues, so that the ideas are also looking at what kind of skills and what can be done on the ground, and looking also at issues of sustainability. So it’s very important for somebody from outside the country to be sensitive to local conditions, local context, local skills and also looking at putting ideas that can be self-sustaining.

What is your advice for corporations who want to support the use of ICTs in development?

Corporate organizations who are interested in making a contribution to ICT for development, I think it is important that they foster and have partnerships with grassroots organizations that can really give them the issues because, OK, most corporations are very innovative, but working with grassroots NGOs and civil society that can give them the practical sense of those ideas, I think would be a good thing to do.

What is your advice for colleagues trying to successfully integrate ICTs into their programs?

One thing for organizations that are thinking of utilizing ICT is that you need local capacity. Like, if you have a field office, for example, Plan has development areas, in development areas, particularly for Plan, the ICT technical people should also have an opportunity to lead the ICT for development. What I have seen in the few years that I have been trying this is that it requires also the ICT function to be more available to communities. It requires the ICT function to also work around the program issues that the team is thinking, so it’s not just about looking at systems, looking at computers, but looking at how can all these ICT skills be able to help to develop programs. How can the ICT function be able to support innovations that are also going to enhance problem solutions at the community level. How can we use ICT to strengthen our interventions in the community?

And I must say from experience, that the ICT coordinator for Kwale has been more of a ‘program’ person, and I think that is why we are seeing all these gains.  I remember when we were designing the community-led birth registration one afternoon, we sat together and we were thinking, how can we put all these ideas together and include ICTs in it, so I think it’s about having an ICT function that is responsive to the program issues on the ground and not necessarily sitting somewhere and looking at softwares. You know, even designing a software that would be more responsive to what is happening on the ground, like looking at issues of child protection and seeing how can ICT help the response mechanism. Looking at issues of accountability and seeing how ICT can make a contribution to accountability processes in community.  So I think that is the kind of ICT that would be appropriate in the field, but also an ICT function that can learn. You know, learning from other people, but bringing the lessons closer home to see what can work, and what can’t work.

Any last advice for development organizations around integration of ICTs?

The message that I would want to give to stakeholders and development organizations is that a lot is happening in the world in terms of ICT.  Also recognizing that development is changing… ICT is providing opportunities for greater advocacy and accountability, and I think getting the interest for looking at all this and trying to say ‘what does this mean for development’ I think is very very critical. The youth constituency is emerging as very critical and they have interest in ICT. I know in Kenya youth have been trying different things, different groups, but I think ICT is providing an opportunity for them to strengthen accountability but also to be able to get skills that they can use as individuals that can also make a contribution in economic development.

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Salim Mvurya, Plan Kwale's District Area Manager

Plan’s Kwale District office in Kenya has been very successful in building innovative community-led programming that incorporates new ICTs.  I had the opportunity to interview Salim Mvurya, the Area Manager, last week, and was really struck by his insights on how to effectively incorporate ICTs into community-led processes to reach development goals and improve on child rights, child protection and governance.

In this video, Salim gives some background on how Plan Kwale has been using ICTs in their programs since 2003 (1:11). He shares ideas about the potential of new ICTs (3.42) and some key lessons learned since 2003 (5.03).

Watch the video to get the advice straight from Salim. Or if your internet connection is slow or you’re like me and you like to skim through an article rather sit still and watch a video, the transcript is below.

In a second video, Salim gives really astute advice to the tech community (0.15), corporations (1.19), and development organizations (1.57) on how to successfully integrate ICTs to enable good development processes. He also mentions the importance of moving with the times (4.43). Read the transcript here.

Transcript for Part 1:

ICTs and development Part 1: ICT tools for child rights, child protection and social accountability

My name is Salim Mvurya, I’m the Area Manager for Plan in the Kwale District. My core responsibility as an area manager is to provide leadersip to the Kwale team in both program issues and also operational issues within the organization. This week we have been here in a workshop where we’ve been focusing mostly on issues of ICT for development and particularly what we’ve been learning here is the issue of mapping. We’ve also learned Ushahidi. We’ve also learned from our colleagues in Kilifi on mGESA (a local application of mGEOS that Plan Kenya, Plan Finland, University of Nairobi and Pajat Mgmt are developing) and basically we have been looking at this workshop as providing opportunities for using ICTs for development, but more particularly for us in Kwale is the issue of child protection and youth governance.

How has Plan Kwale been using ICTs for issues of child rights, child protection and child participation?

ICT in Kwale has a bit of a long history and it’s because of the issues on child rights. Kwale has a number of issues. Child marriages, issues of violations of child rights through sexual exploitation, and child poverty. So the efforts to do media started in Kwale in 2003 when we rolled out our first video that was done by children at the time to profile some of the issues of child marriage. But more importantly in 2005, we began to think greatly how we can bring the voices of children to duty-bearers and at time we thought of having a children’s community radio.

