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News — 18 May, 2022

Open Mapping Hub in LATAM - May 2022 update

This is a new update on how the Alpha phase of the Open Mapping Hub in LATAM is finding ways to connect geospatial data, open mapping volunteers and communities that need data and mapping for their own purposes.

In early 2022, we started an “Alpha” phase to learn and co-design what an Open Mapping Hub serving Latin America could be and do.

This effort and mandate was the result of multiple consultations and conversations that took place with the open mapping communities in Latin America during the previous year, and for this reason we wanted to move in the direction that the community itself had signaled us.

Today we want to talk about the progress during these first months of the year and how the Alpha phase of the LATAM Hub has begun to establish itself as an additional actor within the ecosystem with a clear objective: Better understand how to support the ecosystem in LATAM through projects and strengthening ties between communities, organizations and other actors in the region.

⭐️ In 4 months we have achieved:

  • Assemble a multidisciplinary team with 8 people from the region.

  • Prioritize and start 9 projects at the local and regional level.

  • Support the needs of communities in Peru, Brazil, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Colombia.

What have we been doing?

One of the first challenges we set ourselves was: What projects can help us understand what long-term support would look like and what people do we need to carry them out?

Since the “alpha” phase was planned to last approximately 6 months, we needed to move fast while working in areas that were already important to local communities.

Therefore, we opened a hiring process for the team with a very open definition of the different skills and areas of knowledge that we believed would be useful. Through the process of interviewing the candidates, we worked on co-designing what these initial projects could be, would help us work on different aspects and be able to form an opinion on what type of Hub is most effective in supporting open mapping in Latin America.

The conditions for these projects were the following:

  • Provide value to the goals of the Alpha phase.

  • Provide value to some local needs within HOT’s priority areas.

  • Could be executed in 6 months.

  • Candidates from the region itself with the skills to be able to execute them.

  • Cover different locations and different types of communities.

  • Cover different project levels: field/focus projects, general regional support for community projects; or support for open learning spaces.

This process took us the first months of the year, taking the talents of 8 people in different roles and green lighting several projects. In a future article, we will introduce the people who are taking part in this phase.

Projects

Due to time constraints, the team itself had to make a decision about which projects to start and which ones, even though they have a lot of potential, will have to remain potential projects to be re-evaluated once the full Hub is launched.

In the future, we believe that this process should evolve so that the communities and actors of the region can be part of the exploration and decision-making.

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Field projects

  • Methodological and technical support to the local organization Canoa de Tolda (Brazil, Sao Francisco basin) in the construction and use of drones to document and monitor the risk of seasonal flooding. Status: Starting the project and coordinating with all the actors.

  • Collaboration with UNDP’s ACCLab, OSM Guatemala and potentially Youthmappers, to adapt a local solid waste mapping around the cities of Guatemala and Estanzuela. Status: Exploring the problems with local actors.

Exploration projects

  • Projects’ Seedbed: Exploration and elaboration of ideas with groups that need to use data to defend a cause or build an action, but that are still not clear about how or at what stage to use data or mapping to reach its objectives. We want these groups to be able to go from need/problem space to designing a project that provides value to what they want to achieve through open cartographic data. Status: Exploration workshops are being held with different communities in the areas of Cusco, San Salvador (Peru), and Medellín (Colombia).

General Regional support

  • General Community Support in LATAM: Establishing conversations and exploring the needs of the different communities, as well as identifying opportunities for support and connecting diverse communities and groups from different countries.

  • Ecuador: Strategic collaboration with OpenLabEc in training to strengthen the open mapping community.

  • El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala: Development and strengthening of open mapping communities in Central America and articulation with groups, NGOs and academics with a focus on supporting migrant women.

  • Brazil: Exploration of local interests, needs and projects, as well as contact and connection with the different groups and open mapping communities.

Over the next few weeks we will be posting articles on this site with more detailed updates on each project.

Next Steps

Over the next few months, all of these projects will continue to develop and document their learnings on a regular basis. The result of these learnings will be compiled and will inform a general recommendation in the coming months on what characteristics a Hub in LATAM should have to better support all actors, groups, and communities and a recommendation on what the next steps should be for the following months.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit our website to follow the evolution of this Alpha phase and how to get involved in the new stages of this process.