Monday, 30 June 2014

GIS and Poverty Reduction: Part 2 (Map Kibera)

In Part 1 I provided a brief explanation of what a GIS is and what it does. I'll focus here more on what a GIS is capable of within a poverty-reduction framework, with some examples where applicable. It is important to emphasize that I:
 a) do not assume that any technological tool can alone remove poverty;
 b) do not want to further enhance the dichotomies that exist international development studies by emphasizing rural/urban, North/South 

What really sparked my interest in this topic is a project which was launched in 2009 by  Penn State called Map Kibera, seen in the video above. This ambitious project involved the residents of one of the largest slums in the world in Nairobi, Kenya to map out, and create household and geographic data of the entire city.

There's a few reasons why this project is so much more than providing a detailed map of pathways and roads in the area. It makes those residents that were previously invisible on a map visible; it marks the beginnings of land-rights reforms, it allows services to be measured and provided (or enhanced); and, finally,  it can help to identify where change can begin to happen.

It is not the software itself that can bring forth poverty alleviation, it is how the software is used, who is using and for what purpose they are using it. In this case, simple digitization efforts by hard working individuals in a community created a wealth of new options and choice, efforts that are currently being replicated around the world. I'll continue to explore how a GIS can help in the fight against poverty, but giving people the power of being formally recognized is an excellent place to start.

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