05. GIS and ICT (Literature Review)

This chapter describes Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and how they can be used in the planning process. This chapter also discusses how the necessary information can be contained with simple but effective technology. Other information communication technology (ICT), such as the use of mobile phones, is also discussed in this chapter.

5.1        GIS

GIS is used frequently by marketing researchers, engineers, retail-site analysts and environmental and urban planners. A Scottish landscape architect, Ian McHarg, described in his book Design with Nature (1967) how maps could be used as a tool in urban and environmental planning by using transparent slides with different features from nature, such as geology, hydrology, wildlife, climate, landmarks, historical use of the land, zoning, etc. By overlaying transparent slides with these different features he then showed how maps could be used to determine possible land use. This land use could be divided into urban, suburbs, industry, mining, recreation, agriculture and more.

This could also be done by using a matrix he then created (see Figure 5-1). With this matrix all prospective land use, for example, in an area that had been shown to have a high potential for forestry would also be compatible with recreation, including wildlife management. There might also be advantages to or opportunities for agriculture. Another example would be quarrying sand and gravel having full compatibility with freshwater-oriented recreation and incompatibility with water management and agriculture (McHarg, 1969).

McHarg’s ideas are also shown to have applicability in other fields, such as mapping cities’ health and pathology, pollution, ethnicity, economic factors, etc. Williamson and McHarg showed the relationship between density, pollution and health risks by creating maps of a city in the same way McHarg had done with nature (McHarg, 1969).

The different layers showing physical disease (such as tuberculosis, heart disease and diabetes), social disease (such as infant mortality, rape, robbery and drug addiction), mental disease, pollution, ethnicity and economic factors are all factors that are important in the slum upgrading process and the urban planning process because they show the areas that are in the most need of assistance.

Figure 5‑1. Matrix, developed for prospective land use on each coordinate
Source: Picture based on (McHarg, 1969)

Today’s Geographical Information Systems are used to create maps with layers of different characteristics using software, such as ArcGIS, to produce maps in digital format. These maps create a surface of the earth, producing maps or virtual 3D models. It can measure quantities (such as the number of doctors per square kilometer), population density (such as people per square kilometer) and visualize the outcome to the user (GIS, 2011). To locate the map, the software uses Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates to find points in the field.

GIS consists of four components: data input, data storage and retrieval, data analysis and data reporting. The user starts out by collecting a variety of information. This could be house numbers, number of children living in each house, description of type of housing etc. This could also be uploading of digital or printed maps into the GIS. The data is then stored in the GIS where it can be retrieved to edit or update. This information can then be used to analyze different layers or themes of data already stored in the system. Finally a report can be produced in the form of a graphic map, with different themes, making it visual for those relying on maps (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011; Canepa, 1999).

Until few years ago, GIS was a complex tool only used by trained experts. GIS software was expensive and required substantial training. In recent years, the proliferation of internet access and broadband connections has resulted in maps and satellite imagery becoming more available to the public. Companies such as ESRI, Google and Microsoft offer those with internet access the ability to create maps with different layers, print out these maps and visualize selected information on top of them. This has brought GIS to the average computer user and resulted in even more geo-spatial data being shared (Murray, 2008).

5.2        Paper maps

While GIS software is an effective way of collecting information, the use of paper maps can also be an effective and cheap way to gather local information. Training local residents to read maps can help to utilize community knowledge of their surroundings. A team from UC Berkeley School of Information tried this by handing out paper maps to high school students in a low-income neighborhood in Richmond, California. They found that the paper maps allowed the locals to be better involved in planning decisions. The local community is often better informed, compared to incoming professionals, about high-crime areas and where the community is in need of improvement, etc. (Wart, Tsai, & Parikh, 2010).

This type of data collection has also been used by the team working on the Map Kibera project where paper maps have been printed and taped to the wall during community meetings. Tracing-paper covers the map and a writer is chosen to document the information from the residents. According to the team, the quality of these meetings has been amazing. Since this type of data collection is often done by volunteers, it becomes important that it is creative and fun to keep the volunteers enthusiastic (Primoz, 2011 A).

