The Missing Data Project: Living Data Hubs: Nairobi, Kenya

In the era of big data, it is hard to believe that data is still scarce. Yet a recent World Bank report “Data Deprivation, Another Deprivation to End” outlined the fact that data is so scarce in some lower-income countries that it makes it hard to effectively design critical public policies and track development goals—including poverty reduction, reducing climate change risks, and providing health services. This project, which we hope is the first phase of a wider “Missing Data” initiative, is focused on addressing this existing critical data infrastructure gap in African cities by building a pilot Living Data Hub in Nairobi, Kenya. The Hub will provide residents in Nairobi’s Kibera district—one of the largest informal settlements in the world—with essential access to the internet while also collecting valuable data for the local community and policy makers. This is a partnership with Kounkuey Design Initiative, local government, and policy experts to create a community-owned wireless mesh network in Kibera using the latest in wireless mesh technology. We will also establish a community-based training program for data collection. This pilot of a Living Data Hub will provide early feedback about how to effectively scale up and network the Living Data Hub model to drastically expand access to the internet, create economic and educational opportunity, and elevate residents’ voices by collecting and disseminating robust, community-driven data on socio-environmental risk in other data-scarce cities across the continent in later phases of the project.

PI: Sarah Williams, Associate Professor, Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Co-PI: Gabriella Carolini, Associate Professor, Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Funding for this research was provided by the Dar Group Urban Seed Grant Program at the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Spring 2019