Smartphone to spare? A smart mapping project in Tanzania could put it to good use

A London educator is leading an innovative crowd-sourced mapping project using smartphones to get rural communities in Tanzania on the map.

Janet Chapman who, as a teacher and adviser, has worked on innovative projects across east and north London, has set up Crowd2map, on of seven projects selected in the Open Seventeen challenge, which rallies the public to use open data as a means of achieving the UN's new 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

"Zeze is a village of 8000 people, yet, until yesterday it didn't appear on any maps," explains Janet Chapman. "Now, thanks to Benedicto and an army of citizen mappers armed with a free app on their smartphones, Zeze and villages like it can be found online."

'Working with grassroots organisation in the poorest areas'

picjanetchapmanTanzania Development Trust's Janet Chapman"I have been travelling to villages in rural Tanzania for the past two years as a volunteer with Tanzania Development Trust, which works with grassroots organisations in the poorest areas of Tanzania.

"I was frustrated that the navigational tools we take for granted in London - services like Google Maps, bus trackers and even road signs - are nowhere to be seen in Tanzania. After learning about Openstreetmap and EpiCollect, a free app developed by Imperial College I've started to add some of these villages. I've now recruited 100 volunteers in rural Tanzania who have started uploading data."

Participants can use a simple app on a smartphone to load information about locations to a server holding the mapping data. The project is working with O17 partners Citizen Cyberlab, The GovLab, ONE and SciFabric to tackle UN Goal 4 (education through technology) and Goal 11 (creating sustainable cities and communities). Teachers and students wanting to get involved can take part in a special "triple mapping day" being held in Dar es Salaam, London and Vilnius on Saturday May 7.

Involving Marieme Jamme from Africa Gathering, Rosy Mondardini from O17 and Egle Marija Ramanauskaite from, this will be a fun female-friendly competition-hackathon between the three "camps", as all will compare the results at the end, and bridge techies in the three locations via video conference and chat throughout the event. This will be coupled with a local "challenge" on the ground in Tanzania. For example three schools, villages or areas will compete to see who can add the most resources.

The Tanzania Development Trust sees technology as a great tool and rallies support via its own Facebook page. It welcomes help from educators and greatly values contributions of technology from supporters. Janet Chapman concludes: "The limiting factor is access to smartphones which are still luxury items there. If anyone has any unwanted phones they are willing to donate I will take them out in April. And anyone interested in contributing can do so at our three-way mapping party on May 7, or contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.."

More information

Crowd2Map on Twitter: @Crowd2MapTZ
Tanzania Development Trust   
Tanzania Development Trust on Facebook  
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