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Introducing OpenStreetMap to Ugunja, western Kenya

IMAGE: Map centred on Ugunja town centre. Exported from in October 2011


mapping a blankspot: introducing OSM to Ugunja, western Kenya PUBLISHED January 2013 CONTENTS Introduction (p5 - p10) Methodology (p11 - p14) Discussion (p15 - p22) Conclusion (p23 - p26) ONLINE @ugunjaresearch CONTACT General: Publications:

his research project aims to evaluate how mapping can be used to enhance rural development in and around the market town of Ugunja, located on the main Kisumu-Busia highway in western Kenya. We worked in partnership with the Ugunja Community Resource Centre (UCRC) who have developed a GIS mapping project, in various forms, since 1998. The mapping project was initiated as a means of documentation to help people understand their resources and to help in decision-making. However, the project had become stagnant and failed to progress due to a lack of funding, a major loss of data and the use of inaccessible proprietary software. As a result, the research team took on the role of facilitators in the mapping process. We suggested a shift to OpenStreetMap (OSM) – a free and open source online mapping tool – as a means of overcoming barriers associated with the existing ArcGIS project. We adopt a compositionist (Latour, 2010) approach to ask how the Ugunja mapping project is composed and how it might be better composed. We do this through four key themes: i) community mapping ii) appropriate technology; iii) mapping in action; and iv) scaling up.


All research was conducted in partnership with the Ugunja Community Resource Centre (UCRC) with the kind support of the ICT4D collective at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), who awarded the team a Gumby Award. Acknowledgements are given to our academic advisors: David Hollow, Dorothea Kleine, David Simon, Tim Unwin and Katie Willis.

The team

BEN PARFITT Managed the team’s publications and communications. Graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2011 with a Geography BSc. In 2012, completed an MSc in Environment, Science and Society at UCL. Currently working as a Writer (Educational Resources) at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

OLLY PARSONS Led the team both in securing funding and whilst in the field. Holds a BSc in Geography and an MSc in Practicing Sustainable Development from Royal Holloway, University of London. A specialist in ICT4D and post-conflict development, Olly is currently working at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

JAMIE GREGORY With first aid qualifications under his belt, Jamie kept the team out of trouble. He graduated with Ben and Olly from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2011. Since returning from East Africa, he has worked in the education sector both at home and abroad. He is currently stationed at a school in Thailand.

ENOCK CHITERI A youth project officer at the Ugunja Community Resource Centre, Enock worked closely with the team in 2011 and could now be considered one of western Kenya’s most prolific OSM mappers. He has kept the research team up-to-date on his work, which involves speaking about OSM on a national level.

NASHON OMONDI With a degree in Communications, Nashon volunteers at the Ugunja Community Resource Centre and has recently opened an ICT shop in the town. Among other things, he took on the task of conducting interviews and surveys, as well as mapping much of the local area. His family hosted the research team.


an executive summary of the research project CREATING AN IDEA We volunteered at the ICTD London 2010 conference. Here we came across a presentation by MapKibera, a project to map Africa’s largest slum. This sounded like a great project, but what impact was it having? Inspired by the people we’d met, we were keen to involve ourselves beyond the confines of our undergraduate course. FINDING A CASE STUDY The British Foreign Office advised against working in Kibera. Our plans had to be adapted - quickly! One of our advisors knew about the Ugunja mapping project. Contact was soon made and a partnerships began to develop.

pproaching this six-week research project informed by theories of critical cartography, we felt rather ill-equipped. Instead of focussing on the power ‘behind’ the map, we sought to analyse the socio-technical composition of the mapping project through practice. This involved asking how the map was produced through social practises, interactions with technology, and realities on the ground. We began research by conducting two surveys: one ‘ICT-use’ survey of 100 people and one ‘local issues’ survey of 37 participants. Together, these surveys sought to understand what local issues a map needed to address and how the mapping data may best be disseminated to a large strata of the local population. Greatest insight into the mapping project was gained through particapation in and facilitation of the act of mapping, which was reflected upon through daily research diaries (produced individually) and weekly research summaries (produced as a team). This participatory research was only possible once the mapping project had switched to OpenStreetMap (OSM), since the pre-existing ArcGIS project had become stagnant as a result of inappropriate technology. Interviews with local officials, academics in the region and practitioners (MapKibera and Map Uganda) in East Africa provided context and raised questions as to the future of the map. One of the greatest questions we continually asked ourselves in the process of this research was: what is our role in the mapping project? As

8th August: Introductory meeting at UCRC offices. Visited UCRC-affiliated centres around the town.


12th August: Finished collecting 100 surveys on ICT use in Ugunja.

9th August: Introduction to GIS project. Had to reinstall ArcGIS to view the limited data that existed.

29th August: Suggested the UCRC uses OSM to rejuvenate the project. The UCRC team started mapping roads that afternoon.

30th August: Tracked larger roads by driving in the car with a GPS.


31st August: Went into the centre of town to trace the small streets.

27th August: Visited a Youth Forum to conduct surveys with under 18s. Then joined the kids club to collect 20 mind maps of Ugunja.

three recent graduates, we approached this research with an academic perspective, but with a desire to get involved and to help the project move forward. However, the UCRC staff often looked to us to lead the project and we had to step back, adopting the role of facilitators at most. Having seen little to no mapping in the first three weeks of our six-week research project, we suggest a the shift to OSM, which the local UCRC staff took on with very little assistance beyond the two days initial training. By switching to OSM, we greatly shifted the composition of the mapping project. The socio-technical network became open to more possibilities as a result of the change in software. This improved issues assocated with storage of data, access to software and the level of skill required to map. The open-source nature of OSM also opened up exciting opportunities for sharing data and collaborative map-making. Finding that efforts to engage with ‘community stakeholders’ did little to move the mapping project forwards, we question the very premise of ‘community mapping’ projects. Instead, we focus on the ability for a mapping project to make connections beyond the confines of Ugunja town. Drawing on the efforts of other projects in East Africa, we suggest that ‘scaling up’ can be acheived by ‘joining up’ existing mapping projects. As the first free and open map of the earth begins to cover the developing world’s ‘blankspots’ academics should turn their attention to the dynamics of collaborative map-making both ‘in the field’ and ‘from afar’. We do not accept that the latter alienates the former.

17th August: Presented report to UCRC staff and recieved positive feedback.

MAKING CONNECTIONS Having made contacts for a core case study, we continued to network. Despite our plans for research in Kibera falling through, we kept in touch with our contacts at MapKibera. We also met Reinier from MapUganda by posting about our research on social LinkedIn. DOING RESEARCH We had to be flexible. Plans carefully constructed in London went out of the window when in rural Kenya! We tried a number of methods, some of which failed. But that’s all part of the process. Research diaries ensured that we always had evidence to draw upon. ENGAGING WITH PEOPLE We presented a poster, a workshop and opening keynote at the RGS-IBG Explore 2011 and 2012 conferences. We blogged, tweeted and wrote magazine articles. We also sent a large printed map to Ugunja.

