Mapping Innovators

Last update on July 4, 2013.

Mapping Innovators

This week, Imagination for People (I4P) focuses on innovative uses of maps and geolocation in social projects.

During the past few years, social projects making use of mapping tools, geolocation, and maps have taken a fascinating turn. From disparate ideas and initiatives, they have developed into something of a “scene”, within the domain of social innovation. Here are a few of the projects and people we find particularly inspiring, as we explore this domain.

Learning more about them, you may get an inkling of the richness of the mapping scene. While some of these projects are relatively high profile and many of the people who make up that mapping scene are already in touch with some of the others, this post can serve as a primer to innovative mapping. Some of these projects have been profiled in the I4P list of socially innovative projects.  As this part of our platform is meant for collaborative editing, feel free to bring necessary modifications to those profiles.

Standby Task Force (SBTF)

Launched at the 2010 International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM), the Standby Task Force is a large group of humanitarian volunteers which seeks to change the World… “One Map at a Time”. The innovative potential of such a group is difficult to overstate, as it pairs humanitarian needs with technological development. We’ve learnt about SBTF (and, particularly, their Humanitarian Liaison team) through crisis mapping activist Jaroslav Valuch (@JValuch). Not only has Valuch provided us with insight on crisis mapping but he also led us to fellow SBTF member Patrick Meier (@PatrickMeier). Meier’s iRevolution has been a key source for news and information about social innovation generally, and crisis mapping specifically.

Ushahidi

Developed in parallel with Kenya’s 2008 election as a way to map reports of violence, Ushahidi represents one of the earliest and best-known examples of social projects making creative use of mapping technology. It has since expanded to diverse aspects of information gathering, citizen journalism, interactive mapping, and data visualization. Ushahidi’s African roots make it especially appropriate for I4P as we like to explore the full range of social innovation, throughout the World. Combining the local and global, Ushahidi is precisely the type of project we wish to identify and support. Ushahidi cofounder Erik Hersman (who blogs and tweets a White African), also founded AfriGadget, a website showcasing African innovation. Through his unique perspective informed in part by his African upbringing, Hersman can be trusted as a source of insight on technology in society.

Net!2Plan

Perhaps lesser known than other projects mentioned here, Net!2Plan demonstrates the dynamism of social innovators in Africa. Created by three students at Ouagadougou’s International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2IE), Net!2Plan brings interactive mapmaking to integrated resource management. Net!2Plan provides a geomapping tool to help decision makers and investors  tackle development issues more efficiently. 

Christian Amougou Mbazoa, one of the project’s cofounders, will soon be featured in a profile on our blog.

OpenStreetMap (OSM)

More than an alternative source for map tiles, the OpenStreetMap project is an application of what Ward Cunningham has called “the Wiki Way” to mapmaking. Several projects featured on the I4P platform benefit directly from OpenStreetMap as OSM serves as an enabler for social innovation. We will soon feature a few OSM-based projects that we find stimulating.

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