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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Understanding the phenomenon of open mapping: creating open-source map data as a critical information infrastructure for disaster preparedness and development

PI: Nama Budhathoki (, Kathmandu Living Labs
U.S. Partner: Kenneth Anderson, University of Colorado Boulder
Project Dates: December 2016 - November 2018

Project Overview:

The main goal of this project is to investigate the phenomenon of open mapping and develop a framework and guiding principles to conduct outreach, motivate, train, and engage citizen volunteers, particularly youth, in mapping. Nepal has one of the most active open mapping communities in the developing countries. There is a huge potential to engage digital volunteers and map unmapped parts of the world (Goodchild, 2007). Citizens can contribute their local knowledge to open mapping platforms using the Global Positioning System (GPS) capability of their mobile devices and the Internet. Citizens do have a wide range of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to participate in open mapping, yet despite such potential, our scientific understanding on how to recruit, engage, and retain citizens in open mapping remains poorly understood, especially in the context of developing nations.

This study aims to fill the above research gap. The study will employ action research methodology, as this makes it possible to expand mapping work alongside research activities. Eight mapping workshops will be organized in two cities in Nepal during the project period. In addition to creating maps, the research team will also train a wide range of potential users and develop their skills to use open map data effectively. The research should open avenues for the young local technology community to develop public participation software applications using open map data, catalyzing a new market. The research will also engage Nepal in the emergent areas of open government and open mapping, which are cutting edge in the United States and other advanced countries. This will prepare Nepal to garner full benefit from the inevitable arrival of these concepts.

Summary of Recent Events

As at the end of year one of the project, Dr. Nama and his team reviewed literature; designed research; trained 31 people, and reached out and sensitized additional 499 people in OpenStreetMap (OSM); conducted an online survey to navigate creation and use of OSM in Nepal; assessed mappers' contribution to OSM in Nepal.

The team has been using these activities to inform their research design. They have now started their action research to understand how open mapping contributes to sustainable development at the local levels. In the original PEER work plan, they proposed to develop curricula on open mapping, deliver trainings to diverse groups of young people, and assess impact of those trainings. In line with the proposed plan, they have developed curriculum and run a first batch each for courses on Community Asset Mapping, and Open Mapping and Civic Learning. They have conducted several sensitization sessions on Open Mapping to university/college/high school students as well as professionals.

They also successfully conducted first cohort of Digital Internship and Leadership Program (DILP) around OSM as an action research, where they trained young people from diverse academic background to map using OSM, and assigned them mapping and digital leadership related tasks as a part of their internship.

They are currently studying the Digital Interns to learn from their experience and improve the program for next batches. They also conducted an online survey to gather information about Nepalese mappers. In addition, they carried out an initial computational analysis of the contribution different mappers have made to Nepal's OSM data.

Currently, they have started their study to understand how Open Mapping contributes to sustainable development at the local levels. They have identified and developed rapport with three municipalities-- Budhanilkantha, Pokhara Lekhnath and Nilkantha municipalities--in Nepal as the study sites. They have already conducted our first Focused Group Discussion (FGD) at Budhanilkantha Municipality to understand how the local government would use geo-referenced data in general and Open Mapping infrastructure in particular in their planning and decision-making process.

In the next year, they plan to build on the work they have carried out in the first year and collect data from the field as well as analyze it. They will be conducting digital internship second cohort with learning from the first cohort. The interns also serve as research subjects to deepen their understanding of youth motivation in Open Mapping. They will carry this as an action research. They also plan to develop and conduct training course on Open Mapping and Sustainable Development for local governments.

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