Category: ICT4D


This is the third and final post in a 3-part series discussing a partnership I initiated between Tulane University, the American Red Cross, and OpenStreetMaps, in which students in my undergraduate IDEV4100: ICT4D course participated in real-world mapping for OpenStreetMaps using satellite imagery, to support development and disaster preparedness initiatives being conducted by the American Red Cross in coordination with local host Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.

Outcomes Beyond the Base Maps

For Robert Banick, GIS analyst at the American Red Cross, through our emails and conversations, I know that at times fitting our class sessions into his schedule could be challenging, though we tried to be as flexible as possible, his travel schedule was often demanding. This also meant that his ability to Skype with our class could be challenging, particularly when he was in the field with one of his partner countries, such as when he was working in Chile or Nepal, and we were faced with spotty Internet access and connectivity issues on his end, which compounded some of the troubleshooting issues we were having with software, when one of our technical advisors became less accessible… though it did make for some teachable moments! Another complication was that I could never be certain too far in advance what the exact number of students enrolled would be, which made it difficult to tell how many students we could have working on a particular map, in turn complicating his decision-making somewhat. In addition, I couldn’t guarantee an extended amount of time for the students to spend on the project, because of the other scheduled assignments and to ensure respect for student time, I tried to make sure they knew what kind of time commitment was expected from them in advance. Robert was therefore managing a formula of X number of students times Y amount of time = Z volume of work, while fitting into one of the current needs of his partner Red Cross or Red Crescent National Societies.

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Figure I: Close-Up View of North Jakarta in OSM, February 2015

It is most evident that the students’ work continues to be built upon in Indonesia, when you look at the state of the maps in Jakarta and Depok now, nearly two years later. The maps there have continued to be updated by local volunteers in subsequent stages of the project, with street names and the addition of symbols indicating types of buildings such as mosques and hospitals. (see Figure I) Based on my conversations with him since then, most of the maps our students generated have been used, though unfortunately some have yet to be utilized (I suspect those that haven’t been utilized yet were those in Nepal, based on the limited progress the students made on those maps before they were pulled onto the Haiti project). But according to Robert, “that’s to be expected with a novel pilot approach like this.” Continue reading

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This is the second post in a 3-part series discussing a partnership I initiated between Tulane University, the American Red Cross, and OpenStreetMaps, in which students in my undergraduate IDEV4100: ICT4D course participated in real-world mapping for OpenStreetMaps using satellite imagery, to support development and disaster preparedness initiatives being conducted by the American Red Cross in coordination with local host Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.

A New Link in the Chain: Tulane Students Generate Maps

I got wind of a ‘mapping party‘the American Red Cross was hosting in August 2012, to jump-start their base maps for Prepare Uganda. The event was held in partnership with Humanitarian Open Street Maps (HOTOSM), who also hosted the data, and little to no previous experience was required on the part of the volunteers. More than 20 volunteers joined the mapping party in person on August 19th and traced streets, paths, parks, and other points of interest from the satellite images into Open Street Maps, a freely editable wiki map. These base maps would then move to the next stage of editing by local volunteer teams on the ground in Uganda using geographic surveys to fill in details like street names and building uses to take the maps to the next level.

The idea of participants needing little to no previous experience was surprising, yet appealing me to. If a one-time event like this with approximately two dozen volunteers could produce a workable product for this kind of project, what might a classroom of university students do in a couple of weeks with some training and support? An idea occurred to me that we might have an opportunity for a “win-win” situation: by partnering with the International Services Department staff at American Red Cross NHQ who were working on the mapping projects, our Tulane students might be able to generate an incredible quantity of base-level mapping work for their OSM project, while at the same time gaining some valuable hands-on learning experience with a real-world technology-based project. It was a new kind of model: a short-term group of crowdmappers with training specific to their project area, focusing on one geographic area, based on a particular need. I contacted the GIS analyst at the American Red Cross who was heading up the project, Robert Banick, and pitched the idea to him. It was an appealing addition from his perspective as well, a somewhat “captive” group of mappers to work on a specific project at a known time. There was an additional space in Braise, Uganda that he and his colleagues in the field were hoping to have a base map available for within the next few months, so students enrolled in the Fall 2012 course offering could fill a definite short-term need for their program.

Just as the Fall 2012 semester was beginning, I quickly modified the course syllabus, adjusted some assignments and timelines in order to accommodate this exciting project opportunity, endeavoring to best match Robert’s needs and schedule as well as the students’ needs and semester schedule. We settled on an “end of semester” project, for late November/early December, to fit Robert’s travel schedule, the needs of the Bwaise local mapping teams, and to give us time to develop our plans for working with the students, while also allowing me to replace the students’ final project for the course with a hands-on OSM learning activity. Continue reading

This is the first in a 3-part series of posts discussing a partnership I initiated between Tulane University, the American Red Cross, and OpenStreetMaps, in which students in my undergraduate IDEV4100: ICT4D course participated in real-world mapping for OpenStreetMaps using satellite imagery, to support development and disaster preparedness initiatives being conducted by the American Red Cross in coordination with local host Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.

