Roads and Kenyans, it has always been an abusive relationship. We are either being excited at new roads while questioning the temerity of the budgets behind them, partly blaming roads for road carnage, floating on them when they turn into rivers or turning red over potholes, shoddy construction/repair work, or impassibility.

Subsequently, roads are one of the most discussed public topics. This convergence of various sentiments is what #WhatIsARoad is leveraging and building on for a more nuanced narrative and engagement with concerned players.

Using Twitter, the de facto platform for tech savvy Kenyans for engaging whoever irks, or impresses them, #WhatIsARoad is engaging Nairobians to collect comprehensive data set of all potholes in the city. Potentially, this can go National.

For the next six months, Nairobians are taking, being invited to take,  photos of potholes, describe the location or geotag them, then tweet the photos while tagging @WhatIsARoad or using the hashtag #WhatIsARoad.

Crowdsourcing information in Kenya isn’t something new. Ushahidi, the platform that WhatIsARoad has adopted for the visualization of the data ran a successful session during the 07/08 election crisis. Ma3Route has shown that Nairobians are quick to point out any bottlenecks that hamper their movement around the city.

For the one week it has been running, WhatIsARoad has made more than six million impressions and reached an audience of more than 1.7 million. More than 450 people have tweeted about it. And, perhaps as a pointer to the level for the campaign, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero is the person who has been mentioned closely alongside the hashtag.

Kidero, and other stakeholders in the transport sector represent key section in this campaign. It aims to engage players in the transport, construction and public safety on a discussion of the potential uses of the data that will be collected. At a general level  WhatisARoad will be sharing updates from the Nairobi County Government on the mapped spots.

However, the platform provides for a more targeted engagement and follow up. From the mapping, it will be possible to determine which area in Nairobi is the most pothole afflicted. Tying this to  information on road classification, it will be clear which is the relevant body to engage with and the kind of meaning to attach to various reports from the stakeholders. For instance, it may put into perspective a recent statement the county Secretary of Nairobi City County, Dr. Robert Ayisi, made in an Op-Ed that the County has spent Sh2.7 billion since 2013 on infrastructure development, part of which went into the repair of 1300 KM of roads.

A more nuanced level of this will include photo time lapses of  potholes to look into the duration of the repair works, keeping tabs on companies charged with  the repairs and a look on troubled spots.

Subsequent changes on the highlighted area will be reflected on the Ushahidi map where different colours of pins represent three various states of the road: red for pothole, yellow for under repair, and green for fixed.

Is there a pothole along your regular routes that you keep despairing over, or a road that you know is in  desperate need of repair within Nairobi? You can help shed light on it. Follow @whatisaroad on Twitter and highlight them using the hashtag #WhatIsARoad .


Image; collage of the some of the images that have been submitted via #WhatIsARoad

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