The Decompression of Central Kampala

So we mapped all the buildings in Kampala, Uganda. We did this by delineating each roof of each building using high resolution satellite imagery in two dimensions. We then started doing some interesting analysis on the dataset and made a pretty atlas (31 mb). We looked at accessibility to mobile money agents, schools and health infrastructure. We analysed the size of buildings to identify slum expansion over time.

It became more interesting when we looked at how the city grew. Well, firstly, it did grow. No Nobel prizes for that conclusion. The below map shows the density of visible roofs in 1993 and 2016. GIS-Competition-Poster-20160523

Like all maps though, this one doesn't tell the full story. To get to the core of the issue, we mapped where there was growth and where there was loss. There seems to be a clear pattern of where there are less roof sq m; the centre of the city. This wasn't what we were expecting. GIS-Competition-Poster-20160523

We have our thoughts on what happened but we'd like to hear other thoughts too.

School Book Distribution Web Map

Each of the 5,000+ schools in this map received new school books. We developed this map as part of our data collection and mapping role in two landmark education programs funded by USAID. The first is the School Health and Reading Program (SHRP) to improve reading ability for at least 3.5 million children by directly supporting reading in 1,300 schools and communities and HIV/AIDS education in 800. During national scale-up, we are aiming to reach reading interventions in 18,000 schools. This is a five-year project funded by the US Agency for International Development.

The second program, called Uganda Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity (LARA) is a five year USAID funded education program aimed at promoting teaching of local languages in schools is set to benefit government primary schools in 28 districts.

Geo Gecko's role was to manage the data collection and mapping regarding the logistics of delivering over a million school books to thousands of schools around the country.

Who has the best/worst primary school access in Kampala?

We've mapped all 399,388 buildings in Kampala. We then measured the distance of each of these buildings to the nearest primary school. Its a lot of data, so give it a minute to load. Click here or on the full screen button on the map for the full immersive experience. This analysis is based on school and building locations. If a school was missed in the data collection, this may skew the visualization.

Aerial Water Buffalo

The monotony of analyzing aerial imagery can be quite... monotonous... until one finds a small herd of water buffalo taking a bath in the Nile. Take a look in the images below. At some point soon we plan to use our algorithms to auto-identify a variety of animals as part of a large-scale and evidence-based census in the national parks of Uganda. Stay tuned for more on that. We've recently built mobile phone apps so conservationists can track the movement of carnivores from 20 ft away. So tracking animals from 10,000ft is a nice change of perspective.


Job Vacancy: Senior GIS Analyst


GeoGecko is a consulting firm specialising in developing tangible geo-intelligence products which our East African clients use to enhance their decision-making. We are recruiting a Senior GIS Analyst.

Position Description

Based in Kampala, Uganda, the Senior Geographic Information System (GIS) Analyst will be responsible for data analysis, cartography and project management. Qualified Ugandan nationals are encouraged to apply.


  1. Clean and process geo-data.
  2. Conduct spatial, network, temporal, surface, geo-stats imagery and satellite analysis.
  3. Create static/web maps to the highest cartographic standards.
  4. Proactively identify inefficiencies and propose solutions.
  5. Manage online and off line databases.
  6. Manage projects and small teams of junior staff.
  7. Use various tools (GIS, web mapping, databases) to map and analyse data generated via mobile devices, aerial, satellite and secondary sources.


  1. Masters in GIS, Geography, Remote Sensing or Data Analysis. GIS certification is preferred.
  2. Bachelors or related Masters accepted provided it is supplemented by comparable work experience.
  3. Seven years professional-level experience in geospatial database development, design, and management; geospatial analysis; performance monitoring; and/or the analysis and interpretation of large amounts of data is required.

Required computer skills: ArcGIS desktop & extensions, ArcGIS Online, Open source GIS software, MS, on/offline databases, imagery analysis and graphic design. Candidates with experience in one or more of the following will have an advantage: French language, advanced database analysis, Tableau, big data analysis, UAVs, vegetation modelling, EIA’s, conservation, utilities and transport.

Personal skills:

Flexibility and adaptability are essential, as well as the ability to plan, take initiative and organize work independently. Willingness to learn and capacity to innovate. Good organizational and communication skills with international and national staff.

How to Apply

  • Send your CV, cover letter and relevant samples of your work to
  • Subject line will read ‘Senior GIS Analyst: Your Name’.
  • Apply before 14.00 on 18th December.