Although the use of paper maps can be a cheap and effective way of gathering information, it has to be carefully handled and can lack quality control. The maps are sometimes cluttered and non-readable (Canepa, 1999). It is important to make sure the maps are correctly scaled and have a north arrow in place. Sometimes what the residents report on a paper map needs to be interpreted before it is put into the GIS system, as it can have underlying information that was not caught by the surveyor (Wart, Tsai, & Parikh, 2010).

Walking papers are also a new way of making mapping easier and affordable. By printing out maps in OpenStreetMap (OSM), which is a free and editable map of the world, anyone can draw and trace on the map and upload the data back into OSM making it visible to the world (Migurski, 2009). The map is recognized by the Quick Response code (QR code) on the map, a now-popular coding system that can also be read by smartphones (see Figure 5-2). This is a way for an amateur to detail a neighborhood by marking in useful data such as:

  • Green areas
  • Street lights
  • Shops
  • Clinics
  • Schools

Even further housing details can be documented, such as:

  • Access to electricity
  • Access to water
  • Access to restrooms
  • Shack ID
  • Number of occupants

This is something that is impossible to map without a site visit. For an amateur or a resident of a slum, these maps are also a visual tool that can help the community achieve goals that everyone can benefit from. After scanning the information back into the OSM these different attributes can be mapped and shared online (Migurski, 2009).

Figure 5‑2. QR code for the URL of the University of Reykjavik main page
Source: (KAYWA, 2011)

5.3        Satellite images

The use of high-resolution satellite images, such as those available through Google Earth, Bing and QuickBird can easily be used to help map a slum and give a rough estimation of the number of residents living in the area (Nolte, Adams, Wenzel, & Svelka, 2010; Kranz, et al., 2010; Liu & Clarke, 2002). The resolution of satellite imagery can vary depending on the altitude of the satellite and is sometimes supplemented with aerial photography, especially where cloud coverage is a problem (Martinuzzi, Gould, & González, 2005).

Google has a site called Map Maker to help improve the quality and quantity of geo-spatial information through mapping. As a free tool, the Google Map Maker offers those with the knowledge of an area the opportunity to share their information, making more and more information available on the web. By going into the field with a handheld GPS locating schools, clinics, restrooms and other features, it is simple to upload the data onto Google Earth for further public use as the Map Kibera team has done in Kenya (Google, 2011).

Open StreetMap (OSM) relies heavily on satellite imagery to create their vector-based maps of the world. This can be particularly helpful in situations, such as after the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, where no maps existed of Port-au-Prince, but within seven days an uploadable working map became available for first responders’ GPS (Heinzelman & Waters, 2010).

Open StreetMap also utilizes volunteers on the ground to verify the accuracy of the remotely created maps. They do this by walking, biking or driving through the area with a GPS. This combination of remote analysis with local analysis increases the accuracy of the maps dramatically (Mooney, Corcoran, & Winstanley, 2010).

5.4        Mapping the community

Many developing countries suffer from not having enough money to map their suburbs, countryside and slums. Often the slums are ignored since they do not formally exist on a map and are therefore often not included in the city’s planning. Another problem is often shortage of people to survey the land and the knowledge to do so. A lot of data has been collected throughout the years but information sharing has not been very effective, causing different NGOs, governments and other organizations to do the work more than once.

Recently, however, there has been a drive towards opening up public access to various governmental data. Having an open government will give the citizens the rights to access documents and proceedings, fight corruption, promote transparency and empower the citizens. This effort has reached Kenya with websites, such as Kenya Open Data (Kenya Open Data, 2011). On that site, the Kenyan government is making their data available to anyone with access to the internet. This willingness to openly share information is now becoming commonplace within developing countries and is supported through the donor community (Kenya Open Data, 2011; Government of Kenya, 2011).

