“My project came about through a chance meeting at MozFest last year. I went to a session about citizen science and was explaining the issues about the lack of maps in the areas where we work. Crowd2Map Tanzania came out of that.”
Passionate about education and its power to transform lives across the world, Janet Chapman promotes social innovation within the UK and beyond. She’s especially interested in developing interactive and mobile technologies to facilitate collaboration, achievement, and social justice. Janet is the Campaigns & Projects Manager for the Tanzania Development Trust and the Co-Founder, along with Egle Marija Ramanauskaite, of Crowd2Map Tanzania — a crowdsourcing initiative aimed at creating a comprehensive map of villages, roads, and public resources rural Tanzania. Crowd2Map emerged from MozFest 2015, when Janet and Egle started exploring options to involve Tanzanian schools into Citizen Science.
- Crowd2Map Blog
- Janet’s Blog
- Crowdsourced Mapping to Prevent FGM in Tanzania
- Transforming Tanzania with Technology
- How Maps Are Preventing Female Genital Cutting — by @sophietremblay for Al Jazeera +
- Contribute via GitHub »
- Download photos of Janet: at MozFest, in Tanzania
Could you start by telling me a bit about your work?
My name’s Janet Chapman. I’m a volunteer for Tanzania Development Trust, which has been working in the poorest areas of Tanzania for the last 41 years.
In the context of that work, the places that I visit are not well mapped. I go to villages of 10,000 people, but they’re not on any map. I’ve wanted for a long time to do something about that.
I’ve been to MozFest, I think this is my fourth time. This project came about through a chance meeting at MozFest last year, when I went to a session about citizen science. I was explaining the issues about the lack of maps in the areas where we work and Crowd2Map Tanzania came out of that.
What’s different about this MozFest for me is that we’ve been running a workshop this morning, and we also had a stall at the science fair on Friday. Our program now is to get rural Tanzania on the map, but we’re starting with a particular area of Northeast Tanzania, where we have a safe house for girls refusing female genital mutilation.
We’ve set up a project using the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Tasking Manager, and at the moment we are 86 percent complete with that map, which is about a thousand square miles. We have around 300 volunteers who are mapping through satellite images, tracing roads, villages and buildings.
We’re trying to finish this desperately in the next week because there is a [female genital] cutting season in this area of Tanzania. I’m going out in three weeks’ time and we want the map to be finished by then, but also so I can print out a paper map.
The safe house in Mugumu is run by an amazing woman called Rhobi Samwelly, who is an FGM survivor herself. She nearly bled to death when she was 13, when she was cut against her will. She does amazing advocacy work in the surrounding villages of Serengeti where girls are particularly at risk of being cut, but her work is hampered by the fact there’s no map of that area.
Our project is to get online volunteers anywhere in the world to map from satellite images, and also to get people on the ground in Tanzania to add the names of villages and places, via a free smartphone app called Maps.me.
Egle Marija Ramanauskaite and I ran a session at MozFest 2016, showing this project and getting more people involved. We even managed to have a live link with the safe house in Mugumu, Tanzania. The WiFi held up, which was great.
In this work, can you tell me about a specific time where you felt a real sense of success?
We’re communicating with people via a Facebook group and a WhatsApp groups. A number of different people have contacted me to say, “Oh, my village is not on the map. Please, can you get it on the map?” I explain to them how with Maps.me and OpenStreetMap we can do that, and then send them a screenshot.
I’m communicating with people in rural Tanzania that I’ve never met. They’ve said, “Oh, now I can find my village on my map and I can show potential donors that we want to get electricity or water to this area. Now they can see where it is. Now we exist. Before that we didn’t exist.” I’ve had a lot of messages like that.
Also, people like District Medical Officers who are overseeing the work of maybe 500 clinics in the area but they don’t have a map of them. They want to work with us to develop maps of those areas. Last month, I talked about this project at State of the Map, which is an OpenStreetMap conference in Brussels. I met some amazing people there, particularly from Africa.
There’s a great project in Dar es Salaam which is about mapping the areas at risk of flooding. In May we had a mapping parties in London, Vilnius (where Egle is from), and Dar es Salaam (where I was), hosted by Ramani Huria, a group of people doing flood resilience work.
How about an example of a challenge?
I have the idea of trying to map these areas of Tanzania. Around three years ago, I went to Wikimania London and found out about OpenStreetMap and I thought, “This is the answer.” I printed off maps of what was currently available in OpenStreetMap, took them with me when I went to Tanzania and said, “OK, can you tell me where the different villages are on this paper map?”
People couldn’t do it because they didn’t know where the villages were. They might know how to get there, like turn left at the tree or ask people, but they didn’t have a map in their head that they could transfer to paper. That was a false start. Then we had another false start with EpiCollect, the first app we used to try to collect location data on the ground. It doesn’t work anymore. It didn’t produce very good maps.
