OpenStreetMap

Inclusion in OSM

Posted by mariotomo on 10 July 2021 in English (English). Last updated on 13 July 2021.

Speaking of inclusion and participation, I do have an idea why nobody from rural Panama participates to OSM. Mind you, I’m not saying “almost nobody”, but “absolutely nobody” . . . the point is, as most Third World countries, Panama has a failing . . .

I hear voices calling to order, you say that calling Panama a “Third World country” is offensive? Oh, the very use of the concept? I should say “Developing Country”, right, nice, very politically correct. But calling it as you suggest, that’s not political correctness, it’s a lie, in my opinion it’s a lie needed when we don’t want to accept the fact, and to deal with it. So please let me insist:

. . . in this Third World economy, infrastructure suffers from low or absent public investment. We have here a long lasting rain season, from May to November, and in the rural area power fails generally a couple of days per week, may last a couple of hours, or more often until the next morning. In such condition, I still assumed I would be able to follow if not participate to the venueless SotM-2021, as I did last year from a hammock, on a 10 years old tablet, using solar power and a couple of batteries.

We are at this hotel, a beautiful place, in the middle of their own land recovery project, and because of the cloud cover their “high speed” link disappeared (one of the towers must have a power failure, not compensated by solar power), so we went to a different location within the recovery project, a higher located building where you put the phone on the roof, in a waterproof bag, and have “3.5G” from an antenna at 10km. With high humidity and low hanging clouds it may drop to 2.5G, “waiting for network” half of the time. This was less convenient than last year, mostly because I could not use my hammock.

One can listen to streaming audio in these conditions, it’s also quite possible to map, installing JOSM, let it download the aerial pictures while one has internet, work at the data, and wait for the next blessed moment to upload your changeset. But today it was not just mapping, it was the SotM, allegedly “venueless”.

During SotM-2020, organized by South Africa, an Emerging Country that still has some idea of the digital divide, they provided all sessions as streaming audio, using simple http. For SotM-2021, sessions are only behind https so if you have a very old tablet which you cannot update, you’re already excluded, or at least your tablet. On top of this, this year all talks only come in streaming video, so instead of paying about 70kbit/s as last year, we had to configure low speed video and settle with receiving no less than 900kbit/s, only to enjoy the view of a speaker sitting in front of his camera.

70kbit/s cost here $15 per month. 900kbit/s is very close to the highest speed I ever enjoyed in any rural setting here in Panamá, and supposing you are in an area where you do have this speed, it will consume a $3 packet in one hour, or if you buy a $5 packet meant to last a week, it will consume its shareable two gigabytes in 5 hours. Do consider that a teacher’s salary here is like $900 monthly.

So, you speak of participation, and digital divide, and inclusion, you can’t do this as you’re doing it now in SotM-2021, because you’re talking with each other, within a selected group, excluding the excluded.

“Everybody has 4G these days”. Yes, sure. Let me remind you of the obvious: if you implicitly require 4G to participate, all participants will confirm they have 4G.

Comment from benoitdd on 12 July 2021 at 08:53

Thank you to remind us of these importants issues. Providing low bandwith access should be in the to-do-list of every OSM online event.

It is also a relevant to lower our ecological impact.

Comment from brabo on 12 July 2021 at 12:29

i fully agree. even in richer countries, not everyone has broadband or fiber. not everyone has the funds to use a lot of mobile data. putting the audio stream that probably goes into OBS or similar software online through icecast or similar can hardly be technically challenging. but it does include those lesser fortunate in the event. and inclusion matters. for any community.


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