Highlights from another significant year for GIF can be found in our latest impact report.

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Investments

PLACE

  • LocationsGhana, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Senegal, Zambia
  • SectorTechnology
  • Type of investmentGrant
  • Project stagePilot

PLACE provides detailed, timely mapping data for urban and coastal areas to Governments in the developing world at a cheaper price. PLACE employs interconnected innovations. First, an institutional innovation in the form of a data trust that accords data ownership to governments, while facilitating access and ethical use of data by private companies, NGOs, and academics. Secondly, a financial innovation via a sliding scale of payments for access to the data. Commercial users finance data collection and have the right to build their own data products on top of the base maps. NGOs and researchers pay a nominal fee. PLACE is also a technological innovation. It uses low-cost, high-performance drones to provide georeferenced images at 5 cm resolution together with topographical accuracy (elevation) to 6 cm. Finally, PLACE is a market innovation. PLACE builds capacity, and creates demand, for locally run organizations to operate the UAVs and supply imagery on a regular basis.

PLACE

The development problem

In today’s digital world, maps (including location data) power much of the modern economy. Governments use maps constantly (through modern geographic information systems) to route police, fire, and ambulances to people and communities in need. They use maps to plan smarter cities, to determine tax rates and bills, to identify public infrastructure needs and investment opportunities or to conduct environmental clean-ups. Increasingly, Governments must decide how best to upgrade public infrastructure, including housing that is resilient to today’s growing climate impacts. Africa is urbanizing at 20% per year, a rate which outpaces the availability of resources to manage it. Governments on the African continent lack staff and resources to map the areas. Africa has 3% of its total mass mapped and currently 80% of urban development in Africa is happening blindly without technologically informed approaches.

Ultra-detailed, up-to-date maps are an essential foundation to planning and implementing climate resilienceand adaptation for urban areas (note that African cities will swell by three quarters of a billion people by 2050, according to the UN World Urbanization Prospects). For instance, mapping the exact populations and infrastructure that are vulnerable to floods, and under what conditions, is critical to building resilience into the massive urban expansion now underway throughout the developing world. That requires topographic maps that are accurate to centimetres, not meters; that show the current condition of roads and drainage, not a 10-year-old snapshot; and that show dwelling density and conditions down to the house level.

The problem is that this kind of data is not available for public use in the developing world. To maximize social benefit, detailed mapping data should be provided at the marginal cost of making a copy: essentially zero. But of course, the data must be financed in the first place. In the absence of public funding, however, private companies will not make this data optimally available for public purposes and may not even invest in it. Donor-funded mapping is sporadic and inconsistent. Cash-strapped mapping agencies in developing countries that receive donor-funded data may not make it readily available. As a result, many cities in the developing world lack current base maps.

In short, this is an example of the financing problem for a public good.

The innovation

PLACE solves this market failure problem. PLACE provides detailed, timely mapping data for urban and coastal areas to Governments in the developing world at a cheaper price. PLACE employs interconnected innovations. First, an institutional innovation in the form of a data trust that accords data ownership to governments, while facilitating access and ethical use of data by private companies, NGOs, and academics. Secondly, a financial innovation via a sliding scale of payments for access to the data. Commercial users finance data collection and have the right to build their own data products on top of the base maps. NGOs and researchers pay a nominal fee. PLACE is also a technological innovation. It uses low-cost, high-performance drones to provide georeferenced images at 5 cm resolution together with topographical accuracy (elevation) to 6 cm. Finally, PLACE is a market innovation. PLACE builds capacity, and creates demand, for locally run organizations to operate the UAVs and supply imagery on a regular basis.

GIF's investment

PLACE will use GIF's investment of $460,000 to:

• Finalise the UK CLG and Trust.

• Determine planning and logistics related to the finalisation of MoUs.

• Launch and complete their "Pioneer Partnership" program which will lead to the full, ultra-detailed mapping of two capital cities.


Why we invested

Impact at scale: PLACE’s addressable market consists of urban areas in the developing world, with a total population of 1.7 billion. PLACE’s data could provide the foundation for a range of public and private services.

Climate adaptation focus: PLACE strengthens the public sector effort to operationalize climate resilience and adaptation agendas. This approach is aligned with GIF’s climate resilience and adaptation agenda.

Team: Senior management (‘partners’) have long and deep experience in property rights, land mapping, and development, and bring strong networks in the private and public sector. It also has experience launching and scaling similar ventures.

Additionality: PLACE needs to build its database of cities, so that it can start charging commercial members, and from there the flywheel for scaling can start. Grant funding from GIF to map cities will catalyse membership (and potential match funding).

Learnings: Our partnership with the Adaptation Research Alliance encourages stakeholder-engaged, action-oriented learning. There are possibilities to work out learning activities with groups such as the Spatial Collective (spatialcollective.com) and Radiant Earth (see here).

Theory of Change

The Theory of Change (“ToC”) rests on the following assumptions:

  • Planning and management of urban management over the next couple of decades will determine cities’ sustainability, productivity, and climate resilience for decades to come. Cities in low and middle income, now housing 3.5 billion people, will swell to 5.5 billion by 2050 , growing more slowly, or peaking, in the second half of this century . Much of this growth manifests in a sprawl of informal settlements in flood and hazard prone locations. City growth will also be shaped by infrastructure, and much of 2050’s infrastructure is yet to be constructed. Where and how coastal and riverine cities expand will determine their flood risk for centuries to come. Zoning and land tenure regulations will powerfully determine urban structure and productivity for decades. The new IPCC review of adaptation finds evidence that “risk reduction through zoning and land use can effectively protect and expand green infrastructure and soft land cover to alleviate pluvial flooding and decrease the urban heat island effect.”
  • High resolution urban base maps are a foundational resource for urban planning and management. An authoritative, reliable base map is a foundation on which other data can be layered: land tenure and value, flood risk, population, infrastructure. This provides anessential tool for public and private planning and management. Low resolution maps are unsuitable for communities mapping their resources, for cadastral and property tax purposes, for infrastructure monitoring and siting, and for understanding flood risk. It also unlocks innovation in the development of geospatially enabled products and services.
  • There is a market failure in the availability of up-to-date high-resolution urban base maps in the developing world. Government mapping agencies cannot afford to invest in these maps. Private companies may invest –in some cases redundantly –but do not make this information affordably accessible to NGOs, government, academia, and community groups.
  • Urban planners, community groups, NGOs and others have the capacity and agency to make productive use of high-resolution map data, if it is made available to them. The impact of PLACE depends on this being true in at least some cities, and increasingly over time. So, there is an assumption of complementary investments in capacity-building and in the degree of urban authorities to inclusively formulate and effectively implement urban plans.
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