Supporting small scale agri-business is a complex in East Africa. Farmers are typically located in dispersed and difficult to access areas with poor communications. One needs a large team to access them and a data management system that can function in these harsh environments but also provide data in a timely and tangible format. GeoGecko spent six months building such a system for Agricultural Business Initiative (aBi) Trust, a multi-donor entity devoted to private sector agribusiness development. This was an enjoyable job, see the below poster for details on how we implemented it. aBi_poster_A1_150DPI

Big Data, Beautiful Data

Big Beautiful Data

Large and reliable datasets are few and far between in the rising economies of East Africa. However information is available if one is innovative and willing to experiment. One underutilized source is telecommunications data. It is available for most societal sectors, and harnesses two key factors; location and finance. This is one of the few sources of big data available here.

Old Data

In developed economies, accurate data is available from a variety of sources and for a variety of purposes. This data is available for a few reasons. The vast majority of citizens are on the grid from the cradle to the grave. Their birth and death are registered. In between taxes, property purchases, bank accounts, addresses are linked to an individual and available in a variety of databases for decision-making by the state.

This is less-so the case in developing economies, such as Uganda. Although huge strides are underway to rectify the situation, these datasets are often unavailable, inaccurate or incomplete. The informal economy accounts for 43% of the economy and is growing.

Telecoms Data in Uganda 1

New Data

Telecommunications data is the treasure trove; undoubtedly the most comprehensive and accurate dataset available in East Africa. But what, you ask, can telecommunications data tell us?

They know where you are. They know where you’ve been.

The location of each individual carrying a phone is tracked. Do you travel the same route each day at 07.00 and the reverse at 18.00? You may have a steady job. Does your location remain close to where you spent the night? You may be unemployed or a farmer. Or does your location move occasionally at chaotic speed and urgently swerve? You may be a boda boda (motor bike taxi) rider.

They know where we all are. They know where we’ve been.

One can scale this to understand traffic patterns by analyzing the movement of mobile phone signals on a road. Various agencies around the world are using this data to understand live traffic patterns; where and when do blockages occur. Using this information, agencies can tackle the real problem areas for maximum effect. Long term projects, such as road development or upgrade also greatly benefits from this data.

In East Africa, the UN is already crunching these datasets to study large scale population movements. This equips decision-makers with the information about the scale of the problem and where to devote the limited resources.

Show me the money!

Where is the wealth? Where is the poverty? Where, when and how is money moving? As the most widespread financial service available in Uganda, telecommunications data is best placed to answer these questions. At its most basic, one can identify wealthy and poor areas by studying the sums people load to their mobile accounts, the value of calls/SMS/data used, the money they receive and the money they send.

One can then build on this to study financial movement over time and how it relates to other factors. Will we see a reduction in money transfers in a specific region following poor rains and crop failure? Six months after the construction of a bridge to improve market access in rural area X, what is the impact on the spending habits of the target community? The evidence is there, waiting to be appreciated.

Telecommunications data is a beautiful resource for decision-making at all levels and a variety of sectors. True, not everyone has a phone but its value is enhanced by the lack of alternative sources; more have a phone than have any other link to a centralized database. One key question stands though, will the network providers share it?

Telecoms Data in Uganda 2

Bathymetry Gone Wild!

Another day at the office for GeoGecko. Yesterday we started a five day bathymetric survey in Northern Uganda. Bathymetry is the measurement of water depth. With one truck, two 4WD, a boat, a raft, two kayaks, a boat team of four, a tech team of two, two security and two drivers, its a complicated plan. Especially if one is navigating rapids while being watched from the top of the food chain by territorial hippos and hidden croc's.

This bathymetric will compliment the recent LiDAR survey we conducted over a much bigger area.

Stay tuned, its going to get bumpy!


Cold War Cartography: Kampala


Did the Soviets have a plan to occupy Kampala? This map suggests they may have.

In the Cold War years, Africa was a battleground for the major powers seeking influence. Uganda was no exception. Obote's leftist leanings resulted in the British backed Amin coming to power. Amin courted both sides and received extensive military support from the Soviets who kept up to 30 diplomats and 300 'military advisers' in the country. The Peoples Republic of China had 30-40 Technical Assistants also in the country.

Why the interest in Uganda? US Ambassador Ellkerman believed the Soviets did not have any 'affection for Amin or Uganda, but they are extremely interested in the port of Mbossa and in East Africa generally because of their strategic position... they are also preparing for the day when Kenyatta no longer runs Kenya' (US Embassy Nairobi Telegram, 1975).

It was in 1977 that the Soviets began collecting huge amounts of geographic data to build a map. This was no ordinary map, the detail is intricate.