22nd August: Pilot study for second suvey (on local issues) with a farmers group. Respondents were all over 50 years old and only spoke the local dialect, Luo.

19th August: Interviewed Cleopa Otieno, National Coordinator of KenTel.

25th August: Mapped our first feature on OSM - Ugunja’s taxi rank!

23rd August: Interviewed a member of the Kenya Land Alliance.

24th August: Completed 11 local issues surveys at the Ugunja constituency women’s meeting.

13th September: Met academics at Maseno University to find out more about ICT4D initiatives in the area.

10th September: Joined a MapUganda mapping day at Ugandan Christian University in Mukono, 15km outside Kampala.

15th September: Interviewed MapKibera. Discussed shared difficulties.


Chapter 1: Introduction

Recent technological innovations have opened up a world of new possibilities for the public to engage in mapping. For the town of Ugunja, this means creating digital maps of their community. he act of mapping has changed as much in the last few years as it ever has (Gartner, 2009). Technological advances have digitised the process and allowed a more egalitarian cartographic practice to emerge. Arguably, the lay public were first able to become cartographers in their own right when, on 1st May 2000, President Bill Clinton agreed that the US government was to end its policy of intentionally degrading civilian GPS signals (Of-



fice of Science and Technology Policy, 2000). Overnight this had a dramatic impact on the availability of geographic data and the price of GPS receivers had dropped to as little as $100 by mid-2001. Prior to this shift, accurately mapping the Earth was seen as the preserve of the highly skilled and the highly equipped. It was the role of the surveyor, the cartographer or the geographer to map the world. Mapping has, therefore, undergone a ‘widespread democratisation’ whereby little technical skill is now needed to map a space, thus blurring the previous distinction between consumers and producers of a

IMAGE: Mapping day at Ugunda Christian University in Mukono

map (Gartner, 2009). Much attention has since been paid to the concepts of community mapping as a tool for emancipation and development. Community mapping as a response to the elitism of conventional cartography may be seen as a form of ‘countermapping’ (Peluso, 1995) – it attempts to challenge, undermine and invert existing power structures. Although there is a body of critical analysis into the

relationship between maps and power, there remains a limited understanding of community mapping - of this presumed inversion of power. As Parker (2006: 470) notes: “questions remain regarding the composition of community maps, how they should be evaluated, and the relationship between community maps and power.” What is widely understood about community mapping, however, is that technology alone is unlikely to overcome complex socio-political problems. As Crampton (2010) notes: “community par-


IMAGES: The market town of Ugunja sits on a main highway but was not mapped in sufficient detail ticipatory GIS [is] not likely to provide solutions for underserved populations to bootstrap themselves out of poverty.” The failure of community mapping to serve the poor is a question of ICTs in general. The field of ICT for development (ICT4D) widely recognises that technology is simply a tool that will only ignite processes of development or emancipation according to related socio-political dimensions. It is thus important that we focus not on the excitement of technological innovation but that we place an emphasis on the ‘for development’ (Unwin, 2009). It is with this in mind that we look to reframe ‘community mapping’ as ‘mapping for development’.

Critical cartography

Whilst there has been a postcolonial critique of mapping – a critique of the imperialist project which assumed that the earth it territorialised was in fact previously a blank space – very little mapping has occurred in the developing world since. The maps found within the local government offices of Kenya are often branded with the insignia of the British government or the British colonial office, the geographical data still engrained with the beliefs that informed the British colonial project. The maps we were able to access from the local Constituency Development Fund, for example, only showed major population centres and major roads. There remained a great lack of up-to-date geographical data of the Ugunja. Some data may exist but it is not known or accessed by the people living, or the organisations and ministries operating, in the town of Ugunja, and in its surrounding area. Over recent decades a number of ‘critical’ approaches to cartography have been developed. Brian


Harley (1988) has been a foundational thinker for this movement, stating that: “maps often reinforce the status quo or the interests of the powerful, and we should investigate the historical and social context in which mapping has been employed.” This set a new ‘critical’ research agenda (Dodge, Kitchin and Perkins, 2009). Maps are now understood as socially constructed and are, consequently, imbued with power, meanings and value (Harley, 1988). Historically, cartography has been a tool of colonisation, whereby Western explorers ‘civilised’ supposed blank spaces, translating local knowledge into a tool that would serve the coloniser (Edney, 1997). Maps are understood as political representations of the interests and agendas that created them (Wood, 1992). According to such an approach, the role of the researcher is to semiotically deconstruct these ‘codes’ to reveal the power lurking ‘behind the map’ (Wood, 1992).

From critique to composition

We had initially intended to adopt a ‘critical approach’ in order to dissect and offer positive criticism to help strengthen the mapping project in Ugunja. However, as we began to undertake our research, we found this approach inherently unhelpful. By continuing to break the project down theoretically, trying to get at the power lurking behind (Wood, 1992), we felt that we wouldn’t be able to do anything useful or constructive. Instead, we would have simply reached a ‘ruinous’ stage (Latour, 2010). Critical cartography has been built off the back of a body of work that focuses largely on historical examples. When trying to analyse a small-scale contemporary mapping project, we simply believe such an approach has ‘run

out of steam’. Latour (2010) offers another, more progressive approach by proposing ‘composition’ as an alternative to critique.

compiling this report from an academic perspective, we hope to offer a theoretical discussion that will better inform the Ugunja mapping project and other similar efforts. But, from the outset, we wanted to have an overtly practical BRUNO LATOUR (2010: 475-6): “With critique, you may debunk, reveal, contribution to the project unveil, but only as long as you establish, through this process of creative wherever necessary. In destruction, a privileged access to the world of reality behind the veils doing so, we engage with of appearances … By contrast, for compositionism, there is no world of both theory and practice. beyond. It is all about immanence … It is really a mundane question of Coming from an academhaving the right tools for the right job. With a hammer (or a sledge hamic perspective, we wished mer) in hand you can do a lot of things: break down walls, destroy idols, to do more than simply ridicule prejudices, but you cannot repair, take care, assemble, reassemanalyse the project, we ble, stitch together… compositionists believe that there are enough ruhope to actively contribute ins and that everything has to be reassembled piece by piece.” to it. We wanted to move the Ugunja mapping project forward and sought We had to ask ourselves, what was there to get beto directly engage in conversation with practitioners hind? Such a question simply didn’t make any sense throughout East Africa. in the grounded reality of Ugunja. We needed to reThough it is recognised that each mapping project frame the world, not as ‘out there’, but as something will, of course, face its own challenges, we believe that we immersed in and fully a part of it (Whatmore, that there are some universal lessons to be learnt 2006). We are situated very much within the spaces for the ‘mapping for development’ community. This of the world, constantly interacting, intertwining and report makes no grand claim about having discovengaging through bodily involvement rather than ered such universal lessons. Instead, we hope that viewing the world through a “detached gaze” (Anby sharing the story of the Ugunja mapping project, derson & Wylie, 2009: 324). As such, it is important our experiences can be of some use for academics to understand how the maps are produced through and practitioners alike. As opposed to some bettersocial practices, technological negotiations and two known mapping projects, Ugunja stands as an exdecades of mixed fortunes. ample of a small-scale rural mapping project, whose journey has rarely been smooth.