Background

The American Red Cross International Services Division, in partnership with Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in developing countries, helps enhance disaster preparedness programming in part by coordinating the development of improved base maps, in partnership with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, to provide more reliable information for first responders to utilize in the event of floods, fires, or other natural disasters.

This paper explores the process of Tulane University students becoming involved with Red Cross and OpenStreetMap, the tangible outcomes of this work, benefits and challenges involved with coordinating and executing these short-term mapping projects, the assigning and grading of this coursework, and feedback from participating students. Lessons learned and best practices for university courses, and implications for digital social innovation activities of this type are discussed. In order for these efforts to be successful, they needed to meet objectives on both ends. For the students and the course, the activity would need to meet learning objectives and provide an opportunity for students to engage with concepts they encountered in their classroom. For the Red Cross partners, it needed to at least have the potential to generate a volume and quality of work that would be beneficial to them as they entered the next phase of mapping. Continue reading

Introduction

As part of my participation in the TechChange Course “New Technologies for Educational Practice”, I conducted an interview with Deborah Elzie at Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA).

Mini Biography

Deborah Elzie is an Instructional Designer with the DRLA at Tulane University’s Payson Center for International Development. Deborah’s education consists of an M.A., Educational Psychology from Columbia University, and M.Ed., Educational Technology from Southeastern Louisiana University. She has expertise in developing, designing and supporting academic institutions in East Africa in the area of distance and eLearning specifically related to health and disaster management. She has experience designing curriculum and training faculty and staff on ways of using blended learning, ICTs, and new media for enhancing teaching and learning. Deb is currently based in Kampala, Uganda working closely with Makerere University’s School of Public Health. Deb is one of the co-founders of The Kuyu Project and StorySpaces. Additionally, she is part of a team of mobile and web programmers working primarily in Uganda. She’s also involved with Africa Women in Tech.

Interview Notes

I spoke with Deborah today (Thursday, April 12, 2012) about the technologies we’ve encountered in the TC106 course, her views on some of them, and her experiences using technology for education in a variety of settings. Deborah’s work focuses on enhancing teaching and learning using ICTs and new media. Here are some of Deborah’s (paraphrased) comments on the field, the merits and pitfalls of some of these technologies, and utilizing them in a development context.

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Introduction

As part of my participation in the TechChange Course “Mobiles for International Development”, I conducted an interview with professor Laura Murphy at Tulane University’s School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine and Payson Center for International Development.

Mini Biography

Laura Murphy is clinical associate professor in the Department of Global Health Systems and Development at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (SPHTM). Her teaching spans development, population, environment, and interdisciplinary social science research, and in 2008 she earned the President’s Award for Excellence in Professional and Graduate Teaching. She is also an adjunct associate professor at Tulane’s Payson Center for International Development and an affiliated faculty member at Tulane’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies. She holds a BS from Stanford in Mechanical Engineering, Values, Technology & Society, and a doctorate from UNC-Chapel Hill in City & Regional Planning.

Interview Notes

I spoke with Dr. Murphy today (Monday, November 21, 2011) about the technologies we’ve encountered in the TC105 course, her views on some of them, and where she sees the future of the field going. Dr. Murphy’s work focuses on social change in rural Africa and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in that region, as well as mobile phone use in the region. Here are some of Dr. Murphy’s (paraphrased) comments on the field, the merits and pitfalls of some of these technologies, and her vision for the future.

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Introduction

As part of my participation in the TechChange Course “Tech Tools and Skills for Emergency Management”, I conducted an interview with colleague Adam Papendieck at Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy. TechChange posted the interview on their own blog this morning, but I thought I would share it here as well.

Mini Biography

Adam Papendieck has an MPH from Tulane University and a technical background in GIS, Statistics and Information Systems.  He is currently the Sr. Program Manager for Technology at the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University, where his role is to leverage appropriate and innovative information technologies in support of research projects, funded Public Health capacity-building projects in East Africa, and crisis informatics activities with the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy.  He has worked on applied ICT activities such as the creation of a dynamic web mapping application for the World Vision US corporate information portal, the design and implementation of open source thin client computer labs in Rwanda, the creation of e-learning platforms at African institutions of higher education, various crisis mapping initiatives and disaster analytics activities for the Gulf Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina and other events.

Interview Notes

I spoke with Adam today (Monday, September 26, 2011) about the technologies we’ve encountered in the TC103 course, his views on some of them, and where he sees the future of the field going. Adam is particularly interested in crowdsourcing and has experience working with Ushahidi, both on the development/applied side for the Gulf Oil Spill last year, and on the evaluation side following the earthquake in Haiti. Here are some of Adam’s (paraphrased) comments on the field, the merits and pitfalls of some of these technologies, and his vision for the future:

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