Tag Archives: mapping

OpenStreetMap

I wasn’t familiar with OpenStreetMap before yesterday’s Skype session with Robert Banick. If you haven’t heard of it either, I highly recommend checking it out. After his lecture and our discussion, I looked up a little more on OpenStreetMap and I found this case study written by Steve Chilton. He points out the need for instant information, especially during disaster situations. Chilton even uses Hurricane Katrina as an example, stating that it serves as the perfect example of how not up-to-date maps may have a severe effect on how crises are handled. He specifically points out a problem the Red Cross had with Google Maps after the storm because they had no idea of the state of US 90 bridge. Only locals would have been able to share information like that, and a crowd sourcing map could have been the solution.

This example got me thinking as to how this platform could not only affect our city of New Orleans, but also the large effect it could have on the developing world. The really interesting aspect to this concept is the immediacy that new information can be uploaded to the maps. Chilton talks about how OpenStreetMap was able to map Gaza during and following the Israeli/Gaza conflict by compiling various resources and applying them to OpenStreetMap.

I think we will see much more of OpenStreetMap in the future, and if you want to learn more you can click here!


Real First World Problems: Forgetting the Need for Mapping

We had the privilege of hearing directly from Robert Banick, the GIS coordinator at the American Red Cross HQ in Washington D.C., as a guest speaker for our ICT4D class period. What struck me about his presentation was the sheer importance of mapping. We tend to take this for granted living in a country where we can map pretty much anything down to a micro-image. We know almost every store, home or business along the way. This is clearly not the case for most of the world. As Banick said, “We take for granted that in the US we can see a map of any city and all the buildings but that isn’t a reality in most of the rest of the world”.

This has a profound impact on how organizations and individuals can address development needs across the globe. It even impacts how you handle a day-to-day emergency. In the US we take for granted how prepared fire departments are in response to emergencies. They know the quickest routes and how to get in and out with limited chaos. This isn’t the case for towns like Lira in Northern Uganda where buildings are huddled close to one another and mapping failed to provide easy routes for addressing fires adequately and timely. If there isn’t mapping, there might not even be general knowledge of which building is on fire. This is a simple thing that we forget. This is exactly where we see “first world problems”. It isn’t in our joking memes about not getting to check status updates, but the lack of understanding of what basic things like mapping have provided our society.

The current scandal regarding the missing Malaysian plane brought much of this to my attention. We live in a society that has gotten so accustomed to knowing where everything is a moments notice. Although this particular example involves things outside of mapping, it still addresses this mentality. It sometimes takes extraneous cases to rattle us and remind us that knowing everything’s location and whereabouts is a luxury, not a norm.


Mobile Money: Development’s New Banking System?

One of our classes this week focused on mobile phone case studies and some of the impacts of mobile phone implementation in rural populations. One of the studies, “Mobile Phones and Economic Development: Evidence from the Fishing Industry in India” by Reuben Abraham, was about Indian fishermen using mobile phones to check market prices of fish, coordinate with buyers, etc. The study concludes that there is some positive effects on reduced waste of fish, and a small increase in profits for fishermen, but overall the impact of the phones in the studied community was nothing super amazing. Abraham also asserts that information gaps in markets can be remedied by the creative use of technology, which inspired me to find some creative uses of mobile phone technology that might have a serious impact on development.

When I found the Mobile Money for the Unbanked program from the GSMA, I thought there might be some real potential in it. The basis of the program is to support mobile providers in rural and undeveloped areas to offer banking services to their subscribers. The reason that this is such an intriguing idea is that it uses the mobile platform to provide a service that is already so established in its standard form. The banking system in the US has adopted credit cards, debit cards, and even apps that allow you to check your accounts, but this program is a form of banking that is very new in is conception.

Mobile Money allows subscribers to load money onto their SIM card and use the money to pay for things like taxis or groceries. They can also withdraw cash from it at one of their provider’s locations. This is a great solution to the lack of banking in rural areas, and because of mobile provider recognition many people already trust these companies. The program also gives GSMA great data measuring tools for financial indicators, which is otherwise very hard to collect from people without any documented transactions. The website provides a really cool tracker tool that shows where they have employed the program and where they are planning to.

The Mobile Money for the Unbanked program is one of the really cool and successful examples of taking an existing technology and using it in a non-traditional way to improve ICT4D. I am really excited by the potential for mobile banking, and though there are now apps like Venmo, which allows people to make quick bank/credit transfers, making the mobile providers the bank is a very different approach all together. I will be interested to see if this catches on in the West, or remains in the developing world.


