Community Mapping for Better Health: Data-driven decision for reduction of HIV infection in Kyela District, Tanzania.

Hawa Adinani
Mar 12, 2020 · 5 min read

Community mapping efforts in Kyela, Mbeya began during the implementation of the Data Zetu Project (now an initiative of the Tanzania Data Lab (dLab) — a local NGO that envisions Africa where data is frequently and effectively used to inform policy and decision-making at all levels). The project resulted in a subnational data road map for Kyela District council, which facilitates better availability, access and use of data for sustainable development at the subnational level.

Tanzania Data Lab in partnership with OpenMap Development Tanzania (OMDTZ), funded by the Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI), a partnership between Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is now mapping Kyela District by replicating the same methodology that was used in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya Urban to map hyperlocal boundaries in Kyela.

Mapping Process and Data Collected

To produce accurate and reliable maps, we worked closely with community leaders ‘Balozi’ known as “Wajumbe” in other regions of Tanzania e.g Dar es Salaam. Balozi are ten-cell-unit leaders that are responsible for ‘Shina’, a hyperlocal and the most granular administrative levels that exist in Tanzania and community live.

A team of community mappers in Kyela, trained and technically supported by OMDTZ is working in 33 wards in Kyela District to collect different datasets that address community problems e.g HIV testing services, hyper-local boundaries, available health facilities and HIV service provided, communal water points, HIV hotspots area and farming cooperatives.

We used Open Data Kit (ODK) — a free Android mobile data collection application which enables users to collect an enormous amount of data even without internet collection, allowing users to work even in remote areas where it is difficult to access the internet.

Demonstrating how ODK works to recruited community mappers

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholders and data users have been the centre of the citizen-generated data with an approach of community mapping, they are the primary users of data so they should be the one to tell what they think is the best approach and what datasets are crucial.

Before heading to the field, a series of meetings were conducted with stakeholders, i.e Kyela council officials, private sector organisations, NGOs, CSOs and other leaders in the community to confirm their data needs and align it with the tools that will have been developed. To make use of the data that will be generated during the community mapping, this exercise was critical to making sure there is a strong linkage between the demand and supply of data.

The DMO and other stakeholders are looking forward to the final map products and datasets to support their decisions and foster different interventions including the HIV testing campaign to hotspots areas.

One of the community engagement sessions prior to the beginning of the mapping exercise. The OMDTZ team lead — Mr Tonny facilitating the Data needs session which involved Ward executives and other local stakeholders.

“Recently we have been asked to create maps for the purpose of vaccination, we tried Google Maps and there were not many details for this area, and even the ward office didn’t have the map. If we get shina maps, they will help us during the provision of vaccines. After the project, I ask that the maps must be shared with primary beneficiaries like us (health centres) and see how we can use them for our daily operations. ‘’ Lutengano Joseph, Matema Health Center — Kyela.

How has the data been generated?

For data to have its full impact and create a sense of ownership, communities in the implementation area must be included from problem identification, data collection, ground-truthing, and capacity building on data use.

Community members were trained to collect data on their own neighbourhood. This method of training community mappers in the collection of datasets has proven its worth by making the community engaged and comfortable when interviewed by their fellow community members.

Apart from enhancing engagement, the method contributes to project sustainability, fosters data use, imparts knowledge of data collection (builds capacity) and increases the level of project ownership to communities.

‘These maps can be used in different ways, e.g. understanding the distribution of water supply points and understand which areas lack basic services. This can also help to understand investment areas based on the demand for services. Now I can even teach others how to collect data using this mobile application (ODK)’. Ahmad, Community mapper- Bondeni ‘A’ ward

A community mapper explaining the process of data collection to shina leader ‘balozi’

Potential Data Use

The ultimate goal of collecting these data is to be used by different stakeholders in the community e.g health practitioners, CBO’s, community leaders and district officials to make informed decisions. For example

  • Disease control: If hyperlocal boundaries (shina maps) are incorporated to patients’ registry in hospitals, it will help to track and control the spread of epidemic diseases like Cholera (which is common in Kyela). In Tanzania, it’s very difficult to find people’s addresses, so this boundary stands as an address and they represent a small cluster of houses

What is next?

For the next two months, we will be conducting data cleaning exercise and validation process before the analysis and development of the maps. Both interactive web-based maps and printed maps will be developed for different users.

As from the experience of the Data Zetu Project, “We don’t own the data we just borrow it and we should share it back”. The shareback sessions will be conducted in conjunction with map literacy training to enhance the stakeholders’ capability to use those maps. Apart from the shareback to the local citizens, data collected will be uploaded in the different platform including dLab saver and OpenStreetMap to maximise its use.

Data Zetu

Amplifying citizen's voices through better use of data.

Data Zetu

Amplifying citizen's voices through better use of data. This blog is now maintained by the Tanzania dLab, a local NGO promoting innovation and data literacy through a premier center of excellence. Learn about the dLab at and the Data Zetu project at

Hawa Adinani

Written by

Communications Lead at OpenMap Development Tanzania (OMDTZ) — Open Data Enthusiast

Data Zetu

Amplifying citizen's voices through better use of data. This blog is now maintained by the Tanzania dLab, a local NGO promoting innovation and data literacy through a premier center of excellence. Learn about the dLab at and the Data Zetu project at