The detail is intricate. This compares the Kabakas palace from a Soviet perspective and the Google perspective.
The detail is intricate. This compares the Kabakas palace from a Soviet perspective and the Google perspective.

GeoGecko translated the accompanying narrative text to reveal some interesting highlights. Some features of interest, such as, 'The Ministry of Defense and the General Staff (obj. 28), the command post of the President (obj. 73), the Office of National Security (obj. 108), Police training centers (obj. 117, 118), two military bases (obj. 2 and 10), police barracks (obj. 20) and armament storages (obj. 24) are also located in Kampala.' Administration, transport, industry, communications and medical are all talked about.

Recent fascinating articles on the BBC and Wired magazine elaborate on how cities around the world were secretly mapped even to the level of the load capacity of bridges (tanks are heavy). It is possible that the Soviet diplomats and military advisers were just very enthusiastic cartographic tourists.

Kisementi from a Soviet perspective. Historians believe they may not have been fans of Acacia mall. 
Kisementi from a Soviet perspective. Historians believe they may not have been fans of Acacia mall. 

So the question remains, what was the true purpose of the map? Were they over-enthusiastic cartographer tourists? Was this map a method of consolidating all information about the city in one user-friendly format? Or was occupation considered so as to extend influence into resource rich Zaire or be within reach of the strategically vital port of Mombasa?

GeoGecko translated the accompanying narrative text. You can read it below.


GENERAL INFORMATION. Kampala is the capital of Uganda, its main commercial, industrial, financial and cultural center, as well as main transport node and a railway station on the Kasese-Mombasa line. Entebbe International Airport is located in 25 kilometers to the south from the city. The city is located in the northern part of the Central African plateau, in 7.5 kilometers to the north-west from the northern shore of Victoria Lake and in 150 kilometers from the Kenyan Border.

In 1976 population of the city was around 500 thousand citizens; the city was taking an area around 30 square kilometers.

CITY SURROUNDINGS. The city of Kampala is located on a hilly area and crossed by small rivers.  Hills can have around 60-200 meters height, with flat and slightly separated slopes. Lower parts between hills usually have flat and sometimes swamped surface. Soils are mainly loamy, while shores of Victoria Lake are sandy loamy in general. The capital is located in a zone of seismic activity, where earthquakes higher than 6 points may occur. All the rivers around Kampala are not big; they have an average width lower than 20 meters and a depth around one meter. Rivers have really low and flat shores and mainly loamy or sand loamy bottoms. Highest water levels are usually achieved in periods from January till February and from June till July. Low water levels are usually noticed in October and November. Victoria Lake takes an area around 68 thousand square kilometers, and has a depth up to 80 meters. Lake shores to the south-east from the city are generally low and huge area is covered with papyrus swamps. Port Bell is located on the northern shore of Victoria Lake and has a railroad connection with Kampala. The port is open for all the vessels with a capacity lower than 500 tones. Vegetation in Kampala surroundings is typical for the savannah and consists of alternating regions. Half of them is covered with grass (elephant grass), while other half is full of bushes and some trees (acacia, combretum), which are not exceeding 5-10 meters in height. Rainforests can be found to the east from the city on slopes of hills and along various rivers. Such forests usually consist of podocarpus as well as different kinds of palm trees and bamboo. Cultivated land is used for plantations of coffee, groundnut, banana and other cultures. Kampala surroundings are covered with various roads and highways. Roads are usually made with bitumen, gravel and sometimes macadam. Typical road width is around 7-9 meters, while covered part takes around 6-6.5 meters. Advanced roads are enforced with a base from sand, gravel or crushed stone. Rural settlements are usually looking like small villages, which contain 100 and more houses. Buildings are usually dispersed, but sometimes several buildings can be situated really close to each other. Typical houses are made from clay, have squared or cylindrical shape, one floor and a thatched roof. Large villages are electrified. Water in villages is mainly supplied from wells or wellbores, equipped with pumps.

The city can be easily identified from air by its position to the west from the northern shores of Victoria Lake, as well as by size and specific pattern of road network.

