Bamako: Under the blazing sun in Mali’s capital, Amadou Menta leaned over to measure the gutters and jot down the results in a map app on his smartphone. “We are collecting data,” said the 27-year-old geography student, who helped map roadside drainage ditches in central Bamako with two friends. Until recently, Mali’s capital city was largely unknown on the web. Street names and fixed public transportation routes are often missing in cities of around 2 million people, so people tend to ask for directions to find their way.

However, the lack of maps is a major obstacle to infrastructure development, such as traffic jam prevention, wastewater and garbage collection, and flood control. Tech-savvy young Malians are striving to change this, cataloging the city’s features in hopes of improving the lives of its residents. Armed with smartphones, dozens of volunteers collect data for his local branch of OpenStreetMap, a free online geographic database, and this data is used by sites such as his Google Maps. increase.

Menta and fellow mappers mapped waste and rainwater collection channels in Daudaboug, a central district that is often flooded. The gutter project has received financial support from the World Bank and has been welcomed by the authorities.

But that’s just one of the avenues the group is exploring, and there’s still a lot more to do. Founder Natalie Sidibé said that until now, “there was no data freely available in Mali.” “We saw mapping as a tangible way to contribute to the development of the region,” she said. “We need to change habits here. To do that, we need to encourage people to use digital tools.”

Data to stay ahead

Mobile data access is still inadequate in Mali. According to a World Bank report last year, only 1 in 10 women, compared to 1 in 5 men, have a mobile broadband connection. But the OpenStreetMap Mali team is busy. So far, volunteers have mapped Bamako’s public minibus routes, household waste collection points, and basic social services.

Deputy Mayor for Sanitation Adama Konate said the group’s efforts helped Bamako. “We found that this place needs drainage and that place needs a garbage dump,” said Mahamaduwadidi, director general of the Regional Development Agency in Bamako, who is planning to map youth for his project. said it made his job much easier.

On the agency’s website, he showcased a regularly updated map of all health centers and schools in Bamako made from OpenStreetMap data. “Instead of taking him two months looking up these things, the mayor can now get this information from his computer,” he said.

“Digitalization allows us to move forward and waste less time.” The poor country of Mali, which has severe governance problems and has been battling a decade-long jihadist insurgency, has a digitization of data. He said there aren’t many resources to dedicate to conversion. But Menta and his younger colleagues have shown that it is possible to launch his ambitious mapping project “without spending a lot of money,” he said. – AFP

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