Data Zetu
Published in

Data Zetu

Newly-revealed Shina boundaries offer unprecedented hyperlocal data for decisionmakers

Community mapping efforts in Dar Es Salaam are enabling local leaders to leverage information about the most granular level of community administration that exists in Tanzania.

This blog post was published as part of the Data Zetu project. Data Zetu is now an initiative of the Tanzania dLab, a local NGO that promotes innovation and data literacy through a premier center of excellence. For more information about the dLab, visit For more information about the Data Zetu project, visit

A mapping supervisor (middle) installs and trains community members on how to use a free mapping tool to collect information in their neighborhood that can improve hyperlocal decisionmaking. Photo Credit: HOT.
Read on to discover what these boundaries are and why they’re important.

Community mapping efforts in Makangarawe Ward have surfaced data about hyperlocal “shina” boundaries, which offer local communities and leaders unprecedented information about the most granular level of community administration that exists in Tanzania. This is the first time Dar es Salaam has been mapped to such a detailed level, and the data collected will become invaluable for public health planning, local administration, economic evaluation and disaster prevention.

“I need Shina maps…. This will help ward management and record keeping.” — Issa Suleiman, Subward Assistance Leader

So what are these shina boundaries, and why are they so important? Read on to learn the story of how local leaders plan to use this unprecedented data.

The problem: Unplanned, informal settlements make it hard for local decisionmakers to prioritise investments and action.

Recent population estimates by the National Bureau of Statistics estimate Dar es Salaam’s population to be over 5 million. Data from 2002 suggests that as much as 70% of the city is comprised of informal unplanned settlements — and this is predicted to grow dramatically as the city expands by more than 85% by 2025.

Many of these informal communities remain unmapped — with little knowledge about, for instance, how many people live in households, where buildings like shops and houses are and how many people are within safe walking distance to health clinics. This makes it hard for health workers, emergency responders and planners to make informed decisions about where to prioritize investments, advocacy and outreach.

Informal settlement growth will accelerate for several decades. Animation by Data Zetu.

This rapid growth also means that, in Makangarawe Ward — one of the most heavily urbanized areas of Tanzania, and part of a PEPFAR DREAMS district — local leaders face a common challenge every day: How can they provide consistent management and support to their community of over 10,000 inhabitants? This was a typical problem statement shared with the Data Zetu team by community members and local leaders during a series of “Listening Campaigns” in 2017.

The response: Mapping basic information that local communities can use to align resources with actual need

Driven by these identified needs, Data Zetu partner Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) consulted with ward and subward leaders to understand what information gaps prevented them from managing and supporting their growing communities. On their request, the team worked with trained mappers and community members to walk door-to-door in Makangarawe ward, asking households basic questions like, “How many people live here?” and “How many women live here?”

What is a shina, and who administers them?

Dar es Salaam is divided into five municipalities, 92 wards and approximately 450 subwards (a subward is also known as a “mtaa” in Swahili). Through community mapping in November 2017, the HOT team uncovered further divisions within a mtaa known as “shina” (which translates roughly to “branches” in English). These shina are the most hyperlocal decision making structures in urban Tanzania.

“These shina are the most hyperlocal decision making structures in urban Tanzania.”

Shinas are sometimes also referred to as a “ten-cell unit”, since originally these areas were meant to cover ten households. Now, due to population growth, a shina tends to contain between 30 and 200 households. Each shina is administered by a ‘mjumbe’, a community-appointed (plural ‘wajumbe’ in Swahili) — meaning that the mjumbe’s administrative burden has increased as much as 20x in recent years.

Wajumbe are the main, trusted point of contact for local households over issues such as public services, resource allocation and community pain points. They’re chosen by their community to act as their representative to the government and to relay government decisions and initiatives back to the community (such as waste collection processes).

Wajumbe are also responsible for writing letters confirming inhabitants’ proof of residence, which is needed for community members to open bank accounts and gain travel documents. In some cases, health clinics ask patients to list their mjumbe when registering. Without consistent records of wajumbe and shina administrative boundaries, these services can be difficult to access for many people.

“Originally, shinas were meant to cover ten households. Now, due to population growth, each shina tends to contain between 30 and 200 households.”

A registry at a local health clinic in Kyela District already collects information about balozi (another term for mjumbe in rural areas). By overlaying this registry with shina boundaries, the clinic can begin to visualize hotspots for diseases it treats such as cholera and HIV . Personally identifying information has been blurred. Photo: HOT Team.

How were the Shina identified?

In partnership with Data Zetu, in November 2018 HOT worked closely with local community members and leaders to produce detailed maps of Dar es Salaam. Community mapping involves studying the physical infrastructures of an area as well as the organisations, people and institutions which make up the fabric of a city. Using OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open mapping platform accessible to all, HOT are able to train and support local people to provide accurate, data which can be contributed to OSM maps.

