Open Cities Africa Kickoff 2018

The Open Cities Africa Kickoff hosted the largest gathering of teams in Open Cities history this summer in Kampala, Uganda. For a week in June, eleven Open Cities project teams represented by 55 delegates convened as a cohort to receive training in innovative, open, and participatory data collection and mapping processes to support management of urban growth and disaster risk.

Delegates group themselves by country to form a human map of Africa and Europe.

Participating groups included the local and technical organizations who are implementing the projects in each city, as well as the government counterparts with whom they work. Training included:

How to design a collaborative digital mapping project. Open Cities offered dedicated modules on topics such as disaster risk management, open data, stakeholder engagement, and gender-informed design. These modules were taught through a mix of interactive activities and presentation.

How to use and apply digital mapping technology. This aspect featured guest sessions from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) on mapping workflow and data models; GeoGecko on drones for community mapping and acquiring and using street view imagery; and Mapillary on machine learning and computer vision applied to street view imagery.

The Open Cities Antananarivo team practices tracking features along the road using FieldPapers and the Mapillary app.

A delegate takes notes during HOT’s Open Data Kit and Open Map Kit workshop.

Throughout the event, the teams had opportunities to interact and exchange ideas through presentations and brainstorming exercises. Delegates also learned of the techniques of existing projects such as Tanzania Ramani Huria, Zanzibar Mapping Initiative, and Uganda Open Mapping.

City teams shared their challenges and strategies for intervention on a range of topics, including disaster risk management, open data, stakeholder engagement, and gender-informed design.

Between intensive workshops, the cohort experienced the local art of Uganda by attending a performance by the Ndere Troupe at Kampala’s Ndere Cultural Centre. The diversity of attendants was a great highlight of the event. Half of the participants were francophone, and half anglophone, with many cultures, languages, and religions represented. This presented a unique opportunity for engagement and knowledge sharing. The energy and motivation of the participants was tangible; their strong commitment to open data and open collaboration for better urban planning was apparent throughout the event.

Going forward, each team will finalize their project design and begin stakeholder consultations before proceeding with community mapping. During the course of the project, participants will continue to expand their skill sets and refer to materials from the kick-off training sessions using the online platform that accompanies Open Cities Africa. The curriculum will guide them through more detailed content and tasks as the projects develop, as well as provide a forum for continued exchange across the continent.

Open Cities Africa is dedicated to three goals:

  • Collecting Data: The collection and creation of up-to-date, high quality, accessible data to better understand natural hazard risk and support data-driven decision-making for each city.
  • Putting Data to Use: Targeted information tools developed to support uses of risk data by local government and partners.
  • Creating local skills and partnerships: Local institutions and implementing organizations will develop skills in data collection, mapping and tool development and will have opportunities to engage with other teams in the region.

Stay tuned with teams’ progress on

Open Cities Africa is financed by the EU-funded ACP-EU Africa Disaster Risk Financing Program, managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.