Bengaluru: Maps come in handy when you have lost your way, but they can also be great tools during natural disasters, like the recent, unprecedented floods in Kerala. During the disaster, 2,200 mapping volunteers from around the world added 4,00,000 data points to the Open Street Map, helping the government reach relief fast to the affected, said Manoj Karingamadathil.
On Tuesday, over 300 mappers from 12 countries got together in the city to discuss and present innovative solutions to mobilise, sustain and grow more inclusive open mapping communities. The event, hosted at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, deliberated on how mapping is being used for disaster management in Asia, the role of local languages in tagging places, methods to sustain the community and others.
Speakers showed how participatory maps were used to bring to light lapses in delivery of civic services. The maps, used both in rural and urban areas, brought out issues at the neighbourhood, city, state and national levels.
For instance, Anindita Nayak explored safety in public spaces in Bengaluru by mapping lack of streetlights. Ankit Bhargava presented how Open Street Maps led to a participatory design process to create a very detailed and informative public map of Cubbon Park. Jaisen Nedumpala, a panchayat officer from Koorachundu in Kerala, used open source tools and community participation to fix land record boundaries for the village. Harry Mahardhika Machmud shared his experience on how citizen-led surveys in Indonesian cities helped the government prepare disaster response maps.
Dr Anita Patil-Deshmukh, the first keynote speaker, said that official maps did not account for the majority of under-served communities in Mumbai. These people felt empowered through community-based mapping and it helped them engage better with stakeholders for effective delivery of services.
Other speakers supported Dr Patil-Deshmukh's call to create more capacity within grassroots communities. Airin Akter stressed on the importance of maps in local languages for effective dissemination of public information in Bangladesh.
Pradip Khatiwada spoke about the need to create innovative training and internship programmes, digital activism, and demonstrated how maps have been used successfully in Nepal. Siddharth Hande, the closing keynote speaker, affirmed the need to empower communities through data-driven initiatives in his engagement with cyclical waste management economies.
Jointly organised by the Centre for Public Policy and the Centre for Software and IT Management (CSITM) of IIMB, Open Street Map (OSM) India, and Centre for Internet and Society, the inauguration of the event itself added meaning to the purpose as Prof. Abhoy K. Ojha, Dean of Academic Programmes at IIMB, contributed to the OSM project by adding the name of the building where the conference was hosted.