Recent diary entries
I have been reading messages regarding the election for HOT Board of Directors with interest and contemplating for it. Finally, I decided to declare my candidacy as I feel that my experience of building local OSM community here in Nepal as well as establishing and managing Kathmandu Living Labs as a sort of ‘Local HOT’ might be useful to HOT.
Let me tell you bit more on what I will bring to HOT and where I want to see HOT going.
MY OSM JOURNEY
I first came across OSM in 2006 when I was a graduate student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Coming from a country where there was not a good map (there still is not), it immediately caught my attention. As I started to observe the phenomenon, I got intrigued and eventually ended up writing the first doctoral dissertation on OSM. During those years, there were two major thoughts within the academic community: one saw it as a mapping revolution whereas other ignored it. In a paper I wrote in 2008, I argued that we should not see this emergent form of mapping as totally separate from traditional mapping; rather we should work to create a synergy between them. I still believe in it.
After spending a year in North America after the graduation, I returned to Nepal at the end of 2011. Since then, I have been working to create a robust mapping community and a detailed map in Nepal. As many of you know, Nepal is seismically one of the most at-risk countries in the world and it needs to remain prepared with good map. However, mapping on the ground here—and perhaps in most developing countries—pose different sorts of challenges: low map literacy to slow Internet connection just to name the few. Despite all these, we are progressing. I had reported this to HOT community in early 2013 (http://hot.openstreetmap.org/updates/2013-02-06_mapping_for_preparedness_in_nepal) and provided updates about a year ago (http://hot.openstreetmap.org/updates/2014-03-10_openstreetmap_on_the_ground_update_from_kathmandu).
Our OSM movement started by reaching out to university and college students and teachers. One of the lessons we have learned during this period is: OSM has huge potential to serve as a cross-cutting infrastructure to different application areas e.g. urban management, local governance, agriculture, food security, health, sanitation. While continuing to reach-out to schools and colleges, we are now having encouraging conversations with government departments, politicians and policy-makers in Nepal. There are clear opportunities but also challenges as the concerns those organizations express need to be handled differently.
We have established Kathmandu Living Labs (http://kathmandulivinglabs.org) to expand and deepen the mapping work in a more organized way. Currently, Kathmandu Living Labs has nearly a dozen extremely dedicated and passionate members. I am privileged to have the opportunity to lead this group of talented people. Establishing and managing this organization to its current stage has been an interesting experience. I am interested to bring this and other on the ground experience from Nepal to HOT.
MY VISION FOR HOT
I would like to see HOT playing a catalytic role to advance OSM movement globally. We should develop HOT as a leader in creating more local mappers and mapping groups that help make their own communities better mapped and better prepared for disasters.
HOT needs to move beyond post-disaster activations. It should work to establish OSM as a part of “critical information infrastructure” and embed it in overall disaster preparedness plan.
Investment in OSM produces digital good that can be (re)used in other areas that politicians, policy-makers and the public are more interested in. Our work enables a wide range of economic activities and innovations; it is just that we have not been able to demonstrate this. For example, building footprints we create to address crisis situation serves as a foundation for local government to build their services. HOT has great opportunity here. We are already working along this direction in Nepal.
The process of map creation in OSM is equally important as the map itself. OSM is more than map and mapping. It is about generating active and networked citizenship, which is a vital asset in both crisis and normal situations. As soon as we begin to articulate this, it becomes appealing to people beyond mapping community.
Finally, OpenStreetMap is needed in developing countries more than in developed countries. I am interested to bring my experience to build local communities and expand mapping in under mapped regions in the world.