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In late December, DI-MENA’s local partner Mourakiboun deployed coordinators from each of the 22 governorates outside of greater Tunis to map sample delegations in their area. The exercise was a test-run for the new mappers based on DI-MENA’s mapping pilot in four distinct regions of Tunisia, and offered Mourakiboun a better understanding of the true costs and timing for the larger field-mapping phase to begin in early 2014. The 22 coordinators (20 men and 2 women) were given a training on how to use the tablets and the MapsWithMe Pro application before returning to their delegations to map.

 

Each mapper chose two delegations, one that was mostly rural and another urban to get a sense of the challenges in different environments.  Back in their home governorates, each mapper recruited a volunteer from these two delegations to assist; the volunteers’ participation saved significant time as they often knew the location of every school. While some mappers drove themselves, most found it more efficient to hire local transport familiar with the delegation. On December 27th, mappers reconvened to recount their experiences. During their 2-3 days of mapping, they geolocated more than 600 schools in 40 delegations, spending an average of 4-5 hours a day on the road. The mappers’ GPS coordinates were submitted remotely as a KML file to a verification team made up of Mourakiboun and DI staff, who confirmed the locations using online satellite imagery and created a Google Fusion Table of all the schools.

Mappers faced different challenges depending on their location.In the northwest, bad road conditions and mountains forced several mappers to walk far from the road to reach some rural schools. In the south, roads were better but mappers had greater distances to cover. Procuring local transport and at a good price was another challenge. Some local taxi drivers refused to take the job because of the long distances between schools, and those who did agree charged higher prices than expected (many more than 100 Tunisian dinars for the day – about $60). Safety was a concern in some delegations close to the national borders; one mapper brought several friends to minimize the risk of being targeted by militia. Another mapper found it difficult to map a handful of schools located beyond a border checkpoint but still within Tunisia; to cross the checkpoint, he was required to stamp his passport and pay a high fee.

The primary lesson from this mapping pilot was that local knowledge is the key to ensure efficiency and rapidity in geolocating polling centers. Finding someone from the delegation to support the mapper is crucial, since the lead mapper may lack an integral knowledge of certain delegations. Local knowledge and efficiency with local transport is just as important, and a high cost to consider. Taxis may further reluctant to make long trips over the next couple months in Tunisia’s northwestern governorates, where snowfall and heavy rain often wash out bridges and roads.

Stay tuned for the launch of the nationwide field-mapping phase, where these coordinators will spend three weeks traveling their governorates to add the final schools to Tunisia’s first polling station map.