At the local level there is also a shift towards community-driven mapping. A good example of this is the Map Kibera project, which focuses on creating community-driven maps for the Kibera slum (Primoz, 2011 A).

At first it is necessary to map the community roughly by marking in green space, community spaces, streets and houses. After that the details can be worked on. By doing this, it is easier to identify which families need assistance, which need basic services and how they should be assisted. Although mapping can also be used for the environment or for addressing food poverty, or to identify flood or fire prone areas, it also strengthens the community and opens the opportunity for discussion (WaterAid, 2005).

5.5        Public Participation GIS

The broadening use of GIS from its applications by professionals to its application by the broader public has extended the use of GIS in urban planning to what is now regarded as Public Participation GIS (PPGIS). Through the use of internet-based technologies, in particular web-based GIS, the public is given an opportunity to influence and interact with the urban planning process (Chang, Lin, Kuo, Yeh, & Chi, 2008).

Online PPGIS can be used to supplement or augment the more traditional methods of participation (Steinmann, Krek, & Blaschke, 2004). They give the citizen the ability to see in a visual and interactive way the proposals at hands, something that can be difficult to achieve through the more classical methods of consultation.

Although GIS offers excellent ways of analyzing and capturing phenomena, the technology does not capture the historical, cultural or everyday life. This is where PPGIS gives the public the possibility to express suggestions on selected maps or even help out in the mapping process rather than just visualize maps without the option to comment on changes ahead that could affect their future.

A local example of this kind of participation is in the Kibera slum where Map Kibera has offered the public the opportunity to map their own surroundings, giving them a more visual understanding of their neighborhood and allowing them to be a part of their community upgrade. It also gives the community the option of expressing their needs (Primoz, 2011 B).

A good example of this from another part of the world, India, shows that having a map, slum dwellers can more confidently and convincingly talk to the municipality about the problems affecting their community (Hoyt, Khosla, & Canepa, 2005). Large numbers of people living in the slums of New Delhi got the chance to participate in the mapping process for their slum. By calling a community meeting on the street corners of the neighborhoods in one of the slums, the mapping team drew a map of the community directly on the ground with chalk. Objects, such as sticks, pebbles and leaves, were then used by residents to represent their homes and indicate how many people lived in their household. A stick represented a man, a leaf, a woman and pebbles, children. By using the objects there was a better chance of more people attending due to the high rate of illiteracy. In the end the information was gathered and finally digitized (Hoyt, Khosla, & Canepa, 2005).

By placing these maps online the slum dwellers can then share information about their community around the world and potentially get more visibility for the conditions they live in. Furthermore it can enable slum dwellers in multiple countries to share best practices on improving their lives through mapping. Since very few citizens in the slum have internet access, it is important to make the maps more accessible to the citizens of the slums (Lundine, 2011).

5.6        Mobile phones

In the last five years mobile telephony has spread more rapidly than any other technology in the history of sub-Saharan Africa. In particular Kenya has witnessed such phenomenal growth in the use of mobile phones that it is way beyond the predictions of most experts in the field.

According to statistics from Wireless Intelligence, it took about 20 years for the first billion mobile phones to be sold worldwide. The second billion sold in four years, and the third billion sold in only two years (Corbett, 2008).

According to the most recent ICT Facts and Figures published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2010, it is estimated that by the end of 2010, there will be 5.3 billion mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide. More than 90% of the world population has access to mobile networks and 80% of the population living in rural areas. While mobile subscriptions in developed countries are reaching saturation levels, the developing world is increasing its share of mobile subscriptions from 53%  of total mobile subscriptions at the end of 2005 to 73% at the end of 2010 (ITU, 2010). It is estimated that in the developing world, mobile cellular penetration rates have reached 68% at the end of 2010. However, in the African region, these same penetration rates will reach an estimated 41% at the end of 2010 (compared to 76% globally), leaving significant potential for growth (ITU, 2010).

