Crowdsourcing Used To Map Nicaragua’s Transportation Network

"A grassroots organization is plotting out transit routes as a way to serve areas in need" by Jiwon Kim

"While many of us are fortunate enough to live in areas with a mass public transportation system that makes it easy to get around, most countries of the world live in completely different conditions. Governments do not have the capacity or the funds to provide this essential public service to its citizens. As a result, countries like Nicaragua have multiple private companies that provide cheaper mass transportation alternatives. Unfortunately, this plethora of individual transportation networks make public transportation difficult to map. A grassroots movement associated with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, an organization that focuses on creating maps in some of the poorest, desolate areas in the world started tackling this issue by utilizing crowdsourced mapping technology.

The team started with creating an up-to-date map utilizing satellite images of Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Then they got volunteers to go on different bus routes with gadgets, marking down stops and getting down the names. One of the difficulties the team faced is the lack of names for many of the roads. Therefore, noting landmarks was an essential part in mapping these locations. After all of this was accomplished, everything was designed into a simple map. Another crowdfunded campaign made it possible for thousands of hard copies to be handed out to local residents. An online version is available as well.

The team wants to continue to expand efforts to create a service like Google Maps where you insert a starting point and destination and an app will help you figure out the best methods to get there. Mapping is not the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to serving areas in need. However, it is very necessary to have this information available especially in times of crisis. NGOs and government agencies that want to assist marginalized groups need the proper information in order to effectively provide services. In addition, it is a way to support and build a community. In this specific case, it may open up Managua residents to new opportunities including jobs."

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