We extracted data from citizens. Now, we are sharing it back!

September 7, 2021

Buhongwa ward government leaders locating mapped features during field visit. ©UNDPTZ

A recent report by the  United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicated that the African continent produced over 125milion tonnes of  municipal solid waste (MSW). This quantity is expected to increase two-fold by 2025. The average MSW collection rate stood at 55 percent, while 90 percent of waste is disposed on uncontrolled dumpsites and landfills. 55 percent of waste generated was organic which could offer significant socio-economic opportunities for countries. Furthermore, It is estimated that 70–80 percent of the MSW generated in Africa is recyclable, yet only 4 percent of MSW is currently recycled. Overall, the   system is characterized with the existence of informal waste pickers who are vigorously recouping valuable resources from waste at minimal to no cost to municipalities or private companies (aggregators).

Africa is currently recycling only 4% of its waste 

As elucidated in our previous blog on solid waste management in Tanzania, Mwanza city located on the northern part of the country is no exception, recent estimates indicated that the city produced over 350 tonnes of waste per day out which it is estimated that 70 percent contained organic waste. At the time of writing, the municipal waste management system was supported by four private companies who act as aggregators and five community-based waste collection services. However, the city faced several challenges that threatened to overwhelm the existing waste management system including low investment, a lack of recycling facilities and the growth of informal settlements with unmapped waste management infrastructure. In 2020, the City Council planned to expand its modern waste collection services to new wards. The UNDP Accelerator Lab and its partner Open Map Development (OMD) stepped in to help the city to further understand the problem by using collective intelligence approaches by tapping into the power of crowd and open data.

Community members and ward government leaders of Buhongwa in a group photo after completion of 'data share back' session. ©UNDPTZ

The Process

The Lab used satellite data and crowd mapping to create an overview of the production and collection of waste in Mwanza’s Buhongwa ward, a peripheral neighborhood with many informal settlements. The lab partnered with OpenMap Development Tanzania (OMDTZ), to run a virtual mapathon with ten local university students using the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap platform. Over multiple sessions in the space of two weeks, students (volunteers) labeled buildings, roads, and waterways in the Buhongwa ward, as well as identifying possible trash sites. The resulting dataset was verified by the GIS team at OMDTZ.


Through virtual mapathons, the Lab generated a novel dataset about the core infrastructure of Buhongwa ward, mapping over 26,000 features such as roads, waterways, buildings, and trash sites. The data revealed the existence of new buildings that had previously not been registered by government officials. This information is being used by the city’s Environment and Sanitation department to add waste collection points to serve the previously unmapped informal settlements.

'Data Share back' Sessions

‘Data Share back’ – a phrase adopted from Tanzania’s Data zetu initiative refers to a practice of collecting a tremendous amount of data about people and their communities and decide to ‘share back’ with the very people who produced it. In our case, the sessions were conducted at both regional and ward level government aiming at empowering and showcasing the power of data in enhancing decision-making to local government leaders and community members and furthermore to demonstrate how Satellite imagery and Open Data can be used to improve waste management. Key participants in the sessions included representatives from various departments at city council, private sector, innovators, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and political leaders. At the ward level, the sessions included the ward government representatives and a selection of community members who participated during data collection.

 In essence, the sessions aimed at; 1) Developing an understanding of the community mapping Concept 2) Develop a functional understanding of Quantum-GIS, OpenStreetMap, open data, data collection tools and lastly, build capacity to stylize maps in QGIS. For community members (many non-professionals) the intent was to capacitate them to make sense of the results and offer them an opportunity to propose alternative pathways towards improving waste management.

We learned that the ‘Data share back’ exercise added lots of value to actors in solid waste and the community members who participated at large, as one local government leader remarked: “This exercise has not only increased our capacity to collect, analyse and interpret data but also it has shown the  value of involving community members in various development interventions’’ — Mr. Adam Maluzuku, Ward Executive officer, Buhongwa, Mwanza

Representatives from Commission for Sciences and Technology, UNDP and Open Map Development handing over maps to Mwanza City's department of Environment and Sanitation. ©UNDPTZ

Looking foward

As Michael Cañares argued in his blog on data empowerment-people whose data were collected must be accorded with the rights to the data and must be empowered to work on them. He furthermore expounded that people must have the right to know where their data goes, have a say on who uses it and be able to reclaim this right. This also includes the right to privacy and the right to be protected from risks online.  

But why do we do all this? - as a UN based accelerator, our mission is to bring ‘unusual suspects’  such as local innovators and  community members (usually left out in the development planning process) to the programming space and indorse the use of new sources of data and technologies to discourse the ever-increasing societal challenges. we seek to add value by; 1) Solidifying legitimacy in the innovation ecosystem and the policy arena, 2) Convening across sectors of the economy and 3) elevating new problem solvers in both the urban and rural settings.

In the end, we believe that data collected from initiatives such as this, will help the municipal council improve the waste management programming processes by; attracting the private sector to find potential areas for investment in the solid waste space, increase partnerships and collaboration and encourage experimentation.

The MSW initiative has a downstream to UNDP Tanzania’s past efforts to provide technical and financial support to the city of Mwanza  to develop its own investment guide- a blue print providing  investment information to prospective local and foreign investors. Furthermore, Accelerator Lab’s engagement with local innovators aims at sourcing a potential pipeline for the newly launched catalytic fund for innovation know as @Funguo_Tz -a programme run in partnership with the European Union (EU), Foreign, Commonwealth &Development Office (FCDO) and the Commission of Science of Technology, Tanzania.

This is just the beginning of a long voyage by the Accelerator Lab in working with complex systems and in this case in  addressing the Sustainable Development Goal twelve which focuses on ensuring responsible consumption and production.

Please, Join us in this movement as we work towards improving service delivery in Tanzania by making use of data produced as a result of collective intelligence methods and approaches.

Mwanza regional government staff, UNDP and Solid Waste stakeholders. ©UNDPTZ

Missed our previous blog? Please click here

Read more here about the Tanzania case on how we used collective Intelligence for the SDGs.

Special thanks to: Dr. Erasto Mlyuka, Commission for Science and Technology, Tanzania; Fanuel Kasenene, Environment Officer, Mwanza city; Iddi Chazua, Innocent Maholi and Benedicto Mwanyila (GIS Experts at https://www.omdtz.or.tz/)

Written by: Peter Nyanda, Team Lead and Head of Exploration, UNDP Accelerator Lab Tanzania