Our approach

It was necessary to understand how the Ugunja mapping project had operated over time. Conceptually, we ask how the mapping project is composed and how it might be better composed in the future. In

Africa as a historical blankspot

The cartographic history of Africa is closely linked with the imperial and colonial aspirations of European powers. Many people view the Berlin Confer-


was. The township’s name itself, translated from the ence of 1884-5 as the foundation of the modern geolocal dialect of Nubian, means ‘forest’. graphical landscape of Africa and thus the maps we In November 2009 the ‘MapKibera’ project behave today. However the turning point for cartogragan to use GPS technology to allow some residents phy of Africa came in the so called “Age of Reason” to produce the first free and open source map of in the maps of the French school, notably De L’Isle their community. This became one of the most well(1700) and d’Anville (1727). A scientific approach to known mapping projects in the developing world map making developed at this time and the assumpand the informal settlement is now recognised by tions and legends of the pre-enlightenment era were several online maps. This act of mapping appropriatreplaced by rigorous scientific methodology and ed an otherwise ignored space. Much as Kiberia had trustworthy knowledge based upon empirical scigone unrecognised, the town of Ugunja and its surence. This period of cartography is identifiable most rounding areas remained largely blank on all public notably by its focus upon the construction of topomaps (with the exception of some detail on Google graphic representations of the African continent. maps) up until August 2011. By mapping Ugunja in Maps were honed to the needs of the corporate significant detail, it is hoped that the space will be world and centred upon both available natural republicly appropriated sources and the transand that its residents port networks required may derive some benefit for their trade. Little from this process. thought was given to the human landscape of Ugunja Communithe continent. When the colonial period started, ty Resource Centre there was a marked shift The Ugunja mapping in cartography away project is co-ordinated from a purely physical by the Ugunja Comtopographic represenmunity Resource Centation of space towards tre (UCRC). UCRC was less accurate but more initially established to human-focused mapprovide the local comping techniques. Mapmunity with access to ping in the colonial information and to deera was a tool of civic velop a range of proadministration. Maps grams for alleviating focused on local popupoverty within the relation centres as well as gion. It now has a cenland ownership. Cadastral office in the town tral maps were created which aims to provide demarcating townships technical solutions to Location of Ugunja within Kenya. and building plots, a number of affiliated Credit: Friends of Ugunja roads, railways and reinstitutions including a serve land. This was the church, health centre, information required for the imposition of colonial school and microfinance cooperative. A number of control. weekly community meetings for youth, women and farmers feed issues up to the UCRC main office staff and volunteers, who then seek to provide solutions. Mapping today A key focus for the mapping project is to advocate Up until 1985, the British Directorate of Overseas on behalf of these groups according to the issues that Surveys provided aerial photography for the accuthey raise. rate mapping of Africa. However, these maps are UCRC aims to use the mapping project as a not accessible to many Kenyans and, in Ugunja, the means by which the community can understand various ministries had just one map - an outline of itself through visual representation. UCRC Head their constituency, the area within this border being of Programmes, Charles Ogada, explained: “We largely blank. Even today, much of Africa remains can present a map to the community and get them unmapped in spite of a richness of culture and life on to share their feelings about that space. With other the ground. Lying just five kilometers from the censtakeholders people can start discussing whether tre of Nairobi, Kibera – home to a widely estimated something can be improved. We are using mapping one million people – appears on many government as an opportunity for participation of all the target maps as either a blank spot or as the forest it once


groups that we are working with.” UCRC aims to considerable detail but remained largely focussed on make information available so that people can supthe town centre. port the work of the Central Development Fund (CDF) or to demand change. “We want to use mapOpenStreetMap (OSM) ping to involve people, to RAMM, JOCHEN and CHILTON (2011: blurb) “OpenStreetMap is a map of lobby for an engagement the whole world that can be used and expanded by everyone. Through of resources and for people an open community process, thousands of contributors all over the to appreciate their space,” world survey what is around them and store it in a central database.” Charles explained.

Mapping Ugunja

The Ugunja mapping project was first initiated in 1998 when Charles attended a mapping conference in Nairobi which was concerned with introducing ArcGIS, 3D modeling and Georeferencing to the country. Charles saw potential in digital mapping and felt that ArcGIS was the only option on offer that lay within the UCRC capabilities. “GPS was not very cheap but we have friends that could donate so we went with the GPS. It turns out we had a volunteer with experience in ArcView and she trained a few of us,” Charles explained. ESRI donated an initial software license for ArcGIS, however UCRC were unable to purchase later versions. “It was far beyond our means as the mapping project has not officially been funded,” Charles explained. The mapping project has been kept going by volunteers who come and work on it, provide technical know-how and sometimes donate hardware. Most notably, an Australian volunteer visited Ugunja in 1999, 2003 and 2006 to develop the project. The first time was a “preliminary, fact-finding mission”. The second time she came with GPS and ArcView software, and trained UCRC staff for six months. The third time she visited, the volunteer looked at the weak elements of the mapping projects and sought to strengthen it. The Ugunja mapping project has received only ad hoc funding from individuals and operates on the limited capabilities of UCRC. As such, much data had been lost and the project had become stagnant, failing to progress by the time we arrived in summer 2011. At its height, the mapping project is said to have had data on key health units, waste disposal sites, water points and dilapidated brick-making sites. Physical features such as rivers, boundaries, soils and lakes were also mapped to a limited extent, although much of this data no longer existed (due to unstable data stores) by the time we conducted our research in summer 2011. Having observed a lack of recent development in the mapping project, we suggested a shift to OpenStreetMap (OSM) – a free and open source online mapping tool. We provided training in the use of OSM and the shift in approach was taken up with great enthusiasm by the local team of three UCRC mappers who were fully motivated by the tangible results they were able to see. Within three weeks, the town of Ugunja had been mapped at

With the development of new technologies and the opening up of the GPS network there had been a democratisation of geographical data. The definition of a cartographer shifted. The crowd-sourced and open nature of OSM has allowed geographical data to be used in new and exciting ways. The use of data is no longer restricted by cost and private ownership – geographical data has become part of the new digital commons. OSM has opened up a space for knowledge sharing, for providing geographical information to be used by communities to improve their own lives. Founded by Steve Coast as a project at University College London (UCL) in July 2004, it aimed to create the first free map of the world (Ramm, Jochen and Chilton, 2011). It is ‘free’ in accordance with the principles of the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement which ensures that it is free of any restrictions that may hamper productive use of the data. Issued under a Creative Commons share-alike license, all of the data can be used without prior permission. OSM, as Haklay and Weber (2008: 13) explain, “follows the peer production model that created Wikipedia; its aim is to create a set of map data that’s free to use, editable, and licensed under new copyright schemes.” As of May 2008, OSM had more than 33,000 registered users (of which approximately 9,500 are currently active contributors) and data contribution growth is rising rapidly (ibid, 2008). These users are, most commonly, hobbyists who “walk, hike, bike, or drive, recording their tracks using GPS devices” (Ramm, Jochen and Chilton, 2011: 3). These tracks are then uploaded to a computer, where information is added before being rendered onto OSM. Critics of OSM point to a lack of accuracy and a failure to implement quality control measures but it is generally perceived as a great success, offering, in urban areas, a “level of detail unmatched by the web offerings of Google, Yahoo or Microsoft” (ibid, 2011: 3). Some believe that OSM can be more up to date than its rivals. But, most importantly, OSM was designed with simplicity in mind so that anyone can contribute without prior experience of GIS. OSM, then, is about giving the power of mapping back to the people by building up an online, global community. Without those people, the map would soon decay. n


