High-Tech Maps for Urban Slums


Informal settlements, also known as slums, are home to over 1 billion people around the world who typically lack some of the basic services that we in developed countries take for granted. These services include proper sanitation, clean water, electricity and access for emergency vehicles. Many of the issues in slums are attributed to heavily dense communities and lack of open space in neighborhoods. In order to reduce the risk of health and safety concerns, the living conditions for slums must be improved. A free open-source platform, Open Reblock, is aiming to simplify and improve the process of reorganizing slum communities so that residents have improved access to roads and other public resources. Open Reblock uses an algorithm to identify “the least disruptive reorganization of a cluster of slum blocks so that each parcel gets access to the street.” (1) The algorithm is based on a detailed map of a community with each property and its access to the street network. Once Open Reblock has the inputs needed, the tool produces a map of the “reblocked” community, which residents are able to adjust to their needs.

Open Reblock can be a great tool for developing countries trying to make a push towards smarter and more efficient cities. Buildings in slums are often so densely packed that many residents don’t have adequate access to vital public services. Open Reblock will help speed up the “reblocking” process which will improve mobility and accessibility for slum residents and emergency vehicles. The solutions provided by Open Reblock focuses on altering slum communities with minimal disruption. Local governments will then able to improve the lives of residents without destroying their communities and displacing thousands of people. The researchers responsible for Open Reblock understand the importance of cooperation between tech and residents who understand how the communities operate. If used correctly, Open Reblock will be a great tool to improve urban slums using tech solutions while still allowing communities to shape and lead the process.

(1) Article: http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2016/02/high-tech-map-urban-slums-open-reblock/470910/