‘Local people, local tools, open knowledge’ is the mantra HOT projects are run by. We empower communities in low and middle income countries worldwide to create data about the locally-relevant issues which affect their lives and their communities. Using OpenStreetMap (OSM), a free and open mapping platform and global community, communities contribute hyper-local knowledge on their surroundings: the basic infrastructure, assets, risks, and services available in their communities. This empowerment to map themselves rather than be mapped others and to use the data to advocate for local issues, flips traditional mapping approaches and puts power in the hands of communities who do not traditionally have access to digital tools, technology, or training. Data is generated locally and made available globally to government, NGOs, and UN missions, contributing to addressing universal issues including poverty and health, and gendered issues like Female Genital Mutilation.
Problem HOT is addressing:
The problem underlying the digital divide is not that communities are intentionally excluded, it is that the current economic system is not designed to explicitly include them. Our approach includes community members end to end in the process; deciding the issues to map, creating the data, empowering others to do the same, advocating for change in their communities, and defining, enacting, and sharing locally appropriate solutions, all supported by a network of visible and vocal international advocates. Our approach is not dictated and is not ‘development happening to people’
rather, we present individuals with the opportunity, tools, and social environment to drive development within their own communities.
We believe with any program addressing the digital divide, it is particularly pertinent to address the digital gender divide. Women and girls are continually left behind even in programs designed to address their needs. Paying specific attention to the social norms affecting women and girls in their communities, our methodology aims to empower women to become active agents of change in their communities and achieve greater equality.
The digital divide does not refer just to inequality in technology access, but in the benefits that access brings. Using open mapping as an enabler, we will create impact through both process; training and equipping communities to map, and product; creating huge volumes of free and open data to contribute to responding to crises and solving development challenges now and into the future.
If successful in this challenge, our program will take two parts: local; supporting four women-led community projects across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and global; enabling collaboration between and dissemination to the global Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and YouthMapper communities. We will provide equipment, internet access, and training in open data and open mapping via mobile apps with basic Android smartphones and simple web-apps. HOT leverages already existing and cost-effective devices, tools, and technology, meaning that a majority of funds are going directly to community programs that are driving direct impact, rather than towards developing applications or manufacturing products. As the community leaders who work with us are volunteers, we assure sustainability, as once enabled with training and equipment access, they are able to continue their work for years to come at very minimal cost. Additionally, our strong global network with 150,000 volunteers works to support local projects e.g. through providing training and technology support.
Our project empowers communities to develop a voice, acquire new skills, and gain respect and standing as agents of change in their communities. Open mapping is not a technology, it is a movement, through which communities are making themselves, their problems, and their solutions visible.