Mapping 4 Development: Resources

Mapping technologies have been incorporated into the development field to provide practitioners with rigorous spatial analysis of complex issues across the globe. In order for practitioners to take full advantage of mapping technologies, it is imperative for them to learn about the potential uses of such technologies. Many international organizations and academic departments have compiled a large amount of resources for individuals with interest in mapping for development. Below you will find a list of projects, handbooks, and links that will provide you with more information about the mapping landscape in international development,

GIS @ Tufts – Tufts University

This site contains a comprehensive list of examples of GIS and research sites for international development and examples of GIS for humanitarian relief.

Good Practices in Participatory Mapping – IFAD

This handbook provides a framework to develop participatory mapping strategies. It also explores major issues that arise through participatory mapping and provides ways in which those issues can be addressed.

How to Use Maps to Raise Awareness – The Guardian

This article provides a quick review of different ways in which mapping technologies can be use to raise awareness about a particular issue or set of issues.

International Human Development Indicators – UNDP

This is a visual representation of the Human Development Report’s data by country. It also includes the Multidimensional Poverty Index, the Gender Inequality Index, and the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Indicator.

Maps and Mapping Resources – California State University

This site contains a list of resources and maps pertaining to historical events, demographics, environmental issues, geological maps, and the weather.

Regional Centre for Mapping Resources for Development

The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) was established in Nairobi – Kenya in 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), today African Union (AU). RCMRD is an inter-governmental organization and currently has 19 Contracting Member States in the Eastern and Southern Africa Regions; Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somali, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Source: www.rcmrd.org

The e-Atlas of Global Development – The World Bank

The atlas provides a comprehensive visual overview of the world’s most pressing social challenges and its people.


Maps: More than Point A to Point B

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Maps are mind-blowing. Click here to see what I mean. However, since mapping allows creators of maps to present all sorts of information in a variety of ways it’s importance to be aware of any agendas that may be operating in the development of these maps. This is one of the reasons that OpenStreetMap is such a cool premise. Anyone can edit it, so theoretically there’s no cause for concern about one overarching agenda.

This week our class has joined the OpenStreetMap community and taken up the task of mapping Chitwan, Nepal. I’ve found that watching the lines and squares appear while tracing roads and buildings is both empowering and intimidating. Contributing to the world’s largest crowdsourcing and open license project certainly has implications far beyond the walls of our classroom, but it’s easy to feel disconnected from the on-the-ground impacts of the technology.

The benefits of mapping are fairly clear in the context of humanitarian responses, but how can maps be of use in a broader development sense? OnTrack and CPD Maps are two examples where the power of maps has been successfully harnessed to target resources most effectively. After all, one significant advantage of maps is their ability to get us from point A to point B most efficiently.

Unveiling OnTrack at the 2013 Esri User Conference.

Unveiling OnTrack at the 2013 Esri User Conference.

OnTrack is a citizen feedback platform developed to facilitate communication through citizens and governments. However, this communication becomes more challenging when a lack of data on local infrastructure hampers monitoring of the status of various projects. That’s where mapping comes in. A “Mapping Party” at the 2013 Esri User Conference used OpenStreetMap’s platform to map infrastructures and identify project sites and beneficiaries, creating upwards of 640 building footprints. This allows for more effective communication between project implementers and targeted communities, and facilitates monitoring of development initiatives.

CPD map.

CPD Maps is an application that allows donors to target funding to neighborhoods with the greatest need for assistance. It works by providing data and maps that help identify census tracts with particular conditions, such as funded projects, neighborhood rent, and economic need, which allows for an overlay of areas of poverty on the maps. Moreover, donors and the public can access CPD maps from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website. This allows anyone to see where federal investments are being made, information which may empower individuals to suggest future development targets.

In this way, maps may increase the accountability of government agencies and development organizations to the communities in which they work. Furthermore, crowdsourcing projects like OpenStreetMap may decrease the chance of a specific agenda shaping the data that is shared. Looks like maps aren’t static after all.


Crowdsource Volunteers are HOT HOT HOT!

The earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti on a Tuesday afternoon in January 2010, forever changed the way that emergency responders use crowdsource mapping to provide need-based aid.

HOT volunteers writing OSM manual in Kreyòl

HOT volunteers writing OSM manual in Kreyòl

According to a U.S. News Editorial about crowdsourcing in various disaster affected communities, volunteers from all over the world began collecting data information from several sources coming out of Haiti, including SMS, Twitter, and news websites. With enough specific geographic information, these sources were used by volunteers to annotate a live map on OpenStreetMaps (OSM) to aid emergency responders on the ground in Haiti. We have been using OSM in class this week, and the sheer pace that these volunteers traced roads for 24 hours a day remotely from the disaster point was nothing short of amazing. These annotated OSM maps were vital to the success of the U.S. State Department’s SMS relief program’s short code 4636. Texting 4636,“INFO,” meant that anyone within the Digicel mobile network  in Haiti could text “I need water” or “I need medical help” and their location, and these messages were routed to aid organizations and emergency responders like Red Cross on the ground for free. The maps that the volunteers filled in on OSM were essential to NGO emergency responder’s execution of relief aid to any area requested.