IMAGE: UCRC volunteer, Nashon, surveys a farmer using the local dialect

Six weeks were spent mapping, surveying and interview. These research methods combined to give insight that hopes to move the mapping project forward. e conducted two surveys, a series of interviews and kept research diaries to re... flect upon the project. Each methodology was intended to add detail, building on other methodologies and adding layers of complexities. Here, we present a detailed overview of each methodology, noting any associated limitations. We then reflect upon the positionality of the research team and outline the project’s ethical considerations.


ICT use survey

Our first survey was developed to establish a base level of understanding of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) used in Ugunja and of their importance to the user. It was hoped that the findings would identify appropriate technologies for the collection and dissemination of the UCRC’s community mapping data. The survey also acted as a preliminary study through direct engagement with the needs of the wider community. 100 participants were surveyed over two days using stratified sampling methods to select participants from a range of social groups. Discussions with UCRC staff helped to identify target groups according to occupation, including: shopkeepers, health workers, farmers, home-keepers and NGO staff. Within these groups we sought to fairly represent gender and age. Local UCRC staff administered the survey in collaboration with the research team. Four questions were developed alongside a series of cues and prompts with care being taken not to influence outcomes of the questionnaire. Personal details were also collected to monitor the demographics of the participants.


Chapter 2: Methodology


ICT USE SURVEY: KEY QUESTIONS 1. Which technologies do you use on a weekly basis? Do you have individual/group access? 2. If you do not use some technologies weekly, why not? Is there something stopping you? 3. Which three are most important to your everyday life?

Local issues Survey

Our first survey was followed up by an in-depth survey which sought to develop a more detailed understanding of the local issues affecting the community of Ugunja. Building on our preliminary research, this survey was designed to highlight how the map could be applied and where the greatest needs lie. In devising the survey it was hoped that advocacy projects would be strengthened through a better understanding of how local issues affect respective sections of the community. It was thus constructed in order to break down larger issues into specific subcategories that can be practically acted upon by the mapping team. 37 participants were surveyed at four separate community meetings held over the course of one week. A stratified sampling method was used to identify participants from a small range of social groups. Farmers, women and youth groups were targeted because they fit best with established UCRC activities. Time restraints demanded a focus on a small number of groups rather than attempting to be representative of the community. Local UCRC staff led the administration of the survey with support from the research team. Participants were asked to identify three local issues from a predetermined list of eight, according to those that needed to be addressed most urgently. Participants were then required to answer questions according to their three selected topics only. Surveys typically took 15-30 minutes to administer depending on needs for translation. They comprised of a series of open and closed questions to help understand the current situation, any related problems and how such problems may be addressed. Personal details were again collected to monitor the demographics of the participants and to enable further analysis of results.


Interviews were conducted with practitioners, decision makers and academics. Carried out towards the end of the research, these sought to drill down into issues raised throughout our involvement in the UCRC mapping project. It was hoped that practitioners would be able to offer valuable insight into the process of mapping, giving us an understanding of lessons learnt both in Ugunja and elsewhere; that


decision makers would be able to comment on the possibilities of integrating community mapping into policy and planning procedures; and that academics would be able to discuss the mapping project within a broader contextual framework. When put on the spot, respondents tended to be very positive about the future of the project and made commitments that can only be confirmed over time. In some circumstances, the research team questioned the validity of some statements since they seemed at odds with what had been experienced or understood outside of the interview.

Research diaries

Throughout the project we sought to contribute practically and positively to the mapping in a way that would compromise neither the integrity nor the sustainability of the project. Daily research diaries were kept and weekly reviews gave time to reflect upon progress and any issues encountered. These log the development of the project and of our relationship with it over time. An analysis of the diaries gives an empirical grounding to our thoughts and reflections. Most notably, these diaries record the progress made in the mapping process following our suggested shift towards using OSM. The role of the research team has been important throughout the project and research diaries hope to provide reflexivity although it should be noted that these are inherently skewed according to the positionality of each individual. In other words, the diaries provide a record of our situated feelings at a given time and place. This was of great importance since we began conducting formal research through surveys, but soon took on roles in training the local staff and facilitating the mapping process.

Positionality and ethics

What maps include or exclude can have significant impacts for the communities they are intended to serve. Through a recognition of this power, there have been efforts to ensure that community mapping projects are conducted fairly. Robert Chambers (2006), for example, dedicated a paper to asking: “Whose Map? Who is empowered and who disempowered? Who gains and who loses?” He stresses the importance of asking and evaluating such questions in the process of mapping and urges us to develop an awareness of the roles played by all actors involved. “[The] nature of outcomes and power relations... depends much upon the behaviour and attitudes of the facilitators who control the process,” he explains (Chambers, 2006: 1). In undertaking this research project, we found it useful to reflect upon the ‘participation ladder’ which outlines the roles and responsibilities of researchers and the communities that they work with (Cham-

The ladder of participation (see Chambers, 2006) helped us reflect on our role in the mapping project bers, 2006 – Pretty, 1994). It was our intention to negotiate the mapping project through a ‘transformative’ relationship. This meant that we - the research team - would have acted as “catalyst and facilitator,” with the aim of “facilitating sustainable development by local people.” In this desired relationship, the local mapping participants would have been positioned as “Analyst/Actor/Agent.” Ideally, this would make our actions much more supportive than commanding and the role of the UCRC staff would have initiated action rather than merely complying. As such, we always sought to place ownership of the project with the local mappers. However, the early stage of the project meant that more facilitation and leadership was required on our part. Furthermore, UCRC has, in recent years, received over 200 western volunteers who have taken very active roles in driving projects forward - including considerable financial contributions. We were initially viewed in such light, which influenced local expectations and forced our roles and responsibilities ‘up’ the partnership ladder, away from our desired position. For the good of the mapping project’s future sustainability, we sought to resist these pressures and took great care to negotiate our partnership with UCRC staff. It was important for the UCRC team to take a lead role in decision making, and for us to take care not to unduly shape the formation of the map. There were also a number of ethical considerations to be addressed during the course of this re-

search project. Firstly, time was required for participants to fill out questionnaires and partake in interviews. We took care to fit this research around participants’ commitments and we always kept duration of involvement to minimum. Care was also taken in managing expectations, enabling an honest working relationship with those we encountered. It can be easy to raise expectations when questioning participants, especially given the powerful positionality of the researcher. This becomes more problematic in a participatory mapping context when telling participants that a map may be used to facilitate change. It was of the upmost importance that these expectations were carefully managed. We made it clear that, whilst there had been interest in the map from various sectors of the community, there presently had been no direct action as a response to it. The construction of a map is not a neutral process. As such, different sectors of the community may be more, or less represented. Those with the capability to map, as seen throughout the history of cartography, have the power to construct their preferred image of an area. Most commonly this tension may arise around the issue of land rights and boundaries. As such, we shared an element of concern in learning that the UCRC was itself involved in a legal dispute regarding the ownership of a plot of farmland and chose not to involve ourselves in mapping land ownership. n