Because of lack of experience, we were thinking maybe at the end of that year we could launch the radio station. But then it took longer than we envisioned because we needed to roll out a participatory process. Alongside the same time, we had ideas of community-led birth registration which was being done in one community based organization. But later we also thought about looking at how ICT can help us in moving that direction.

Then we also had this idea of inter-generational dialogue, where children and youth can sit with duty-bearers and discuss critical issues affecting them, so we began using youth and video there, children and video, and showing those videos in a community meeting where then people could discuss the issues.  Alongside the same time we were partnering with various media houses and also rolling out radio programs where people could listen and also foster some discussions on children.

So it’s been a long journey but I think what we are seeing is that we need now to consolidate the gains, the experiences and efforts so that we can have a more strategic approach to ICT for Development and this workshop basically provides us with an opportunity and a platform to think much more.

What potential do you see for some of the newer ICT tools for your work in Kwale?

I see great potential in some of the tools that have been learned here this week, more particularly to get information at the click of a button from the ground. We could use the tools to map out resources out in the community, to map zones where there are a lot of issues on child protection, areas where we have issues like low birth registration… There is great potential for the tools that we’ve learned here to assist us not only in planning for projects, but in issues of social accountability. For example if you map out the areas where we have projects for Constituency Development Fund you can easily see where we have projects that have been done well but where we also have projects where maybe communities will need to discuss much more with duty-bearers to be able to, you know, foster issues of social accountability.

What are your biggest challenges? What mistakes have you made?

One thing that we’ve been learning in the process… well, you know sometimes we have ideas that we think can work in the next week, like for example the children’s community radio when we were thinking about it we were thinking that it could take off in about 2 months. But what we learned is that there are processes to be involved. Communities have to be prepared well for sustainability. Children have to be trained, there needs to be capacity building. You have also to conform to government procedures and processes.

The same also with birth registration. We thought in 6 months we could send an SMS and get your birth notification, but what we have also learned is that it takes a process. It takes awhile. You have to get the government buy in.  You also have to work on software, where the government is having a critical input. Because, although it is a pilot, we also think that if it works well then it has to be replicated, so it has to conform with the thinking in government. Also, with the issues of youth and media, one thing that has to be very clear is that you have to get youth who are committed, so you start with a bigger group, and you end up with those who are passionate

So I think it’s very critical when somebody is thinking about ICT for Development that, one, you look at the context: is it relevant to that area? What kind of skills are needed? What kind of processes for sustainability? but also getting the passion. Getting people who are passionate to lead the process is also a very critical lesson.

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At last week’s workshop in Kwale, we had the good fortune to have 4 folks from Map Kibera with us to train us on GSP and Open Street Map so that we could support youth in 3 districts where we’re working on the south coast of Kenya (Kwale, Kinango, Msambweni) to map their own communities. Jamie Lundine and Primoz Kovacic are Map Kibera staff, and Kevin Otieno and Millicent Achieng are youth who are trained on mapping. See the video above where Kevin and Millicent talk about the experience or watch it at the link here.

Kevin Otieno from Map Kibera

Both Kevin and Milli have been working with the Map Kibera staff since October, mapping out different areas in Kibera. For our introduction to Map Kibera, they started us off with a general overview of Voice of Kibera.

Kibera was a blank spot on the map (just like Kinango). (Jamie Lundine)

Jamie continued on with an overview of GPS and the Map Kibera project.

How GPS works. (Primoz Kovacic)

Primoz gave us the details on using the GPS devices and Open Street Map.

Hotel Kaskazi LTI Diani is now officially on the map

We practiced by mapping out our hotel, and adding it to Open Street Maps.

Then we went to Kinango District to start making the community map there. We met with the District Official and George, the District Youth Officer, explained why we were there. The DO said he’d heard good things about Map Kibera, and he ‘wanted to meet some of those youth mappers’. He welcomed us to move around the community.

The 4 teams did the first piece of the map, and will continue on with it in the future in Kinango but also in Msambweni and Kwale. The maps can then be used for different purposes, such as looking at existing resources and missing resources, or resource allocation, social auditing (eg., the government said that they built something here but it doesn’t seem to exist), tracking and responding to child protection issues, etc.

In addition to that, the arts and media content that youth produce as part of the project will have a much nicer digital map to sit on than what we currently have available… practically no information exists on digital maps about these 3 areas.

Here’s a video about the community mapping. If you can’t access, try the link here.

I had the pleasure of attending a Nairobi party on my last night in town and meeting up with Mikel Maron and Erica Hagen, who make up the rest of the Map Kibera team. I also ate some really bright pink rice…. yum….

If cotton candy were rice....

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