Fostering the Use of Open Mapping Technologies in Government Departments — Mwanza, Tanzania

OpenMap Development Tanzania
4 min readJun 24, 2021


By Hawa Adinani

Efforts to fill the data gap existing in disaster management in Tanzania escalated in 2015 when the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the World Bank partnered with the government of Tanzania to increase resilience to climate and disaster risk through the Tanzania Urban Resilience Program (TURP). This program is guided by three pillars (Risk Identification, Risk Reduction, and Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management). To identify urban risks, the Ramani Huria project — a community mapping project for flood resilience in Dar es Salaam — identified areas at risk of flooding in Dar es Salaam by mapping buildings, drainage systems, roads, trash & solid waste, etc. to show precisely where flooding occurs and the issues causing the flooding. This project made Dar es Salaam the most detailed mapped city in Africa.

Replicating and extending the same efforts in Mwanza, the second-largest city in Tanzania, the consortium — (Spatial collective, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and OpenMap Development Tanzania) worked with university students and local community members in Mwanza to collect different types of data such as rockfall incidents, flood extent data and drainage systems in Nyamagana and Ilemela municipals and updated the building exposure of the two municipalities on OpenStreetMap. The aim was to fill the existing data gap and provide disaster managers, city planners and other stakeholders with relevant datasets needed for decision-making.

After five months of data collection in Mwanza, on 12th to 15th April 2021, the consortium facilitated a final workshop with key government officials to share the methodology, collected data, and had discussions on how they can use the data for disaster management and risk reduction in Ilemela & Nyamagana. The aim was to ensure that they have the data collected, update and add more data according to their needs by using free and open-source software and other cost-effective tools used in data collection.

The workshop included training on open tools for data collection such as Open Data Kit (ODK) Collect, Introduction to QGIS, creating ODK surveys using XLS forms, data export from OpenStreetMap and many other topics relevant to open mapping and data collection. The training was mainly conducted in order to equip the participants with mapping methodologies that were used to map Mwanza and how they can leverage that knowledge to work on other issues using the same methodology(ies).

QGIS training to participants

Some stakeholders shared their thoughts and feedback of the workshop “The knowledge gained will lead to improved data collection when designing roads, drains and bridges. The data provided will be used as a baseline to alert areas that need attention when designing drainage structures”. Eng. Jane J. Mdulla — Tanzania Rural and Urban Road Agency (TARURA).

On the other hand, a hydrologist and the representative of the Lake Victoria Water Body Authority, Mr. Adam Manyama said, “The methodology, especially ODK, could be used for water abstraction survey and pollution control. This is why we need to share the methodology with more actors to simplify their daily operations.”

Mr. Aron Paul Kalondwa from Mwanza regional secretariat noted that, “The awareness of the data available to different disaster management stakeholders together with skills and knowledge of accessing and interpreting the data developed will help efforts to mitigate and plan for disasters.”

A survey conducted at the workshop showed that most participants did not know OpenStreetMap before the training. This shows that we need to provide more training to government stakeholders to ensure the utilization of the existing datasets and avoid duplication of efforts.

Maps Shareback

As the workshop was ongoing, two students from IRDP were distributing maps to all 17 wards that were mapped in the project. Maps were classified into four categories i.e. general drainage map, rockfall maps, and flood extent maps. Ward officers were very pleased to receive the maps and most of them commented that they normally do not get a chance to see the end product of the projects from NGOs.

A student mapper sharing a map with Mbugani ward officer, Ilemela Municipality

Key stakeholders in any project(s) should be involved throughout in order to strengthen data use, ownership, and methodology adoption to make projects successful.



OpenMap Development Tanzania

Open-source tech & geodata for managing & solving community's socio-economic and humanitarian challenges