When we found out that Maps.me had produced a version that allowed you to enter data directly into OpenStreetMap, that was a big step forward because Maps.me is really good for navigation. You might use Google Maps in UK to find out, “Tell me how to get to Newcastle.” You can do that in the same way with Maps.me, assuming that place is on OpenStreetMap.
Turning now to the broadest issue in the Mozilla — the free and open internet. What for you is the open internet?
In terms of this project, it is putting mapping data primarily onto OpenStreetMap so that everybody can access it. We’ve been also accessing open government data from Tanzania about the location of every school and clinic, adding that into OpenStreetMap by copying and pasting the latitude and longitude, looking at a satellite image and saying, “Yes, that’s the school” and labeling it.
That’s open government data that’s been available for about a year now in Tanzania. OpenStreetMap is an amazing example of open data. I’m always still surprised that people don’t know more about it, particularly in areas where they’re not well mapped.
What are some ways that you personally have taken advantage of the open aspects of the internet?
I’ve always been struck with organizations like Mozilla, how welcoming people are and how open they are to helping you. At my first MozFest, I didn’t really understand what was happening. I sat down at a table because there was a spare chair there.
It turned out, after I’d been talking to the person next to me for about 10 minutes — a man who’d flown in from New York that morning — that I realized that they were in the middle of a really high-level meeting about what to do at the forthcoming UN summit on data security.
I’d just inadvertently sat in the middle of their meeting, because it was in an open space. When I apologized and said, “Oh.” He said, “Its fine. We’re all trying to do the same thing, which is about digital inclusion.”
Getting more specific about Mozilla, how did you first get involved, and what has the involvement been like?
I used to be an IT teacher. I’ve always been passionate about digital inclusion, particularly about getting girls involved. I was involved with things like Apps for Good and other really techy events. I also run a portal for community science teachers.
The first time I heard about Mozilla was in that context, I wanted to learn more about educational technology in terms of school education and to find out about exciting things happening in getting girls to code, things like that. This was in the context of British education; I was a teacher in a London school for 30 years.
Now my focus has shifted more to Tanzania, where issues are quite different.
During your time teaching, did you find curricula or educational resources generated by the Mozilla community? If so, did you use them, find any of them helpful, or remix them?
Yes, certainly earlier on when my focus was on educational technology. I was already doing some work with Scratch, which came out of MIT and is amazing. I remember going to a MozFest session in 2012. It was run by Mitch Resnick, who is the absolute guru on Inventive Scratch — but of course I ended up chatting with him. Then another time I ended up sitting next to Mitchell Baker, just chatting around probably about something ridiculously stupid. Then someone else said, “Do you know who that is?”
There is no hierarchy at MozFest. Anyone would talk to you.
It seems that while you’ve shifted your focus work-wise, you’ve maintained your engagement with Mozilla.
Yes, teaching girls to code now is not my agenda. I’m more interested in getting access to things that are on more basic level. We’re working with government secondary schools in rural Tanzania that don’t have electricity or water. If they teach IT — which they quite often do — it is by drawing the picture of a computer on the blackboard and labeling it.
Teaching people to code is a bit further down the line. Now I’m more interested in mapping and journalism, advocacy, activism, women’s rights.
What feedback do you have for Mozilla? Can you tell me about a time when Mozilla didn’t meet your expectations? How could things be better?
I was going to say the WiFi, but actually hasn’t been that bad this year. Actually, I think MozFest is pretty cool. I don’t know if there are any tools that would make it easier to find people. Rather than randomly walking up and down the stairs and bumping into people or tweeting them.
That’s great feedback for MozFest, what about throughout the rest of the year? Or throughout the whole time you’ve been involved with Mozilla?
Well, I don’t think I have a very good handle on the wider work of the Mozilla Foundation. I know that they do a lots of really amazing projects, particularly in Africa, but I don’t really know what they are and how I can get involved with that. For example, I found out this weekend about fantastic projects happening in Kenya and it would be great to try and replicate those in Tanzania.
I don’t know the best people to talk to or the best way to take that forward.
We’re creating this huge repository of stories. How might be these stories be useful to you, if at all?
Well, it would be really interesting to find out about other things that people are doing. Find out if there is any synergy, or if there’s anything that we can tap into, exchange ideas about, work together on — which I’m sure there’ll be. That’s the main thing.
Is there anything more that you want to tell me or ask me?
I’d like to get more people involved in Crowd2Map. We need help with this specific project. And, as I mentioned, my background is in educational technology and now we’re working with schools and other communities in rural Tanzania. They are very disadvantaged in terms of technology and other things, so any assistance in good practice, in small grants, or access to secondhand smartphones would be good.
But also getting that message across and finding people working in those spaces who might be interested in working together.
On GlobalGiving we have a project for the safe house — Crowdsourced Mapping to Prevent FGM in Tanzania. You can say, “I want to contribute six pounds, which buys a solar lamp.” There is also a project called Transforming Tanzania with Technology, which lists has more technological asks.