Mapping for development projects require a large amount of effort from those involved. We suggest that quests for inclusivity undermine the act of mapping. apping is a tool through which processes of emancipation and development may be achieved. In this report, we therefore break with the literature’s preferred term – ‘community mapping’ – to address the more appropriate concept of ‘mapping for development’. Not least because the former assumes that a map speaks for the community in its entirety, but also because it would be limiting to focus just on the ‘community of Ugunja’, as though it existed only as a bounded entity at a local scale. By privileging the community over any other scale, we might fall into the ‘local trap’, too readily assuming a scalar politics to favour the local over any other ‘higher’ order of scale (Brown and Purcell, 2004). To overcome such difficulties, these collective notions of community should be worked through so as to refocus on people, things and the personal connections that actively produce scale. In asking how the UCRC project is composed and how it might be better composed, we must unpack the concept of ‘community’. This cloudy - sometimes generalising - term must be made concrete. There are a number of groups and individuals currently involved in the Ugunja mapping project, each with their own interests, motives and opinions. The UCRC refers to some of these actors as ‘stakeholders’ - calling stakeholder meetings to discuss the future of the project. Key stakeholders for the UCRC include women, farmers, youth - not least because these are the groups that are most engaged in the UCRC’s broader activities. However, this grouping of actors into a singular ‘community’ - whilst forgivable in terms of the need to describe definable groups - does not acknowledge the complex network of mapping practice and consumption (Palla, Der-



Chapter 3: Discussion enyi, Farka, Vicsek, 2005). This reductionist view of community was most troubling when the UCRC expressed a view that the local community did not have the capacity to know exactly how they wanted the mapping project to progress. This line of thought leads to the belief that it may simply be quicker and easier for the UCRC to make decisions on behalf of the ‘community’. This could be justified by the fact that the staff members at the UCRC are from the community themselves. The concept of ‘community’ thus proves limited

IMAGE: Students at Uganda Christian University explain the use of ‘walking papers’

in assessing the development contributions of the Ugunja mapping project. By focussing on the allencompassing concept of ‘community’, it would be concluded that the map is not a community-wide effort and that it is not being called for by all sections of the community. However, that is not to say that it is not important to map an area. The process can be empowering for those involved - whoever they may be - and could be used in the future, in unanticipated ways. In moving discussion away from the identities of those involved in the mapping process, a greater potential for the Ugunja map could be realised. The consultation of all relevant stakeholders may strengthen grant applications, but in reality it is the physical act of mapping that really matters. This can neither be defined by ‘community’ nor can it be limited to such a term. The mapping process involves very particular individuals and institutions within Ugunja, but it also involves those reaching far beyond the confines of the town. Furthermore, the UCRC has extended the Ugunja mapping project far beyond the limits of the town itself. If nothing else, the term ‘community’ limits the potential of a mapping project to make connections further afield and to achieve things that would be stifled by such a local focus. Ugunja acts as an important reminder as to the reality of communities - both online and offline, local and international. Commonly defined as “a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings” (MacQueen et al, 2001), the term needs to be materialised into its individual elements so as to allow complexities and subtleties to emerge. The ArcGIS project initiated in 1998 aimed to: “build community capacity and facilitate more informed decision making across the community through access to, and management of, information” (Concept Paper, 2004). This makes sense on paper, but how does it translate into action? Re“The mapping process involves particular alising true “community” individuals and institutions within Ugunja, but involvement is the hardit also involves those reaching far beyond the est part, something we admittedly were far from confines of the town.” achieving in the very


Percentage of the adults in Ugunja that use ICTs on a weekly basis 88%



Radio Paper

76% 51%

TV 35%

Internet Computer


limited time we spent with UCRC. During the five weeks that we spent mapping, our aim was simply to use OSM to begin mapping Ugunja town to a two kilometre radius. It should be noted that the two kilometre radius was set as an initial target to get the mapping process started. It was felt that the mapping efforts needed to be concentrated into a small geographic area to allow the map to build up to a high level of detail. This, it was hoped, would allow the entire process of mapping an area to unfold in just five weeks. However, it soon became clear that the mapping process unfolds in a much more natural way than this. Once a certain path had been traced or an area had been mapped, it was hard to stop following this trajectory. We thus find long strands in which the maps strays beyond the 2 kilometre radius, as well as notable blank spots within the same radius. The emergent map is therefore a result of embodied practices and personal interests. Importantly, there is no predetermined scale in which the mapping project unfolds. Instead, the mapping project – and the people and things that compose it – form very personal and specific relations to raise the level of the project. This is mapping in action (Latour, 1987). Appropriate technology Technology is no panacea in itself. Used alone, it does not necessarily have a development impact (Unwin, 2009). Care must, therefore, be taken in the implementation of technology for development purposes if it is to deliver the aspirations of poor and marginalised communities. Sustainability is also key. There is little point introducing technologies to a community if they are not integrated in a way that delivers on that community’s demand. It is important to understand the importance of existing situations and demands of a community. For example, mobile phones and radios were the most widely used pieces of technology within the community of Ugunja due to their affordability. Meanwhile, computers were used much less widely, with less than 30% of our survey respondents using computers on


100 participants were surveyed over two days in August 2011

a weekly basis. This was attributed to high costs and a lack of widespread training. However, Ugunja did have two Internet cafes and a relatively high level of computing skill was exhibited by some members of the community. This was a legacy largely attributed to the UCRC’s Microsoft Unlimited Potential program, which trained hundreds of people in using computers and Microsoft software. Having received funding in 2009 for this three-year project, the UCRC was was equipped with 20 desktop computers, eight laptops and satellite Internet was fitted. However, when this project came to an end in 2011, this infrastructure became disused and the satellite Internet was too expensive to maintain. The project failed to leave a legacy in terms of hardware and infrastructure but it did provide a platform from which the OSM project, by enrolling the resultant computing skills, could be launched. Indeed, Enock, the most active of the three initial local mappers that we worked with, had himself been a part of the Microsoft Unlimited Potential program and had a high level of computer literacy. In implementing the Ugunja OSM project, it is important to be aware of this broader ICT landscape. Indeed, this provides a starting point from which to assess the socio-technical network of mapping in Ugunja. The availability of computers and the provision of Internet in Ugunja means that online mapping can take place. However this is done with notable cost and cannot be done by everyone in the community due to limited personal finances and skills. In future, mapping activities could be subsidised for those that cannot afford it. Training should also be provided for those not current equipped with digital mapping skills. Furthermore, we must not assume that everyone can access the map in its native online form. Efforts must therefore be made to disseminate the map in alternative ways to fit with the ICT landscape of Ugunja. Having enrolled the necessary skills into the OSM project, we must now turn to the current infrastructure on which it relied. The UCRC had a number of desktop computers and laptops that had been donat-