The success of this collaboration spurred the formation of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). HOT workers gather base data on disaster-prone regions remotely and on the ground from available satellite imagery to improve disaster preparedness in that region. Some HOTOSM (HOT + OSM = HOTOSM) project sites include Somalia, Cote D’Ivoire, Mongolia, and Indonesia. From my nerdy interest in plate tectonics, I know that Somalia and Indonesia are their own plate boundaries, which make them prone to earthquakes and volcanoes. But after researching their disaster statistics on PreventionWeb (a detailed disaster reduction resource), I learned that more deaths occur in Somalia from floods and epidemics than from earthquakes. I can now understand how the unique disaster-development challenges in each region motivates volunteers to negotiate access to imagery and trace roads for hours on end, like we are doing in Nepal and like HOT volunteers doing in Somalia. Just for our own motivation for the our HOTOSM project, I researched the disaster statistics in Nepal. The most common disasters that affect and kill people are storms and floods. But wildfires bare most of the economic burden to Nepalese development.


Predict: USAID’s disease mapping tool

In class this week, we have talked a lot about how mapping technology can be used in disasters, such as the Mission 4636 project in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. However, mapping technology can also be very useful in other areas of development, such as health. Online maps can track serious disease outbreaks and therefore help governments and scientists manage these outbreaks. For example, a few years ago the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a mapping tool known as “Predict” that tracks animal diseases. While this might not sounds important, it is actually essential to international development because many of the most serious human disease outbreaks of the last several decades originated in animals. The virus that caused the SARS outbreak and Ebola, for example, are both thought to have come from bats. The USAID mapping project emerged specifically as a response to the H1N1 virus (more commonly known as swine flu), which contained a mixture of genes from both North American and European pigs. Interestingly, the H1N1 virus was never actually detected in pigs before it was detected in humans in Veracruz, Mexico. This is significant because it reflects a serious knowledge gap in the international health community. The goal of USAID’s mapping project is to track animal disease outbreaks that could eventually transform into threats to human public health.

Here is how the “Predict” works: it monitors data from over 50,000 websites, among them the alerts that the World Health Organization sends out, online discussions from experts, local news, and wildlife reports. The system then sorts through all of this information to find the most relevant data and put points on the map. The pin points on the global map are color-coded based on activity level, with yellow being low and red being high. The map can also easily be divided to focus on different regions or priority diseases. It is very user-friendly and open to the public, something that Damien Joly, an associate director for wildlife health monitoring in one of the map’s partner associations, says is essential to the mission of the project.

In my opinion, the “Predict” tool represents an efficient use of mapping technology to track disease and it is important because it focuses on animal disease that could pose a threat to human health, which is often overlooked in international development. The question now is how people will begin to use “Predict,” and whether it will become a tool for the general public, or will mainly stay in the realm of scientists and public health experts. You can read more about the launch of this mapping tool here.


Mapping to Decrease Maternal Mortality

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Maternal mortality rates in India have been high over the past several years. This resulted in the government providing free maternal health services from governmental health facilities. However, there has been a problem with women being charged informal fees. This means that when a woman goes to a health facility, she is still getting charged for services that are meant to be free. This has especially been a problem in Utter Pradesh, a state in northern India. As a result of these informal fees, a campaign called Mera Swasthya Meri Aawaz (My Health, My Voice) has been launched. This program uses mobile phones to monitor informal payments in the Azamgarh and Mirzapur districts. People just have to use their mobile phone to call a toll-free number and report an out of pocket expense. These reports are then reported on a map, a deployment from Ushahidi, showing the facilities where informal payments were demanded, the amount charged, and the types of services that the informal payments were charged for. This information is being used collectively by community based organizations, women’s groups, and government health officials to try to end the practice of charging informal fees.

Before reading about this program, I had never heard of using mapping in this way. While this is not a disaster situation, it is important to stop the charging of informal payments in order to reduce maternal mortality in the long run. Not only will this map allow the government to track facilities that are charging informal payments so that they can put a stop to it, it also allows women to avoid going to facilities where they can see that informal payments are being. While it is already a big step that there has been reporting about informal fees, I hope that the government and community organizations will be able to use this map to put a stop to informal fees for good.


