Working With Litter …

Am told that I got sick as a kid and was lucky to have survived. My dad had a vehicle and rushed me to hospital, the next time I remember being rushed to hospital was when I broke my leg during child play. I vividly recall the scene. The wheelbarrow : a common and really exciting kids game.

We are making it in Africa beyond the challenges, life is fun. My childhood friend is on Facebook and I must say is the last person I expected to see on Facebook. Because she dropped out of primary school when we were in class six. The circumcision season was always tricky: the all night walks in the village resembled an almost 20 hour economy, the bright moon that season and abundance in harvest set stage for this grand festival. All month no chills! It peaked with my old man “finally capturing me” as he puts it. He thought I was running away from getting circumcised. My brothers had to be there. I jumped in the backseat and we drove to the cut. Teresa did not survive this season, being a teenage mother at that age was a hustle, she’d rather care for the newborn. We exchange a few lines in the inbox :

“…my kid is going to Campus soon, he just got an A …” .

Am surprised because we are almost the same age. Her son is 16 years and am 29. At some point her high school daughter Lorah, sees the conversation then accidentally writes to me to reply, she asks if i was the same age with her mum and why am still single as the mum told her. This all happens on that same inbox thread. All these via mobile. Plus we live in the same city, i work a lot with teenagers and young people and we are connected.

“Street food”— How plastic bags have worked up our everyday Nairobi Life. by Wekesa Zablon

Despite us being divided by our achievements, we are equals. Teresa joined a vocational college and learned how to earn a living. When i came to the city ten years ago, Teresa had five years of hustle in the city. She recollects her account of why she left, like Everybody else did. We joke about the village and the city and how services are jammedup. Lorah is one of the young people helping me out as a student volunteer with the #NaiLitter project : a design experiment to impact on responsible production and consumption for citizens and industry. so far so good, the study is going perfect. when we started out it was an all campus affair, we quickly learned and teenagers had access to social media especially girls and also helped educate mothers on how to use technology, it also keeps them entertained and away from the hostile outdoors. Advocating for a cleaner outside means a safer street in the neighbourhood and this is what we have been doing one tweet at a time. Lorah uses her mother’s account to tweet, but she prefers snapchat. Teresa jokes that i should have had my kids early so that I benefit from all this knowledge.

The youth bulge in the cities and connectivity is what holds this promise, the amount of data and the diversity of it is phenomenal. Throughout the project we have learned that people will litter anyways and the more you cleanup a site the more it is turned into a garbage dump. Ngara round-about, one of the sites we have been monitoring has been turned into a garden in a city beautification project. For a moment we thought the behavior had seized but now we notice small piles popping up in the neighboring alleys and this is disturbing. My guess is, the habit got transferred. A city with all its complexity, we looking at deeper ways of preventing city littering. Am a student of the open-source movement, where it has led me, — working with the global community of designers on OpenIDEO. I go here to seek solace, to look for answers, reaching out to amazing people and browse through the contributions hoping to get inspired. Often I learn of new possibilities around my work.

A tweet has 65 metadata points and with these you can map littering patterns on a grid, find out who the person is and his habits and what conversation they have. More can be done with the raising bias for super apps, take wechat for a case study. Running this through deep learning tools you can still extract some more decent data, not to mention the possibility of data mashup with preexisting data set. We are moving to an API economy, data being the new currency. Through NaiLitter, Loran and her friends can cause Unilever to Change an entire product line just based on their social media activity. Taking a picture of littering incidents and sharing with her peers using a hashtag #Banplastics.

Imagine if we integrated a photo recognition function with a constant stream of satellite imagery from the supply chain of products and could monitor distribution based on the consumption rates of these products. Then now use this to predict littering patterns and make interventions to prevent littering in advance. We exist in a cultural divide, we might attribute the vice on rapid urbanisation and the strain of infrastructure but the consistent study of behavior can enable us openup new touchpoints to mockup new experiences that re-educates the citizenry to cope with these shifts in the raising consumer needs in Africa.