While the developed world had achieved almost universal connectivity with high levels of reliability, Africa had neither, remaining a region where phones were scarce and often did not function reliably. Africa, being one of the poorest continents in the world, would likely be a slow adopter of technology, has proven to be one of the leading adopters of mobile-based technology. This has been helped in great measure by the deregulation of telecommunications in a large number of African countries, which has freed up the technology in a remarkable way (Shrum, Mbatia, Palackal, Dzorgbo, Duque, & Ynalvez, 2010).

According to a study done by the Financial Service in Kenya, 47.5% of Kenyan adults owned a mobile phone in 2009. The ownership of mobile phones in Nairobi was at the same time 80.4% (Kenya, Financial Sector Deepening, 2009). However this does raise a question as to whether the numbers are correct, since the number of slum dwellers is unknown in Nairobi.

It is, however, interesting that when looking at the major driving element for the adoption of mobile technology in Kenya, that it is not voice calls, but rather the introduction of “mobile money banking services”. Introduced in Kenya in 2006, by Safaricom, mPesa quickly became the way for people to transfer of money from person to person, paying bills and salaries, and purchasing of goods, quickly bypassing the traditional banking system (GSMA, 2010). This type of banking, however, is not available in Europe due to banking regulations.

While electronic transactions are the key method used, cash can also be paid and withdrawn at mPesa agent outlets, like local Safaricom dealers or other kinds of retailers such as petrol stations, supermarkets and local shops (see Figure 5-3).

       Figure 5‑3. mPesa sales agents in Nairobi, Kenya

Unlike for fixed-line phone networks and traditional banking, which both require customers to have a permanent address, the mobile phone allows anyone with access to a mobile phone to make financial transactions. For the informal economy in the slums, this becomes a very important tool and provides additional safety to merchants and shoppers who no longer need to carry money. According to Safaricom’s latest annual report, around 20% of Kenya’s GDP currently flows through mPesa (Hersman, 2010). Although transaction costs within mPesa are low, it has also become the most profitable value-added mobile service in a market where margins on voice calls and text messages are very low.

5.7        Reaching citizens via mobile phones

In recent years, the internet has become a popular mechanism for reaching citizens in developed countries. With over 71% of the population online there, it becomes an ideal channel for providing them with information about urban planning issues and to request their feedback. This has not become as ideal in the developing countries, where only 21% of the population is online. The situation is even worse in Africa where, by the end of 2010, internet user penetration reached only 9.6% (ITU, 2010).

This has led to multiple projects in the developing world, which focus on the use of mobile technology to communicate with citizens. Examples of these include public health workers in South Africa using text messages to remind tuberculosis patients to take their medication and a service in Kenya that allows people to utilize text messages to ask anonymous questions about subjects like AIDS, breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases (Corbett, 2008).

There are also experiments going on around the world looking at the possibilities for utilizing mobile technologies in the area of urban governance. Most of these focus on providing citizens with information about what the city is doing and allowing people to sign up for notifications of urban governance issues being addressed (INTELCITIES, 2006).

There are also quite a few experiments that focus on getting citizens to report issues about or document the urban areas they live in. Quite a few of them are built around the more sophisticated smartphones (iPhones, etc.) and the ability to take pictures and automatically record the location the pictures have been taken. Unfortunately very few of these more advanced phone features are available to people in the developing countries (Kottamasu, 2007).

Very few experiments have been done that try not only to provide information in one direction, but also try to create a bi-directional flow of information between urban inhabitants and urban authorities (Carver, 2003).

Another interesting new field of experiments focuses on utilizing data about mobile phone usage to provide behavioral data sets. Through “mobile phone call logs, it is possible to track human movement, infer socioeconomic status, and gain a comprehensive view into the functionality of societies and entire countries” (Wesolowski & Eagle, 2010). These large data sets, which have had all personal information of the users removed, require no self-reporting surveys or interviews allow human behavior to be quantified, something that would be difficult to obtain from other methods of research.

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