Open Data Tech


Something that I have idly been pondering for a few weeks now has to do with the renaming of streets. Durban, the most populous city in KwaZulu-Natal has renamed a lot of them in the last decade or so. Since I mentioned it obliquely on Twitter (1, 2) earlier, I thought I would write it up here.

Durban has probably gone further than most large South African cities with regards to renaming roads and streets. (Certainly I have heard more about it there, but that might be proximity). Many of these are uncontroversial, where a road described what it did and now commemorates someone.
* “Ruth First Highway” is a better name than “Northern Freeway”.
* Old Fort Road ran in front of the Old Fort and is now KE Masinga Road.

Others have changed who was commemorated, which can raise hackles:
* Jan Smuts Highway was renamed to King Cetswayo Highway.
* Stanley Copley Drive is now RD Naidu Drive

Still others have links to other places, usually the places the people who built the area are from:
* Blair Atholl Road is now Rodger Sishi Road
* Kensingston Drive has become Adelaide Tambo Drive

(The full list is available on the eThekwini Municipality website)

Something that I think would be cool (and aside from the merits or otherwise of the renaming process) would be a better way of seeing what the people who they are renamed after did in order to merit having a street named after them. At the same time, who or what the street was named after before would be good as well.

I think that this could be an interesting project to put on a map, and should not be too technically difficult. If there are any historian-types who are interested in doing some short biographies for some of these people, please get in touch on Twitter.

Update (2015-08-04)
There is a proof of concept available for this at Street Renames. It should be enough to give you an idea of what I hope things could look like. Those biographies are too long, and I need to edit them down, but feedback would be appreciated.