CITY AREA. The city is located on hills, which are divided by flat depressions and small river valleys. The city has no unified system of development or planning. Administrative and business center of Kampala is located to the north from railway station (obj. 90). It has almost squared shape with dense buildings. Buildings are made from stone and have 2-6 levels. There are some high-rise buildings (10-13 levels). Here one can also find the Town Council (obj. 35), Parliament and the Office of the President (obj. 40), various ministries, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Education (obj. 26), as well as the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Provincial Affairs (obj. 34), the Ministry of Culture and many other; this area also contains General Post Office (obj. 72), the Supreme Court (obj. 98), several embassies, banks, offices of main industrial companies and other venues. All main residential areas of Kampala and suburbs are located outside of the center. Such areas have really different planning with rare buildings. Stone houses of 1-3 levels are tiered along hill slopes.  Residential areas of Kampala include various administrative buildings: the Ministry of Industry and Energy (obj. 29), the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (obj. 27), the Ministry of Culture (obj. 97), the Ministry of Labor and many other. Main highways of Kampala are straight and wide (20-40 meters), covered with asphalt. All other and smaller streets are more narrow, sometimes curve and without any solid layer. Vast majority of industrial companies is situated along railroad, which crosses the city. Kampala is extremely green city: many parks, squares, trees all around districts and along main streets.

The city has Makerere university (obj. 105), Technology Institute (obj. 19), regional Institute of Eastern Africa, scientific research institutions in the area of agriculture, medicine, chemical industry and other fields of science. The Ministry of Defense and the General Staff (obj. 28), the command post of the President (obj. 73), the Office of National Security (obj. 108), Police training centers (obj. 117, 118), two military bases (obj. 2 and 10), police barracks (obj. 20) and armament storages (obj. 24) are also located in Kampala.

INDUSTRIAL AND TRANSPORT OBJECTS. Industrial companies of Kampala produce around one fifth of total manufacturing products of the country. The leading industries of the city are textile and food processing industries. In the city one can find a textile factory (obj. 112), a sewing factory, a flour mill, milk and butter factories, a brewery, coffee sorting and fermentation factories, a currying factory and tea&tobacco producing plant. Kampala also has some huge warehouses (obj. 87 and 87), including storage of fuels and lubricants (obj. 83, 84, 85).

The city is serviced by two railway stations: “Kampala” station is for passengers, freight and sorting (obj. 90) and second is freight-only station (obj. 89). Both stations have wide variety of connected roads, loading and unloading spaces and warehouses. Kampala station (obj. 90) is equipped with locomotive depot (obj. 13).

Entebbe International Airport has asphalt-concrete runway with total length equal to 2658 meters. Airport equipment allows planes to land and take off in difficult weather conditions during day and night. The airport is equipped with storage of fuels and lubricants, several hangars, and service facilities. Two small airports are located in the northern and in the southern part of the city (obj. 1 and 2). They both have runways with 700 meters length.

COMMUNAL SERVICES, MEANS OF COMMUNICATION AND MEDICAL INSTITUTIONS. Kampala receives all the electricity from the Owen Falls water power plant (total power – 135 000 kW), which is located on the Victoria-Nile river, in 45 kilometers to the east of the city. Main water supplies of the city are small rivers and underground water. Water in villages is supplied from wells or wellbores. The city has a sewerage system. Kampala has all modern communication means. There are two telephone centrals (obj. 95 and 96), 4 radio stations (obj. 92, 93, 94 and 74) and TV-center (obj. 116). Main type of city transportation – by bus.

Kampala also has several big hospitals, clinics and other medical institutions.

Understanding Urban- Kampala Buildings Outlined


Building_Outlines_Kampala From a service delivery perspective within a city, there is some fundamental information authorities need to know. For example, where are the electricity cables? Where is land designated as residential? Where are the water catchment areas?

However, the end point of the multiple networks which exist within a city are often absent from East African local government databases and master plans. This end point is the individual building. People live in them. Companies work in them. Electricity, water, roads, sewage, cable TV are all attempting to connect buildings to their network in the most efficient way possible. Integrating building outlines will make that process far more accurate and easier.

So why is this data not available? For one, its hard to collect. It is time-consuming and horribly boring work.

So it is good for Kampala that GeoGecko specialists have no social life and are intensely boring by nature. Therefore time-consuming and horribly boring work is perfect for us.

We currently have a team sitting and scanning high resolution satellite images to record each individual building within the city. We're looking forward to the analysis which can be done when the dataset is complete. Where is there higher building density? What is the average building size per district? How many buildings are located in designated wetlands?

With Uganda on track to have the worlds highest population growth, urban planning in the capital city is more critical than ever. We're making good headway. A few weeks until Kampala is completed. Wakiso is next. We'll keep you posted!


GIS for Agribusiness

GeoGecko Senior GIS Consultant, Nathaniel Williams, last week finished a six month contract to install a GIS cell within the agribusiness multi donor agency, aBi Trust. With seventy one partners around the country implementing multiple thousands of aBi funded activities, understanding the situation was challenging. Basic questions were difficult to answer. Where are our partners? What activities are they implementing? How frequently do they train small holder farmers? Users can click on a point in the map to see details on activities implemented by farmers organisations.