Percentage of adults in Ugunja that rank mobile phones , radio and newspapers as the most important, second most important and third most important ICTs to their everyday lives

Mobile 66

“I use my mobile phone mainly for social reasons but also for the internet. I use it as a reference tool when I am at work.” – Sharon, 23, Pharmacist

Radio “The radio belongs to my husband, it is much cheaper and we do not have money for other technologies. I listen to the 5 am morning devotion each day. I like the gospel music!” – Ivy, 43, Farmer

Paper “Everyday I share the newspaper with my colleagues. I like to know all of the latest politics and football news ” – Richard, 35, Motorcycle taxi rider





12 8 4


Percentage of adult community of Ugunja that rank mobile phones , radio and newspapers as the most important, second most important and third most important ICTs to their everyday lives

Mobile telephony ranked as the MOST IMPORTANT ICT. Mainly used for calling and SMS, as well as a range of secondary functions including mobile banking, radio and the Internet.

Regular ICT use

Radio ranked as the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT ICT. Residents listen to news, music, prayers and bible readings. Luo, Swahili and English languages are listened to.

Newspapers r anked as the THIRD MOST IMPORTANT ICT. People prided being up to date with news and daily national newspapers were often shared among colleagues.

knowledge of how to use andradio manipulate this data Mobile telephony, and print have been identified ed by visiting volunteers. Two new laptops had also Mobile 88% as appropriate technologies for the community of Ugunja had been lost. Those within the UCRC often cited been purchased by the UCRC itself. Internet access to collect and disseminate information. Any assumptions that computers and the Internet may be ap87% the need a fully-funded project in order propriate to engage withfor the community at large prove tomapping be false. And, although print media such wasRadio available via pay-as-you-go mobile modems. as posters and flyers currently rank of low importance within the current ICT-landscape of Ugunja, it Paper 76% such problems. However, we remained However, the UCRC only owned two of these and is felt thattotheyovercome have a huge potential if co-ordinated effectively alongside the power of face-to-face 51% connectivity. Fur- interaction. The landscape ofto ICT finding use is neither a static nore fixed and, as such, our survey provides committed solution that could beonly worked didn’t TV have the funds for continual Percentage of a snapshot in time. We believe that the Ugunja Community Resource Centre may be able to actively adult community 35% Internet with immediately and would also be sustainable long thermore, because this service was purchased in data work with other stakeholders to help shape the current situation so that knowledge can be better of Ugunja that use Computer 23% ICTs on a weekly basis communicated future. beyond theintermination of any funded project. bundles, there were considerable cost implications in shared and The loss of previous data shaped our approach to using data intensive websites - such as editing OSM recomposing the UCRC mapping project in a more using the default and user-friendly “potlatch 2” inappropriate way. OSM provided the means to store terface. This intensive use of data could have been data online, free of charge. But it also provided an overcome by using the offline JOSM editor, however online platform in which data could be shared and this required more skill and a stable server to store collaborated on with people beyond the UCRC. the data offline - both of which were deemed to be Adopting OSM meant that the project was now part beyond the current capacity of the UCRC. of a global network. As Reiner Battenburg (2011: In composing the mapping project, the greatpersonal interview) of MapUganda explains: “Openest challenge lay in storing data, given the UCRC’s StreetMap is appropriate [for development purposcurrent financial and technological capacities. The es] because it encourages sharing. Mapping a whole original UCRC mapping project from 1998 had used country has to be economically viable... it has to be computers that no longer worked. What’s more, the shared.” In order for Kenyan citizens to make full unstable and unpredictable nature of the electricity and effective use of a mapping project, large amounts supply in Western Kenya meant that computers ofof data need to be produced and the act of mapping ten shut down without warning. The UCRC lacked needs to be shared. any infrastructure to reliably back-up and protect its data. Indeed, much of the initial data had been Mapping in action lost when the computers had “crashed” during the The Ugunja mapping project of 1998 relied on Arcoriginal project-phase. Some basic data sets were still GIS for an offline mapping process in which the accessible via an external hard drive. However, the



UCRC was the centre of all activities. Only a few actors were involved in the creation of the map. They would leave the central hub to go out into the field to collect data. OSM allows a far more decentralised structure of mapping in which the key actors of the local community can map for their own purposes. The UCRC is therefore repositioned as an actor within this network. Its role is now as a facilitator and networking organisation that is attempting to coordinate the mapping effort. This also involves a considerable amount of ‘kick-starting’ in order to progress the map of Ugunja to a stage in which people are able to contribute themselves. Because the UCRC has access to GPS devices, it was a key actor - perhaps the only one in the locale of Ugunja - with capability to trace tracks and upload them to the online server. This was a key process in creating a framework of reference from which people could then identify the relative location of places using their local knowledge of the area. For example, someone could identify the approximate location of their house by simply looking at a map of roads and paths in an area. The main roads in the area had been mapped by outsiders using satellite imagery, provided to OSM by Bing and Yahoo. However, at the time this was of limited resolution and so the UCRC had to enrol itself into this network if it was to build a more detailed picture of the local area. Without the UCRC’s work, local people with GPS devices would not be able to contribute to the map. There is now higher resolution satellite imagery available for Ugunja. This allows smaller paths to be mapped, however outsiders have not yet done so because there is a limited amount of labour in the OSM community. The old mapping project relied solely on the UCRC to move it forward. However, the current OSM project allows anybody to pick up from where the UCRC has left off. The map of Ugunja can therefore now be understood as fluid and ontogenetic in nature. It is always in the process of becoming just as the space it represents is. Indeed, Kitchin, Gleeson and Dodge (2012) argue that mapping needs to be viewed not as a representational lens to the world but a processual inscription of the world. Maps should be conceived as ‘of the moment’. They are brought into being through practices (embodied, technical, social and political) and are always in a state of flux - the process of mapping never stops. The production of maps unfolds in context, shaped by the experience, education as well as social, economic and political landscape in which the individual or group creating the map exist. (Kitchin & Dodge, 2007). The Ugunja mapping project can be moved forward by the few local residents that have GPS-enabled mobile devices. But the map can also be added to by anyone - anywhere in the world - with an inter-


