Interview: The winners of the GEO Indigenous Hack4Covid launch the Visibilidade Quilombola app

Blog / Diana Mastracci / February 10, 2021

In June 2020, 146 hackers from 33 different countries got together at the GEO Indigenous Hack4Covid event, to solve EO based challenges submitted by Indigenous leaders from around the world. The hackathon was co-designed by Space4Innovation in collaboration with the GEO Indigenous Alliance, the GEO Secretariat and Indigenous leaders from around the world.

The winning entry addressed the “Visibilidade” challenge submitted by Claudinete Cole de Souza from the Quilombola community in the Brazilian Amazon and was submitted by Douglas Mbura (Kisii tribe, Kenya) and Rasha Elnimiery (Sudan).

We interviewed Douglas and Rasha to learn about their project and how the GEO community can further support them:

What progress have you made since winning the GEO Indigenous Hack4Covid competition in June?

As winners of the hackathon we have had the opportunity to serve the global community even if we are distant and working remotely under challenging conditions, to think creatively, gain mentorship and collaborate with the community for a common purpose. We have learned alot from the Quilombola Community and other Indigenous communities around the world, including an enlightening session with Samburu Elders from Kenya.

This project has opened a whole new world of challenges and opportunities to us - a realization that indeed maps bring us closer, even when we’re apart. Having successfully launched the Visibilidade Quilombola app, we’re now focusing on customizing the same tool for the Surui Paiter community who live in the Brazilian Amazon who also need it.

Apart from that, we’ve also started working on another exciting challenge which involves a tool that will allow the Samburu Tribe in Northern Kenya to combine Earth Observation data, such as satellite images and weather data with local traditional knowledge of the moving stars, planets and the moon, to enhance their understanding of livestock and wildlife behavior and weather prediction.

Congratulations for launching the Visibilidade Quilombola app! Can you walk us through the co-design process?

The project was about creating a visualisation tool that would allow the Quilombola Community  to tell a story of how COVID-19 is affecting their Community- allowing the Community to become visible. We took up the challenge as a team and our first move was to carry out end-user analysis to try to understand what the community wanted to accomplish with the application. We learned that the Quilombola community were experts in collecting and interpreting data, having collected over 24 layers of socio-economic and health-related data using their mobile phones and Open Data Kit since 2017.

We noted that what the community was looking for was a super-easy-to-use visualisation tool that would allow the Community to share their story with the rest of the world, local government agencies and to leverage outside support and access public policies. Among other features, they wanted this tool to be intuitive and interactive, with customizable base-layers and map icons that are recognizable to the community. They also wanted to be able to geo-tag pictures, sound/music track, text and descriptions, and be compatible with ODK and Google Earth Pro for easy integration of more data layers already collected by the Quilombola community.

From this analysis we were able to develop a visual representation of the user interface (UX wireframe) and after a series of consultation and weekly virtual meetings we were able to create the 1st working prototype. We then designed the user interface, followed by weeks of coding, testing and debugging until we had a fully functioning application that was ready for actual deployment.

Here is the application that we built:

We created this application to enable the community to easily communicate with the world their story through maps and data. It takes away the hassle of creating maps by allowing users to quickly create attention grabbing maps by simply entering/uploading information on a spreadsheet.

The homepage/landing page provides easy navigation to the maps, dashboard and story-map. Also has a paypal donation button to allow well-wishers to support the project.

The Dashboard area provides key visual analytics of the community’s Covid-19 response. It shows such information as number of reported cases per locality, infection rate,  location and capacity of health facilities, supply needs etc. The aim is to  provide near real-time information for strategic planning.

The map area provides a super-easy and quick way for the community to publish all location-related information, including the 24 layers of socio-economic and health-related data that the community has been collecting using  mobile phones and Open Data Kit since 2017.

The story-map area provides a scroll-based map interaction for sharing information related to specific locations and allows for the integration of text, photos, videos, etc.

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

The main challenge that we faced during this process was mainly the difficulty of working as teams online, at different time zones and the high costs of internet bundles in order to make online collaboration possible.

What support have you received from the GEO community?

Since the end of the Hackathon we have received continued support from Diana Mastracci Sanchez, Founder of Space4Innovation and organizer of the event. Through her guidance we have had the opportunity of meeting experts from the Google Earth Outreach team who have shared with us invaluable insights and who have committed to continue empowering us to create positive change for people and the planet using this tool.

We have also met other industry experts and mentors who have exposed us to many aspects of principle and technology regarding data, mapping and Indigenous peoples. We have had the privilege of working remotely, but closely, with The Amazon Conservation Team (ECAM) - a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the biological resources of the Amazon and the people who live there. ECAM has committed a lot of time and resources to help us put this tool in the hands of people who really need this application.

In addition, we have more opportunities lined up, including a mentorship on the protection of Indigenous/traditional knowledge and the CARE Principles of Indigenous Data Governance by the Global Indigenous Data Alliance.

We are very grateful for all these experiences that we’ve had so far. It’s been incredible and we’re thankful to get this level of support.

What is your plan for the sustainability of the app and what support is needed to achieve this?

We believe that the most human thing you can do is to create a great story and share it. That’s why we created this tool to enable Indigenous communities to share their story in the form of maps. Our goal is to make the application freely available and open source for all communities in the world.

To enable us to accomplish this and make the application more adaptable to various cultures, we have placed a paypal donation button to enable well-wishers to easily contribute to the project. We are also seeking funding and partnerships with organizations that support programs that empower Indigenous communities.

We are also open to ideas that would help sustain this project while ensuring that it remains free and open-source, now and forever.

Learn more about the  Visibilidade App:


Presentation at the GEO Indigenous Summit 2020

About the winning team:

Douglas Mbura hacking on the UI of the application in java-script during development.
Douglas Mbura hacking on the UI of the application in java-script during development.

Name: Douglas Mbura

Country: Kisii tribe, Kenya

Age: 35

A GIS specialist and developer dedicated to building simplified solutions that provide meaningful insights. With 7 years of experience in GIS, Remote Sensing and Mapping my current focus is on deploying intuitive solutions that meet the needs of under-served communities. My approach is firmly based in the principles of user centered, participatory design, simplicity and results.

I’m currently working as the Chief Technology Officer of Geo-Appsmith, a Nairobi based GIS Consulting company which I started. Geo-Appsmith works with organizations and communities to create location-based solutions that delight.

Rasha Elnimeiry working on the application dashboard using R-language which she loves.
Rasha Elnimeiry working on the application dashboard using R-language which she loves.

Name: Rasha Elnimeiry

Country: Sudan

Age: 29

Epidemiologist and R Programmer who is dedicated to creating impactful GIS solutions for marginalized groups and Indigenous communities. Rasha is currently working as a Data Scientist for the CDC Foundation in the USA.




About the author

Diana Mastracci

Diana Mastracci is currently working as a communications consultant for the GEO Secretariat and is the International Strategic Liaison for the GEO Indigenous Alliance. She founded Space4Innovation to find creative ways to maximize the impact of current technologies and EO data to empower social change initiatives. She has worked at the European Space Agency, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Oxford, Citizen Cyberlab, was a visiting scholar at the Cartographic Research Centre at Carleton University and a visiting student at St. Petersburg State University. Diana holds an MA with joint Honours in Social Anthropology and Russian from the University of St Andrews, an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management from the University of Oxford and a Diploma in Documentary Filmmaking from the EICTV in Cuba.


What's New

Read more here

* = required fields.


Thank you for your subscription to the GEO Week 2019 mailing list.


Follow us on: