Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Bonga story yako"

Thanks to Ory Okolloh’s blog Kenyan Pundit, which I referred to in yesterday’s post, I found out about Voice of Kibera.

Kibera is an informal settlement within Nairobi, Kenya. Kibera is often billed as "Africa’s largest slum." Several hundred thousand people are estimated to reside there. Kibera is frequently associated with poverty, overcrowding and violence. We tend to see images like this:

Kibera, Kenya / Photo by Valter Campanato/ABr [CC-BY-2.5-br (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/br/deed.en)],
via Wikimedia Commons
and this: 
Children and open sewer in Kibera / Photo by hris1johnson (Kibera)
[CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Voice of Kibera presents an alternative perspective. On the Voice of Kibera site, ordinary citizens collect and post news and information about their community. People can add events, information about local businesses and organisations, problems they’re having, and where to find health and other services. They can do so using SMS or text messaging, or on the web. Voice of Kibera includes media reports from community sources such as Kibera Journal and Pamoja FM community radio. People can also add photos and video. They contribute information that is relevant to them, and what is posted is public, open and shared.

Voice of Kibera uses the Ushahidi platform that Ory Okolloh and others developed and that has been used around the world (in the wake of the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan flooding, for example) to aggregrate and map crucial information for residents.

Voice of Kibera is run by an editorial board with representatives from several community organisations along with technical advisors. Members include Douglas Namale, a journalist and editor at the Kibera Journal and a mapper with Map Kibera; Sande Wycliffe, a community leader; Fredrick Bary, member of a community youth group; Josphat Keya, program coordinator at the Hot Sun Foundation, a charitable trust based in Kibera; and Gerry Omondi, deputy administrator with a women's organisation called Mchanganyiko.

Voice of Kibera is an initiative of Map Kibera, a project begun by Erica Hagen and Mikel Maron of GroundTruth Initiative in 2009. Their rationale was that although Kibera has been frequently studied and many development projects have been undertaken there, the information collected by outside organisations rarely makes it back to the community. Kibera, moreover, appeared on government maps as a forest, or as empty space on other public maps.

Young people residing in Kibera initially mapped the area, then entered the information into open-source software called OpenStreetMap, a global map to which anyone can contribute geographic data. Map Kibera mapped locations of roads, health clinics, schools, latrines, water sources, shops, and then began to include other data such as locations of flooding, or information about the quality of health services.

Voice of Kibera acknowledges the challenges of reaching and meeting the needs of the community through its initiative. But it’s already replacing images of poverty and helplessness with alternatives such as these:

Photo courtesy mapkibera

Photo courtesy mapkibera
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mapkibera/4762640019/ mapkibera photostream

Shimalasha Self-help Group
Photo courtesy mapkibera

Voice of Kibera is one example of people taking control of how they are portrayed, and defining their own identities. In other informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa, people are organising themselves to create and tell their own stories.

Nairobi_Kibera / Photo by Schreibkraft (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
(www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

No comments:

Post a Comment