Open Cities Africa Second Regional Meeting and FOSS4G Conference

After the Training and Kick-Off Event for the Open Cities Africa cohorts in Kampala, Uganda, all the city teams have started working on their individual projects. The aim of the entire project is to make 11 cities in sub-Saharan Africa resilient to natural disasters especially flooding. In Kampala, the teams were taken through a 5-day training program in using ID Editor, JOSM and different mobile phone applications to contribute to the OpenStreetMap platform and collect geospatial data. Also, the teams were taken through some lessons in gender integration, community engagement etc. that have all come in handy in executing the project up to this point.

Last week, 27th – 31st August 2018, the cohorts of the Open Cities Africa project once again convened at Julius Nyerere Convention Center, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for the Open Cities Africa Second Regional Meeting at the Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) conference. It was a packed week filled with so many activities and sessions – from the Open Cities Africa sessions to the FOSS4G presentations and keynote speeches. FOSS4G is an annual event that attracts numerous mappers, settlement planners and geospatial data enthusiasts from all over the world to gather in one place to share ideas bordering on geospatial data collection and new technologies. The first two days were slated for workshops before the commencement of the conference itself on Wednesday. It was during these two days that the Open Cities Africa cohorts convened to learn from each other and get feedback on some of the things we have done over the past few weeks and the ones yet to be done in the next few weeks.

The first day of the Open Cities Second Regional Meeting saw the various teams sharing brief presentations that could pass for a progress report with their counterparts from other countries as well as the World Bank Team. As representatives from each team took turns to present the progress of their projects, one thing was clear that all had been working hard in engaging with the communities they are working in, incorporating women in their projects and also making use of the various tools we were introduced to during the training program in Kampala.

On the second day, the teams worked on prototyping products that they could develop from the data they collect during the course of the project. This is was a continuation of an exercise that was started the previous day. All teams were made to come up with two personas representing the 2 major kinds of stakeholders of the project for whom the product will be designed. It was an interesting event which saw most of the teams come up with very interesting prototypes and concepts. This exercise was closely followed by the technical clinic which can best be explained as a brief refresher course in some of the things we were taught during the training program in Kampala. There were stations set up in the room with one resource person ready to offer help in the form of answering questions concerning product development, mapillary, drones, OpenDataKit and OpenMapKit etc. This also afforded the cohorts the opportunity to ask questions pertaining to the use of these tools on their project and seek clarification where needed.

The following day was the launch of the FOSS4G conference. The event was graced by Tanzania’s Minister responsible for the Environment and the Union, January Makamba. He delivered a very inspiring keynote speech that left all who were gathered at the convention center inspired to use free and open geospatial software to make the world a better place.

The presentations started right after that. There were many presentations and sessions running concurrently at the venue making attendees of the conference spoilt for choice. Most of the presentations at the conference exposed attendees to new ways in which people in different parts of the world are using geospatial data and technology in their work and the impact they are making.

All in all, the week was a very fulfilling one. It was an eye-opener and an opportunity to network, make friends and ignite synergies. One member out of each Open Cities Africa city was selected to undergo a 2-day training program in creating interactive and dynamic web maps using mapbox at Zanzibar.