ICT4D – Importance of Mapping

One of the major themes of this academic semester for me has consistently been technology, even outside of ICT4D. There are so many new applications and functionalities of technical devices that I hadn’t even considered before. More importantly, as someone who doesn’t necessarily consider herself a “techy” or particularly tech savvy, I’ve realized that there is still a good amount of work that I can do to promote the effective implementation and use of ICTs for development purposes. One specific example is mapping. Maps are such a basic concept that I was shocked to learn about their importance and the number of crowdsourced mapping tools and techniques that have been so vital in recent emergencies. For this reason, I’d like to focus this week’s blog post on my perspective of mapping.

 

In addition to ICT4D I’ve been involved with a new organization called Women in Technology (WIT) as well as learning technical skills for my own personal development. At the more local level of development, I am interested in furthering my knowledge of mapping by taking a GIS course next with Julie Hernandez. Mapping is not only important to development internationally but plays a large role locally as well. As Greg’s presentation showed us, food security in New Orleans is one such issue that has benefitted from mapping projects. ICT4D has additionally highlighted the importance of mapping before, during and after emergency situations. As social media is on the rise, tools such as Google’s ‘People Finder’ are becoming more widely accepted and made use of.

 

Overall, I can see mapping playing a large role in my future career whether I decide to go into international development, public health or some combination of the two. Not only is this important in organizing people or determining the need of development projects but mapping is also a useful way to research and organize data from a community. It presents a visual image that can sometimes be more helpful depending on the situation. I’m very glad that this was a part of the ICT4D curriculum as it is a very significant factor in technological as a development tool.


ICT4D: course lessons

Based on our readings, lectures, guest speakers, and presentations in this course, the most salient topics for me were: the dos and don’ts of ICT4D, appropriate technologies, why ICT4D projects fail, the relevance and role of ICT4D in the major sectors of development, mapping and emergency management/ disaster relief, social media, and cyber-security. The discussions and material from these sessions will stick with me the most as I move on in development. I learned several important lessons about ICT4D that will definitely contribute to my professional career in development, including the importance of:

1)   Ensuring that projects are demand driven

2)   Using local knowledge and power

3)   Taking the local context into highest consideration: the citizens’ current lifestyle, behaviors/ tendencies, the existing infrastructure (or lack thereof), most frequently used ICTs, their motivation towards the proposed idea (which should be created mutually) etc.

4)   Ensuring that the infrastructure that is required for your project is in place or in progress (electricity, Internet, etc)

It’s also important to realize that with technology and development comes a responsibility to protect individuals in the digitized world. Cybersecurity is an essential compliment to ICT4D.

The topics that resonated most with me, and the ones that I think will be most useful to me moving forward are the implications for ICT4D in the health care sector, and the potential for mHealth, mobiles, and radios for development in general. I hope to go into the field of maternal and child health in my future, and this class exposed me to the supporting role that ICTs can play in health care, which is something I had not considered in depth before. Through research for blog posts, our second paper, and our sector projects, I uncovered some fascinating ICT4health initiatives such as the Taru Initiative radio entertainment-education campaign in Bihar, India, the WHO mCheck project for maternal and child heath, the eMocha health app for smartphones that facilitates health care in developing countries greatly, and others. My eyes are now open to many more possibilities to improve health in developing countries via ICT solutions including distance learning, radio- based health campaigns, SMS texting interventions, and many more.

The implications for social media as a platform for ICT4D also spurred an interest in me. I think it was great that we had the opportunity to work with some of these platforms such Twitter and WordPress on a regular basis. It allowed me to become more ‘digitally literate’ and gave me a hand into the ICT4D community online. Now I always know where to go to access breaking news or general information, stories of ICT4D trials and errors, and current initiatives in the particular sectors of ICT4D which are most interesting to me (namely health). Getting to do real mapping with HOSTM was also undeniably a great learning experience; it was awesome to get the chance to contribute to real ICT4D work. In addition, crowdsourcing as a platform for ICT4D was a very new and intriguing concept for me that seems to have a lot of promise in our digital world.

In my opinion, the most useful framework presented in this class was Human Centered Development. I liked the report that we read a lot and I very much agree with the project design and implementation process that it promotes. It clearly proposes needs assessments and grassroots development, which I think are essential to development projects. It supports demand driven development, considerations of local context, culture, and peoples, monitoring and evaluation, sustainable human development etc; all of which we have established as “DOs” for development. The topics covered in this class gave us a great overview of an entire field in international development. I especially enjoyed module 2 where we reviewed several case studies, because that allowed us to take broader theories and frameworks and zoom in on the specifics. I think that we touched on all the right things, and our discussions were supplemented greatly by some amazing guest speakers that we had the opportunity to hear from.