This is where GeoGecko came in. We trained aBi staff. We built a mobile data collection system, a GIS and a web mapping portal. We trained over seventy farmers organisations who are receiving funding from aBi.

Now, activities in the field (literally) are recorded with a mobile phone, transferred to our servers and visible on a web map by a variety of stakeholders in Kampala and beyond. Now decision-makers can answer some fundamental questions; such as who is doing what and where are they doing it?

aBi M&E Officer Ayub Isabirye was trained up to manage the mobile data collection and GIS. Now that the fundamentals are in place, skilled staff, hardware, software and appreciation for the tool, bigger questions can be asked. What impact does training have on crop yield? How can one use satellite imagery to better understand local impact for insurance compensation. The geo-data is waiting to be harvested, the evidence-based-decisions waiting to be made.

Disaster Preparedness Innovation- Uganda


The 13th of October was the UNISDRs International Day for Disaster Reduction. Geo Gecko exhibited some of our work to attendees. Below is an infographic showing how our landslide vulnerability specialist assesses risk. InnovationInDisaster

The area surrounding Uganda's Mount Elgon region is greatly affected by landslides; over 300 people died in one incident in 2010. Assessing the areas most vulnerable is key to mitigating the impact and thereby reducing loss of health, life and livelihoods. Tools such as geographical information systems (GIS) are key to evidence-based decision-making.



East African Rail- the SGR


The transport infrastructure in East Africa is undergoing huge changes. Massive investment has been acquired to improve road, rail, ports and border crossings in the East African Community (EAC). The situation is highly complex however. It is difficult to understand what is actually happening, where and at what cost. Geo Gecko created a schematic transit map to clarify the rail situation somewhat. This map is obviously not intended for environmental surveying or geographic analysis. Its purpose is to give the viewer an understanding of the relative positions and routes of the proposed standard gauge rail and the existing infrastructure.

This map is not fully verified. Comments, corrections etc. are welcome.


Vacancy: M&E Specialist (w/ an understanding of GIS and agric)

Geo Gecko requires a M&E specialist with an understanding of GIS and agriculture. Click here to download more details. Vacancy: Monitoring and Evaluation Consultant

Organization: Geo Gecko Ltd - Uganda

Term: 2 months (October and November 2014)

Experience: East Africa / Agriculture / Some GIS

Location: Kampala Uganda

Deadline: 5th of September 2014 (Note: this post is subject to the outcome of a current tender process)


Geo Gecko is a Ugandan consulting firm specializing in enhancing decision-making through the provision of usable information and analysis extracted from geo-referenced data. Main contracts for 2014 include large scale survey and data collection, procurement and analysis of aerial imagery, and the installation of a GIS capacity within a major energy provider. We also regularly conduct trainings at our facility within central Kampala.

Vacancy Description:

Geo Gecko is looking for an M&E consultant to join their team for an evaluation of a large agriculture based organization (Int' Donor funded), with the eventual installment of a GIS department. The role will be mostly advisory to our GIS Analysts on the specific protocols and methodologies used by M&E, and how we can integrate the use of GIS into the organizations existing systems. The successful candidate will also be responsible for par-taking in writing the final report and handing over the newly created GIS Cell to the organization.

The consultant will be provided with appropriate office space in central Kampala. They should provide their own laptop and software.


Past experience in Monitoring and Evaluation within the Agriculture sector in East Africa. Experience of working with International donors and knowledge of respective logical frameworks.


Some experience in GIS and back ground of projects in Uganda. An understanding of the supply chain set up within agricultural sectors.


Please write a covering letter and two page CV to Include detailed description of at least three previous M&E positions, with references. Ensure the subject reads 'M&E Consultant'.


Remote Sensing Specialist Needed

Geo Gecko is currently looking for a Remote Sensing specialist for a short term contract to work on the following GIS and related topics: · Orthorectification, Geo-referencing and Pansharpening of raw aerial imagery

· Coordination of flight patterns for capturing imagery

· DEM creation and analysis

The successful candidate will have a clear understanding of the latest image processing software such as Erdas Imagine and ENVI applications. An understanding of Esri tools will be beneficial. At least 3 years of experience in analysis and processing imagery is vital, all applications should detail past work with the relevant referees. Said position is located in Geo Gecko's offices in Kampala, but some national travel should be expected.

Remuneration and benefits will be in-keeping with the successful candidates qualifications and experience.

How to apply:

Interested parties should provide a cover letter with an adjoining two page CV to 'Remote Sensing Specialist' should be in the subject line.