net connection. Indeed, the recent availability of high resolution satellite imagery in OSM has further enabled this global collaboration. Due to their activity on OSM, UCRC was recently contacted by someone else that was contributing to the map of Kenya. This person was located outside of Ugunja and was therefore solely using satellite imagery to add to the map. This raises interesting questions about how the act of mapping differs between ‘on the ground’ mappers and ‘at a distance’ mappers. It may be thought that ‘outsiders’ mapping an area would erode local meaning. Indeed, it might initially occur to treat this as an embodied/disembodied dichotomy to be worked through dialectically. However, the act of collaborative map making is much more nuanced than that, as a recent conversation between the UCRC and an online map-maker illustrates. The ‘outsider’ suggests making GPS traces by traveling along the tracks in the Ugunja, before uploading them to OSM. These traces - of certain roads and paths - should then be compared with the satellite imagery on the OSM online editing software (Potlatch 2). The aim of this comparison is to test the accuracy of the satellite data, which is sometimes displaced and is not neccessarily as accurate as the GPS devices, this map-maker suggests. The ‘hand-made’ and ‘ready-made’ geographic data is therefore as important as one another. But, perhaps most interestingly, the ‘outside’ map-maker used the GPS traces uploaded by the UCRC to make this comparison himself. In this process, the UCRC no longer has a priveledged position in the practice of map-making. Their traces have been used by other people in an increasingly decentralised practice of mapping. The ‘outsider’ then got in contact with the UCRC to discuss the difference between the satellite imagery and their own GPS data. Thus, an online network of collaborative map-making is being built. In this network any distinction between on- and offline, or embodied and disembodied, no longer hold any relevance. The practices become entangled into a complex web in which the map is always emergent. The open nature of OSM means that the software itself - a key tool in the act of mapping - undergoes continual change. New categories and symbols are created to suit the social, economic and political landscape for which the map is being created. Reiner Battenburg (2011: personal interview) of MapUganda explains: “The map is never finished. No! Never! That is the really interesting thing about OSM. They come up with extra features.” For example, he highlights the icons for mapping water sources as being particularly unsuitable for the East African context. “If you look at the well, the icon on the Wiki is like one of these fairytale things! The reality here is slightly different and there are far more ways of getting water... There are some specialised features (e.g.

MAP OF UGUNJA (OpenStreetMap, September 2012): The first wave of mapping on OpenStreetMap was initiated by the research team in August 2011. This succeeded in mapping an area of approximately 2km surrounding the town centre. The second wave of mapping took place in summer 2012 and managed to map to a 4km radius. However, the space beyond this radius remains largely blank. This raises questions as to how mapping efforts can be ‘scaled-up’.


refugee camps after Haiti) but we really need to take ownership of the map here.” This fluid reimagining of the cartographic landscape allows knowledge to be shaped to suit its local context, however the Kenyan mapping community must grow if it is utilise OSM to its full potential. At present, the relatively small pool of mappers is limiting the speed at which the map of Ugunja progresses. Scaling-up The Ugunja mapping project faces a great and largely unknown challenge of ‘scaling up’. The town centre, an area along the main highway and a piece of land by St Paul’s health centre has been mapped in intense detail. But, whilst the mapped area is not clearly bounded, it is clear that the surrounding area remains largely blank. Questions therefore remain as to how to spread the map beyond the limited areas of detail. We might ask: how can the Ugenya district be mapped? How can the project spread to the rest of Western Kenya? And how can Kenyans coordinate an effort to map their country in its entirety? This is a challenge shared by other projects in East Africa with both MapKibera and MapUganda attempting to spread the project beyond their initial geographic focus. Following Schumacher’s well-cited notion that “small is beautiful”, Banks (2008) stresses that local context is essential when considering the use of digital technologies for development purposes – there is therefore no universal model to be rolled out at a larger scale. Scaling-up thus involves igniting many small projects rather than attempting to ‘jump’ (Smith, 1992) from the local, to the regional,

to the national. From our research, it is clear that that OSM projects do not follow a linear model of growth. Activity is uneven, sporadic and is labour intensive. Mapping communities typically arise “out of the blue,” according to Reinier Battenberg of MapUganda (Personal Interview, September, 2011). We therefore argue that scale should be thought of not in terms of size but in terms connectedness. Scaling-up will take effort and resources to make connections and spark collaborative projects. UCRC is well placed to make such connections since it is part of KenTel, a network of 42 telecenters, each aiming to give communities access to information. A telecentre is broadly defined as a shared computing facility but can also provide access to training, information and resources. Cleopa Otieno, KenTel National Coordinator, visits Ugunja every two weeks and is interested in sharing UCRC’s experience of OSM. “Quite often you walk into a telecentre and cannot find local information,” he explains. “By mapping local resources you can find out a lot of information, much more easily. This is a potential we want to share.” UCRC mappers Enock and Nashon have since facilitated a session on OSM at a national training conference and Cleopa reports that the Kenya ICT Board has shown interest in using OSM to create local content about Kenya. For the Ugunja mapping project to scale-up, it needs to resolve questions relating to resources and responsibilites. UCRC feels that it cannot properly progress without funding for the project and it is therefore trying to make connections to gather the funds needed to employ a specialist mapper, pay for Internet and transport, host stakeholder meet-

IMAGES: A mapping day event for Ugandan students, who learn how to map their university campus


ings and maintain equipREINIER BATTENBERG (Personal interview, September 2011): “We want ment. As such, there had to try a different strategy because no one knows what the strategy is… been limited activity on It is a question of skill and how to spread that skill. At the moment it still OSM in the Ugunja area requires someone to fly in. Someone from outside can only cover a few between September 2011 square miles. But a map should govern a whole country.” and mid-2012. But having undetaken an intense second wave of mapping in Such words are echoed by Mikel Maron of Mapmid-2012, the UCRC staff proved themselves capaKibera and the OSM Foundation board. He has ble of concerted, if sporadic, mapping efforts. Howconcerns about sustaining mapping activities into ever, throughout interviews it was stressed that the the future. His solution has been to form the MapUCRC wanted to hand over ownership of the project Kibera Trust. By creating an organisation it is hoped to the community and to government ministries. that development can be built up and that funding With ownership of and commitment to the project can continue to be secured. The challenge is to not in limbo, it is unsure whether the project will be able only bring OSM to communities, but to support and to sustain itself, let alone scale-up. encourage growth into the foreseeable future. This, Should the UCRC secure funding, it hopes to Mikel acknowledges, is “maybe going to take some send a member of staff around KenTel’s national new strategies” (Personal interview, October 2011). network of telecentres, to train them on the use of A social movement’s true empowerment derives OSM. They will target telecentres that already have from its ability to network, making broader links computers, willing staff and the resources to support and moving beyond the local (Towers, 2000). This the UCRC member of staff. “Looking at the rest of involves not just solidarity and support between proKenya, this is something that I am sure will happen,” jects, but collaboration between actors. By working says Charles Ogada, head of Programs at UCRC. together across lines of difference, small-scale mapThis national spread of skills is a model being trialled ping projects may be able to bring in more actors, by MapUganda, who are working to map the whole make stronger connections and achieve more at a nation by visiting all Ugandan universities. Through greater scale. This, however, involves sharing reintensive one-day mapping session, Reinier Batsources and committing to a broader social objective. tenburgh and his staff are training Geography and MapUganda is a powerful example of the commitComputer Science students in mapping using OSM. ted effort that one project can give to the geographic It is hoped that once they graduate, they will return spread of skills. More models of scaling-up need to to their hometown and spread their skills with combe explored, but it is clear that hard work and an elemunities across the county. ment of selflessness will be required. n Reinier explains the difficulty of making connections on such a large scale:


