In a Slum in Kenya, Help Is Just a Click Away

Monday, May 4, 2015

One of the toughest development challenges today is the prevalence of urban slums. Despite countless efforts to improve living conditions, slums are an unstoppable force – fed by rapid urbanization, housing shortages, and boundless population growth.

In Nairobi, where 60 percent of residents live in slums, neglect by authorities is commonplace. Yet with the help of a social enterprise, activist slum dwellers are saying, there’s an app for that!

The word “slum” brings to mind crowded streets of makeshift shacks and abject poverty. In reality, they are also thriving communities, which host families, informal entrepreneurs, and as much as 80 percent of thepopulation in cities around the world. With greater support from governments and civil society organizations, many slums could becomedesirable, highly functioning communities, argued Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove in The Guardian.

Like others around the world, the slums in Nairobi, Kenya, face daunting challenges. The settlements lack even the most basic infrastructure, like schools, clean water, and sanitation services, and yet city officials drag their feet providing money for repairs or improvements.

In the Mathare slum, residents grew tired of waiting for the government to act and took matters into their own hands.

How? Technology.

In 2013, the Kenyan social enterprise Spatial Collective teamed up with residents to create amap of the settlement using GPS technology. The map provided a detailed picture of life in the slums, marking everything from storefront churches to illegal dumping grounds.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
poverty alleviation, social enterprise