Favelas are a major social problem in Brazil. It is estimated that some 11 million Brazilians live in favelas. In the city of Rio de Janeiro alone there are more 11,000 favelas. Despite actively participating in the economy of Brazil’s cities, favelas do not feature on digital maps, and that means a major problem in terms of digital inclusion.
AfroReggae is a Brazilian NGO that fights for the rights of favelas. To make a statement for their cause, they have done what no one had dared do before: to map those forgotten areas and reveal what is hidden behind the walls that divide favelas from the city. Where was once an empty spot on the maps, we now see communities full of life and emerging economies.
Through AfroReggae we started a collaborative project including map development systems and formed a team that worked using that technology.
We then distributed smartphones and GPS-enabled devices to a group of favela residents so that they could enter the location of streets and local businesses. Next, we matched the data collected to satellite images and generated the maps.
Once we finished the work in the first favela 'Parada de Lucas', in the northern section of Rio de Janeiro, we got the word out about our project, both in Brazil and internationally, and recruited more collaborators. Since mid-2014, Google Maps has collaborated with us and offered its technology and support in terms of visibility and scale.