#connectBurundi: how to build a participatory online map

Historically, maps help with getting a sense of direction. The Seruka centre of Bujumbura in Burundi chose crowdmapping, that is, the reliance on citizen collaboration in order to plan new action strategies for the prevention of GBV (gender-based violence). How is the mapping moving along?

By Serena Carta, Bujumbura

An initial introductory meeting with the Seruka managers was held, to clarify the features and possible uses of participatory online mapping tool. A working group from the Center – a dozen people including nurses, psychologists, doctors, communicators and educators – met to discuss what should be included in the map and what use to make of it.

The result of this brainstorm is shown here:



Why do we need a map?

First of all, the Seruka staff tried to identify the goals and aims. Broadly speaking, crowdmapping is a methodology that allows the collection of information from people scattered over the territory, which are then displayed on the online map. In a single look, you get the overview of the phenomenon at any given time. Examples of how the gathered data can be used are, reporting and advocacy activities (Harassmap, Egypt), intervention strategy planning (Crowdmapping Mirafiori Sud, Italy), emergency response (Healthmap Ebola), and mobilizing citizens and strengthen community (Community Safety Network, Georgia). The Seruka staff to focus on planning future activities. Therefore, the purpose behind the mapping is to create a new channel of communication able to facilitate, via SMS, the connection with the Centre and allow for critical information to be used to know how, where and from to focus new services on. At the moment, those in need of contact with the Seruka Center actually drop by or make toll-free calls. The staff hopes to encourage and facilitate the interaction with both new users or stakeholders.

What data shall we collect?

Complaints about GBV episodes, unpunished cases (most victims do not denounce the injurer in fear of retaliation), harassment in public place (schools and hospitals in particular), prostitution (a phenomenon on the raise due to emigration from the countryside).

Also requests for information (many just need more information, others are possible volunteers, students who write dissertations on the subject, youngsters coming to the Center inquiring about sexual education). Care shall be given to eliciting feedback on the quality of the service received.

Who do we engage?

Victims and witnesses alike (the community, neighbor, a family member). The service will then be ported nation wide, although awareness raising campaigns will be started in the three provinces in which Seruka is more active (Bujumbura Mairie, Cibitoke and Muramvya).

What technology do we use?

– First and second generation mobile phones for sending SMS or voice messages

– Smartphone for internet service

– Software for managing messages (Frontline SMS)

– Software for viewing an online map information (Ushahidi-Crowdmap)

– USB Modem

– Internet connection


1. Victim privacy and the networking of sensitive information could be used against the victims.

2. how many people will respond? Until we actually start the project, it will not be known, given Burundi low digitalization of Burundi (World Bank data tell us that 1.3% of Burundians uses the internet and 25% had a subscription to a mobile phone). Past experiences tell us that raising awareness of what is available to make their voices heard requires a consistent investment on the so-called e-capability.

3. how will the Seruka center respond to sharing information? In the long run, will the project be sustainable?

This consultancy stemmed from the “Projet pilote de decentralisation des services de prise en charge des violences sexuelles dans 3 provinces du Burundi” (ref. BU _ EU/2014/CNP/07) CCM NGO-initiated Collaborative Medical Committee – thanks to the support of the European Union.

#connectBurundi: let’s get it started!

I am travelling to Burundi for 34 days to apply  ICT to a project  raising awareness about gender violence and caring for its victims, along with the CCM (MedicalCollaboration Committee) NGO  from Turin. We are departing, amahoro to all of you.

[By Serena Carta, from ICT4dev]

They say that Burundi is an enchanted and tormented country. For one, the hospitality and kindness of its people find its roots on the shores of the great Lake Tanganyika where its green hills remind me of Monferrato’s and Switzerland’s  to others. On the other hand, the history of Burundi accounts for a close past of war and destruction (1993-2005 civil war) and a very turbulent present (President Pierre Nkurunziza ready to push his third, unconstitutional, mandate).

The “heart of Africa” is slightly less than 28 thousand km ² large. In Inkirundi (the local language), the word amahoro means peace and is used as a greeting. Forced to reckon with numbers and indices, Burundi  ranks among the poorest in the world, according to the global hunger Index, developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute. In fact, Burundi ranks first among countries with  alarming levels of hunger.

We will be travelling to Bujumbura, the country capital,  in a few hours. We – that is to say me and Fabrizio Furchì – are sent by the  ONG 2.0 to work together with folks from CCM and the Seruka Center for the incoming 34 days. Both CCM and the Seruka Center have worked in these setting for many years, mainly in the fields of awareness and information about gender-based violence in local communities, and  caring for the victims through the provision of health, legal and social services.

The goal of our journey is to support the Seruka staff in creating a website featuring stories and activities, and launching an online participatory mapping process (modeled after Harassmap), to stimulate the circulation of information on the phenomenon of violence.

We are armed with PCs, phones, camera, Moleskine, pens, articles, reports, and above all stories and suggestions that, in recent months, so many people shared with us. We want to say a big thank you to: Iside Baldini, who  led to the CCM research on gender-based violence in Burundi; Paolo Brunello, ICT4D expert and great connoisseur of the country;Viviana Brun and the CISV NGO staff that started its activities from Burundi back in 1973.

We are ready! Follow us on our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vps. Search the #connectBurundi.




Advice realized within “Projet pilote de décentralisation des services de prise en charge des violences sexuelles dans 3 provinces du Burundi” (ref. BU _ UE /2014/ CNP/07) developed by ong CCM – Comitato Collaborazione Medica thanks to the aid of the European Union.