Tapping into Open Data and Satellite Imagery to understand solid waste ecosystems

December 2, 2020

Building proximity to dump sites- about 4231 buildings were 0-200m proximal to an illegal dumpsite and majority of buildings were on the 200-400m proximity. Dumping sites were accessible by truck and a few by cart or foot.

Earlier this year, The Tanzania Accelerator Lab took part in the Collective Intelligence Design studio workshop in Istanbul. Focusing on SDG 12, we crafted an experiment by using uncommon ways of understanding problems, seeking solutions and finally learning and adapting in a specific context. This blog summarizes some of the results from an experiment conducted in collaboration with our partner Open Map Development in the  Mwanza City Council. The exercise targeted at testing whether ‘unconventional’ data sources such as open data  and satellite imagery  could be used  in solid waste management programming at the local government setting in Tanzania. This blog culminates a three-part series written during the project, the first two parts covered; Design Thinking and use of satellite imagery.

How did we do it?

To undertake this task we went through the following steps

1) Developed qualitative/quantitative questionnaires and uploaded them in the ODK (Open Data Kit)  app platform

2) Piloted the platform

3) trained about 30 community volunteers on how to use ODK collect app (downloaded for IOS and android)

4) Rolled out (data collection) 5) Data analysis and visualization and 6) Data sharing (Via webinar). See results in the above image and subsequent images below.

Dumpsites and buildings count per 200m2 - There were more buildings (commercial and residential) near the main market place and the with a concentration of 103-124 buildings per 200m2 There was one formal waste collection point and multiple illegal dumpsites as shown on the map above

Types of wastes produced- It was observed that; major types of wastes produced included soft and hard plastics and food remains- most dumped wastes concentrated on highways, major roads, and marketplaces. Based on various reports, over 70% of waste produced in the region was organic waste.

Solid Waste storage- 87% of respondents reported to have waste storage facilities at their locations (residential/commercial)- types of storage facilities ( by far improvised) included sacks, buckets and tins, the remaining percentage burry, burn or dumps waste on unauthorised places.

Solid Waste collections services- collection was done using carts owned by one contracted local company which collected solid waste every other two days. Services were available mainly to households near the main roads and few outside the main road. On average, residents paid $1 per collection- however, despite the existing service many reported unsatisfaction with collection fees and frequency of collection. Large part of the area did not have collection services at all (see non-red).


The advent of the 4IR in Africa brought forward an array of technological opportunities such as open Data, Satellite Imagery and Mobile Apps which were used in this project – most uniquely as a Collective Intelligence project, we deliberately engaged a variety of actors to tap into various capacities and capabilities to solve or address complex challenges such as improper solid waste management. We recruited community members to help with data collection and interpretation of results and volunteers to remotely run a mapathon and produce imagery at such a short timeframe compared with conventional survey methods.

As a programme, we seek to; 1)  convene various actors in the development spectrum 2) inform policy or programming  and  also elevating new problem solvers in both urban and rural settings – The intention is to scale these type of solutions and  create an impact.

At the time of writing, lessons from this project resulted into a potential project by UNDP  country office in collaboration with the UNWTO to support the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism (ZCT) ( an institution of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar) to use Satellite imagery to find uncharted tourist attractions in the semi-autonomous Islands of Zanzibar in Tanzania as part of COVID-19 recovery and resilience efforts.

For more inforamtion about UNDP accelerator programme visit: https://acceleratorlabs.undp.org/

By Peter Nyanda, team Lead and Head of Exploration, UNDP Accelerator Lab Tanzania