Learning about GIS for Development

Over the past semester this course has taught me a great deal about ICT4D theories, concepts and frameworks, as well as showed me various avenues of work for development professionals. GIS for development is the topic that has piqued my interest the most as I have never thought about the endless uses for GIS before this course. I have always just considered GIS to be used in order to give directions and locations, so listening to Robert Banick and Stephen Ward, as well as reading the additional reports, has opened my eyes to the world of GIS. While GIS is starting to become a major tool for international development, I think its ability and uses are still very much undervalued.

During this course I have learned that GIS is being used in applications such as Ushahidi to map areas of land cover and land usage, areas of social/political conflict, roads, populated areas, health clinics, and distribution of emergency aid and relief. We have talked about specific applications such as using GIS during the Haitian earthquake, the Pakistani floods, the Malaysian Airplane crash etc.; however, I think GIS will continue to grow and develop to where we can continue to layer different variables to actually enable all of a development project’s details to be visible on a single map. Instead of simply mapping the location of disaster relief, GIS will enable workers to map the location of disaster relief, as well as the affected area, the most populated areas, etc. GIS can show real-time maps and in the future I think most development projects will use GIS to help oversee and organize the projects. We have also discussed reasons for ICT4D project failures, including not looking at the whole system, not understanding infrastructure capacity, and creating projects not relevant to the local context. GIS could be a useful tool to help prevent ICT4D failures as it can be used as a reference to learn about the target area and the system as a whole in the past and present, and may also be able to map the rate of project success in the target area.

Over the summer I will be interning in D.C. and helping professionals work on the NEPAnode, which is a program recently launched by the DOE using FOSS to organize and collect data on environmental programs . I am very excited to witness the development of these GIS programs, as I hope to work in this field in the future and continue to help improve future development projects.


One response to “Learning about GIS for Development

  • John Jediny

    As the project founder for the nepanode project I’m excited about the potential of GIS’s role in development too. The failure I think has not been the technology, but it’s application. GIS is not new to development but it’s use has been limited to mapmaking which produces static maps to convey information. What’s new and exciting is the feedback loop, now map consumers can comment, edit, and collectively contribute back their valuable local knowledge. Maps have always been used to communicate, now a days that communication is a two way street and that is the solution to conscience on development projects not communication but collaboration. Those interested in GIS in international development should check out the geonode project and it’s gallery of projects which include the world bank and world food program @ geonode.org also inasafe.org

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