“This is the first time the city has been mapped to such a detailed level.”

In Makangarawe, mappers asked households to name their mjumbe. Once this information was collected, the team could visualize each household, colored according to its mjumbe:

Individual household data of mjumbe jurisdiction.

The map above shows the clusters of wajumbe identified by individual households. Each cluster, then, is an organic representation of a shina — as identified by community members themselves. From this information, the team manually drew borders around each cluster, in order to produce a first-of-its-kind view into shina boundaries in Dar es Salaam. This is the first time the city has been mapped to such a detailed level:

Processed data with Shina boundaries in Makangarawe ward. The size and boundary of the specific Shina matters a lot in distribution and allocation of resources and services such as water and sanitation needs (such as public septic tanks).

Who can use this data, and for what purpose?

The discovery of shina boundaries, and the subsequent mapping of them, will help improve public health services, emergency response and decision making for local authorities and community members. For example, during an emergency such as a fire, responders will now be able to locate those affected and find the fastest routes to them and to health centres.

“I need Shina maps…. This will help ward management and record keeping.” — Issa Suleiman, Mtaa Assistance Leader

One Mtaa Assistance Leader, Issa Suleiman said, “I need shina maps because they may help future subward leaders who may come after me to know how many wajumbe that the subward has, where they are located, and the number of houses each shina has. This will help ward management and record keeping”.

Despite the reliance of subward leaders on receiving information from the community wajumbe operating in their districts, previously, there has been no accurate way of sharing this information or creating consistent management systems. Now, leaders like Issa can be reassured that administration of their districts can be successfully managed by their successors.

“Already, one subward leader in Makangarawe Ward has requested for a Shina map to inform a report she’s preparing on the development issues of her ward.”

Beyond ensuring lasting administration, Shina maps can improve local management in the following ways:

  1. Having a smaller administrative division such as a Shina allows people more precisely identify their origin or location and to ask for assistance. For example, calling an ambulance to a ward would direct it to an area spanning over 1 square km with over 10,000 people. Instead, giving directions to a Shina, which is at most several hundred metres wide, would help to quickly find an individual house. For public health management, especially of communicable diseases such as HIV and cholera, this hyperlocal precision is invaluable.
  2. Ward leaders now have a better understanding of the areas that wajumbe administer in terms of location, and arrangement of the houses. Already, one subward leader of Msakala in Makangarawe Ward has requested for a Shina map for the report that she is currently writing on the development issues of her ward. For instance, municipal offices request data from subward leaders on the gender distribution and number of houses under each mjumbe on a regular basis for community planning. Now, they have that information.
  3. In the case of any development initiative, Ward leaders will also know the exact number of houses that one Mjumbe is responsible for, in order to properly and proportionately allocate the resources or public services available.

“For public health management, especially of communicable diseases such as HIV and cholera, this hyperlocal precision is invaluable.”

A community mapper interviewing community members during mapping; Photo Credit- HOT Team

What’s next?

The discovery of Shina boundaries has the potential to change the future of Dar es Salaam by improving local management and development of wards at a hyperlocal level. Through utilisation of OpenStreetMap, the data collected is now free and open to anyone with a smartphone or laptop, giving community members and leaders the autonomy to utilise the data to improve their own local development initiatives.

The Data Zetu team, led by HOT, show the coordinator and his team of Mbeya Region’s TACAIDS (Tanzania Commission for AIDS) initiative the Shina boundaries surfaced in Dar es Salaam. Photo: Data Zetu.

From research so far, the HOT team has uncovered that similar administrative structures also operate in the Mbeya region — another priority area for Data Zetu. Plans are already underway to support many other regions with shina mapping in the future. Through the provision of community driven, high quality, open maps, local leaders at the most granular level of administration will have the data needed to change their communities.

The detailed digitised maps of shina boundaries produced by the teamwill be shared digitally with ward leaders, as well as in printed form. There are also discussions around the production of community murals to make shina maps accessible to all. As future disasters emerge and community pain points change, HOT’s approach has ensured that local community members themselves are equipped with the skills to continue updating this information as conditions evolve in Tanzania’s rapidly growing urban areas.

Another lasting impact is a novel process that Data Zetu is undertaking to collaborate with the National Bureau of Statistics about this shina data, whose boundaries could be useful as NBS plans its next census. By engaging with NBS early, it’s hoped that these community mapping methodologies can contribute to Tanzania’s broader statistical ecosystem.

In these ways, the value of community-mapped data to inform local decisions, the ability for citizens to generate it, and the potential for statistical bodies to utilize itwill far outlast Data Zetu’s program.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Hawa Adinani

Hawa Adinani


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