These past couple of weeks we have been introduced to some interesting and (at least for me) new things. The open street map assignment made me aware of something I never knew existed until now. I think it’s a really interesting component of what role ICTs can have in impacting development, especially when taken into context with disaster response. Along these lines, I found this really cool project that is part of a challenge put on by the Knight Foundation, the “Knight News Challenge” with the subject “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?” Here is a brief video giving some context to the project:
UNICEF, as part of this challenge, is working on a project geared towards empowering youth in cities to map their neighborhoods in order to facilitate the communication between government and citizens, as well as improve response measures taken in disaster prone urban areas. The project focuses for now on the cities of Port-au-Prince and Rio de Janeiro.
Their project in one sentence: “Digital maps created by young advocates establish a collaborative space for municipal government and community to work together towards safer neighborhoods.”
In February 2013 they trained ~300 youth mappers to cover 11 favelas in Rio and 2 neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. These ‘youth reports’ have already led to bridges getting fixed, flood walls being reinforced, and playgrounds cleared of stagnant water according to their description.
Their approach uses a workshop which employs the UNICEF- Geographic Information System (UNICEF-GIS) which is a smartphone app. It allows the users to collect and “share location sensitive reports in a simple, private and secure manner.” The app creates a map of all reports filtered depending on the hazards, etc. Voices of Youth (the UNICEF moderated youth-friendly public platform) allows the mappers to turn their reports into “powerful advocacy materials, which they can promote collectively through other social and local media channels.”
Why Youth Mappers? “because young people bring a truthful first-hand and real perspective to the program, making our maps extremely compelling. If [the government] ignores maps by youth, then they are denying the needs of their most vulnerable and innocent citizens who are the voices of the future, as well as potential community leaders.”
Between March 1st and July 1st?
1) Prototyping an “Urgency Rank System”. The number of reports are increasingly growing, and in response we are devising a system to label and rank reports based on severity and urgency.
2) An administrative system that will allow users to create profiles and trainers to customize the layers on their maps.
3) A widget that will allow for a new interlinked Voices of Youth Maps to be embedded easily into any website for sharing youth posted multi-media reports.
4) Various upgrades to capacity and usability for UNICEF-GIS app and website.
5) A “Voices of Youth Maps and Civic Media How-To Guidebook” for streamlining trainings and project implementation as we scale to new cities.