Chapter 4: Conclusion

UCRC mapper, Nashon, holds a GPS unit and points out the route he plans to trace through the market


Mapping parties can help grow the mapping community. We call for future research to investigate collaborative map-making, involving those mapping both ‘on the ground’ and ‘from afar’. e set out on this research project guided by the theoretical contributions of critical cartographers – those who make claims about the power relations that reside in even the most banal of maps. This approach treats maps as visual images, and often as historical artefacts, which serve only the privileged few who created them. The widespread conviction of such arguments caused us to become complacent and we had no real reason to question this approach. However, once we arrived in Ugunja and began our research, such theories served us poorly. Quite simply, the theory didn’t make sense in the grounded reality of mapping. As we reoriented our theoretical stance, we became interested more in the act of mapping than in the map itself. Taking on board Latour’s (2010) ‘compositionist’ approach led to a focus on the practice of mapping ‘in action’. This meant analysing the composition of the mapping project and attempting to build it up. In sum, we asked how the Ugunja mapping project is composed and how it might be better composed in the future. The Ugunja mapping project, as we found it, had come to lay dormant due its unsuitable composition. Outdated and complex proprietary software, unstable sources of power, insufficient data storage and a lack of trained personnel all contributed to a weak mapping infrastructure. It is worth noting that this mapping infrastructure had been sufficient for the mapping project to make headway a few years previously. We must therefore recognise that the needs of the project are constantly changing, not least due to advancing technology and mobility of people. In order to set the Ugunja mapping project in motion once more, we had to compose the project afresh. This involved using the UCRC’s laptops and existing GPS units. However, we initiated a change


in mapping software – from ArcGIS to OSM. OSM is not a GIS package but a store for street map data. Since we felt that there simply wasn’t enough data to manipulate on a GIS package it was suggested that data should first of all be collected, OSM provided an appropriate means to do this. The cloud-based storage of data on OSM meant that the UCRC no longer had to worry about storage issues, which were particularly challenging due to unstable power supply. OSM was also free and relatively easy to use, which meant that many people in the community might one day be able to map for themselves. Technological advancements meant that community mapping was now highly feasible on even the smallest of budgets. The online and open-source nature of OSM added a new dimension to the Ugunja mapping project. Since the data is shared among the OSM community, the act of mapping becomes collaborative. The Ugunja mapping project is now one small part of an effort to create a single (open-source) map of the world. Within a few months of the switch to OSM, the UCRC staff were contacted by a mapper who lived outside of the Ugunja community. Using satellite imagery to map from afar, he was adding to the work of the UCRC. The amount of ground that he was able to cover was vast, however he needed the UCRC staff to advise on a specific detail that only someone on the ground would have knowledge of. Through such interactions the map grows, open collaboration bringing advantages of increased workforce, speed and scope, whilst striving to maintain local detail. Local knowledge shaped the act of mapping. In our role of facilitating the mapping process, the UCRC began by asking us where they should begin and finish mapping. Similarly, they asked for us to suggest what was important to map. However, they often knew where they wanted to map or where to stop mapping and so we turned these questions back to them. They then answered their own questions


with ease. The decision-making processes of mapmaking (those which critical cartographers made so much of) were simply intuitive. Within a few days of walking and driving the UCRC staff had a dense network of roads and paths. They would collect one section each day and then upload it straight onto the Internet, plotting on key features using their eye sight. Their attention to detail became obsessive at times, adding features such as the outdoor pool table and the new police station (under construction). In this way they made the maps theirs. The act of digital map-making is a messy process. Pieces were added here and there on an ad hoc basis. The mappers mapped what they felt like, when they felt like it. But very quickly they began to construct the map that they wanted. The grid of roads provided a useful reference point but never once did we attempt to create the ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’ grid before progressing further. The first wave of mapping that we initiated in August 2011 was intended to cover a 2km radius, because this was the distance that we could cover by foot and would expect to map in sufficient density. We roughly covered that area, but mapping would shoot off in one direction along a branch of roads or towards one of the mapper’s house. This allowed for a much more natural progression of the map. It is anticipated that these offshoots will continue to eat up the areas of blank space until meeting other mapping efforts, and forming a whole. Online mappers around the world can assist the developing world – that which is typically undermapped – by using the satellite data on OSM to create a grid of reference. By mapping major roads, rivers and features, local mapping projects like that in Ugunja may be able to link up to one another. If this happened, then we may see highly detailed maps of East Africa, and other such under-mapped regions, begin to emerge. It is not enough for insular projects to focus on mapping local areas intensively. Mapping

must occur at all levels of detail and mapping efforts must begin to link up. As the online community map from afar and those on the ground map their communities, mapping efforts begin to cross over and the first free and open map of the world comes alive in even the most under-mapped areas of the world. Whilst practitioners seek out contacts and continue to expand their efforts geographically, academics can expand on research into the collaborative act of mapping both from afar and on the ground. For the laymen and women out there, all that is left to do is to get mapping. As technological advancements result in cheaper and more accessible GPS equipment, and as Internet connectivity continues to spread, the viability of locally-driven mapping projects becomes more realistic. It’s time to get mapping and to begin making those connections. It is therefore recommended that the Ugunja mapping project should push for further involvement of people in the mapping process. This could be achieved through hosting a mapping day in nearby towns, which are yet to mapped at anywhere near the detail that Ugunja has been able to achieve. These will give people the skills needed to map. By holding mapping sessions in towns with Internet cafes, issues of access to software and data storage are overcome at relatively little cost. This leaves access to GPS tracing devices as the remaining socio-technical hurdle. In some instances, people may have GPS-enable smartphones. Otherwise, it may be necessary to loan GPS devices or to hold regular mapping parties in which GPS tracing can be intensively carried out. This method, we hope, may be able to spread the map (and community of active mappers) outwards from Ugunja. As the community in the region grows, so too may the attention that it receives from those mapping online (or ‘from afar’), which will only help strengthen the map of the region, covering the blankspot it once was. n After the research: Team leader Olly Parsons returned to Ugunja in summer 2012 and, whilst there, presented a print out of the map to Charles Ogada, UCRC Program Manager (pictured). The UCRC recently secured a $3000 grant from the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa for an agricultural project. This will involve using the map to spatially represent commodity prices.


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Latour, B. (1987) Science in Action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

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Mapping a blankspot  

Report on a six-week research project. Investigates the introduction of OpenStreetMap to the market town of Ugunja, western Kenya