NEWSDAY TUESDAY: Using Tech To Put An ‘Invisible’ Slum On The Map


July 23, 2013

What if you didn’t know exactly where you lived? If the boundary created by the walls of your home were movable and could easily be taken from you? How would health officials find you to vaccinate your kids or make sure you had access to clean water? Successfully reaching families who live in slums, to improve health and living conditions around the world, depends on knowing where they are.


Mapping slums is a movement that began about 10 years ago in India and has expanded more recently to parts of Africa. Today, for NewsDay Tuesday, we’re highlighting this fascinating report from NPR on mapping Mathare, a slum in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Mathare Valley, shown here in an aerial map, is one of the largest and oldest slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Residents are using hand-held GPS devices to map the area, which comprises 13 villages and is home to nearly 200,000 people. Courtesy of Muungano Support Trust and Jason Corburn, UC Berkeley

“Slums by nature are unplanned, primordial cities, the opposite of well-ordered city grids. Squatters’ rights rule, and woe to the visitor who ventures in without permission. But last year, a group of activist cartographers called the Spatial Collective started walking around Mathare typing landmarks into hand-held GPS devices.”

The maps can help ground a community, help them get badly needed services and give them “a shared record of the past that allow people to plan for the future.”

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You can read a summary here, or listen to the full report here on NPR.

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