Open data today to build resilient and sustainable societies tomorrow


As urban populations and vulnerability grow, managing urban growth in a way that fosters cities’ resilience to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change becomes a greater challenge that requires detailed, up-to-date geographic data of the built environment. Addressing this challenge requires innovative, open, and dynamic data collection and mapping processes that support management of urban growth and disaster risk. Success is often contingent on local capacities and networks to maintain and utilize risk information, enabling policy environments to support effective data management and sharing, and targeted tools that can help translate data into meaningful action.

Building on the success of the global Open Data for Resilience Initiative, its work on Open Cities projects in South Asia, and GFDRR’s Code for Resilience, Open Cities Africa is carried out in 11 cities in Sub-Saharan Africa to engage local government, civil society, and the private sector to develop the information infrastructures necessary to meet 21st century urban resilience challenges. The project is implemented through a unique partnership between GFDRR and the World Bank, city governments across the continent, and a partner community comprised of regional scientific and technology organizations, development partners, and technology companies.

Following an application process, a small team of mappers, technologists, designers, and risk experts in each of the selected cities receives funding, targeted training, technical support, and mentorship throughout the year of work to:

  1. create and/or compile open spatial data on the built environment, critical infrastructure, and natural hazards;
  2. develop targeted systems and tools to assist key stakeholders to utilize risk information; and
  3. support local capacity-building and institutional development necessary for designing and implementing evidence-driven urban resilience interventions.

Open Cities Africa is carried out in the following four phases:

  1. Plan and Assess

    In this first phase, Open Cities teams establish what data already exists and its openness, relevance and value. Project target area and data to collect are finalized. This phase is also when teams identify project partners and stakeholders to ensure that efforts are a participatory process. At the Open Cities Kick Off Meeting, teams meet with Open Cities leadership and the other Open Cities teams in their cohort and receive training on project components. Key activities:

    • Hold Kick Off Meeting
    • Conduct in-country assessments
    • Define scope of mapping work
  2. Map

    In this second phase, teams roll out the findings and data capture strategy developed in the first phase to address critical data gaps relevant to their specific Problem Statements. On the ground, teams coordinate field data collection according to the approach developed and agreed upon in consultation with project stakeholders. Depending on needs, tools for data collection may include smartphones or tablets, drones for the collection of high resolution imagery, or handheld GPS.

    As the project team is training team members to collect data for the project, efforts are made to develop, and/or strengthen the local OpenStreetMap community within the selected city working in partnership with local stakeholders. Project teams may hold trainings, mapathons, or community town halls in coordination with a local university, NGO or government counterparts. Key activities:

    • Create reference maps
    • Define daily mapping areas
    • Training of trainers
    • Collect field data
    • Analyze data
    • In-depth Quality Assurance / Quality Control checks
  3. Design

    In this third phase of the project, teams use the data collected in the Map Phase to design a tool or product to communicate the data to their stakeholders to support decision-making. Products vary widely depending on city context and may include a database and visualization tool, an atlas, a map series, or a mobile application. Key activities:

    • Finalize problem statement
    • Conduct user research
    • Regional Gathering around FOSS4G
    • Refine the scope of pilot product(s) and produce product wireframe
  4. Develop and Present

    In the final phase of the project, teams develop their tools/products and share results with targeted end user populations and other relevant stakeholders. Once final products are shared, teams work with project mentors and Open Cities Africa leadership to establish a sustainability plan and to explore opportunities for expansion or extension. This could include convening meetings with the World Bank, government counterparts, or the nongovernmental organization and donor communities. It may also include the development of concept notes, proposals or additional user research. Key activities:

    • Present results
    • Sustainability and follow-up strategy
    • Explore follow-up opportunities

Click here to access the Open Cities Asia website.