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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 - December 2021

Project Overview:

5-576_Students at Harvard School participating in Open Mapping
Students participating at the Open Mapping presentation. Photo credit: Dr. Budhathoki
5-576_virtual training
Virtual Mapping Training,  Nov 27, 2020. Photo credit: Dr Budhathoki
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.

Major activities:
  • Youth engagement in Open Mapping through Digital Internship and Leadership Program (DIAL)
  • Creation of map data
  • Research
  • Integration of Open Mapping in university curriculum
October-December 2020 project updates:

During the reporting period, the project team wrapped up their data analysis for their research and drafted the remaining sections of the research paper. All the sections of the paper went through several revisions with feedback from the U.S. partner. The revisions and editing are in progress.
The team also trained 10 undergraduate and graduate students on Open Street Mapping and data validation. In December, the team started initial assessments for OpenStreetMap community in Nepal. They will be continuing this work in the upcoming quarters, with the goal to expand the mapping community.

Earlier in 2020, the print version of the project team's paper ‘Filling OpenStreetMap data gaps in rural Nepal: a digital youth internship and leadership Programme' was published in the Journal of Open Geospatial Data, Software and Standards.  

In the upcoming 3-6 months of 2021, the team's focus will be on OpenStreetMap community building through outreach, training, networking, and advocacy. They also plan to develop the paper based on our recent discussion with the US partner and submit it to the appropriate venue for publication.
Potential development impacts:

Through the project, the  project team have been studying ways to increase the interest and engagement of youth in OpenStreetMap, formulate collaborations, and engage and train young people in open mapping. In the process, the team have made substantial contributions to open geospatial data in Nepal through OpenStreetMap, especially in the under-mapped areas.

Thus far, the team's understanding of the short term and long term effects on OSM mappers, stemming from their experiences of OSM mapping has increased. The research article, when published, will contribute to scientific literature in the domain. The findings could be helpful in exploring the benefits of OSM to develop and sharpen various skills of the participating OSM mappers. This will contribute to youth engagement and human skill-building.

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