SDI partners with WhereIsMyTransport to combine cutting-edge tech with local knowledge, empowering slum dwellers and communities.

WhereIsMyTransport is proud to be a part of OpenReblock, created by SDI. A new digital platform for informal neighbourhood development, OpenReblock places the power of urban planning and data in the hands of slum dwellers and their cities. The OpenReblock platform was launched at World Urban Forum 9 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 10 February 2018.

Re-blocking supports area-based design and planning for the incremental upgrading of informal settlements. Through spatial reconfiguration and the introduction of new streets and paths, each home or workplace gains an address and so easier access to services, especially water, sanitation, and drainage. These are essential elements of slum improvement, and to building community resilience at the local level.

Working with WhereIsMyTransport and other partners, SDI’s new platform will make the slum planning process faster, simpler, and more scalable, placing it in the hands of local communities and other local stakeholders.

“At WhereIsMyTransport, our goal is to empower people with mobility information. The OpenReblock platform represents this kind of empowerment at its best, where a grassroots coalition, working with a number of other partners, created a tool they will use themselves to make their communities more integrated, inclusive, and accessible.” says Madeline Zhu, Head of Partnerships at WhereIsMyTransport.

SDI is a network of community-based organizations of the urban poor in 32 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The OpenReblock platform is part of an ecosystem of open-source tools co-designed by slum-dwellers, technologists and scientists to re-plan and integrate slums and informal neighbourhoods into their city networks with minimal disturbance and cost.

Slum communities create an initial map that includes each structure, available service and public open spaces. The platform produces an automatic proposal for new streets and paths. This street layout proposal is then edited and adapted to local needs and preferences in coordination with other stakeholders, such as local governments. Ultimately, these layouts become plans for neighbourhood development around a street plan that provides access to emergency services, regularizes addresses, and allows for drainage and the provision of services.

Demonstrating the integration and connectivity of each community is essential to the re-blocking process. Roads do not only move cars and people, they carry the infrastructure like drainage and fiber optic cable that connect neighbourhoods to each other, to the city and the world. Transport links to the neighbourhoods are critical to accessing services, jobs, and keeping the community connected with the fabric of the city.

OpenReblock draws relevant data on informal transport from the WhereIsMyTransport platform, illustrating the existing connections within and between the community and the city.

“Being connected is an integral part of building inclusive and integrated cities. Transport links remain the core of this connectivity for not only access to in-situ services, but also access to services and opportunities of the city at large. The ability to plot and visualise the public transport links that connect slums to the city in OpenReblock adds a crucial layer of data to the tool. The data from the WhereIsMyTransport platform contributes to our argument for in-situ upgrading as an alternative to evictions and relocation, and provides a key dimension to the planning process that we could not have sourced from anywhere else, especially so quickly and easily.” Anni Beukes, Data Programme Officer, SDI.

The WhereIsMyTransport platform is designed to support partnerships like this, enabling others to create innovative, human-cantered solutions to pressing problems in a sustainable and inclusive manner.

Launching with two communities in South Africa and Kenya, SDI and its partners, academic research centre Santa Fe Institute and software development company ONA, intend to scale and expand the tool worldwide, supporting slum dwellers and their cities with the power to solve their own problems through better information and better physical, social, and economic connectivity. By connecting with the WhereIsMyTransport platform, OpenReblock’s mobility data will scale with it, providing simple and easy access to transport data across the continent.

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