The Web dwells in a never-ending present. It is—elementally—ethereal, ephemeral, unstable, and unreliable. –Jill Lepore, from “The Cobweb: Can the Internet be Archived?” …
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Following is a documentation of correspondence between citizens and coordinators from city NGO’s on working GIS projects in various capacities. There is an increasing trend to develop skillsets using geographic information systems and technologies. A summary of ideas of what GIS in can hold against participatory planning and citizens advocacy is displayed by this extract. These notes link to ideas being developed against the mumbaiopendata.org project with an anticipated possibility if these concepts discussed can if at by collaboration or adapted via reference into the project. With a minimum variable product release of the repository (edition 1.01) the next set of discussions is how the project can and should develop over time either as service or an extended part of a practice.
##Dated 22nd October 2014
From _ jitendra
– a GIS site (based on OpenStreetMap) be made available to all participants
allow layers to be added with schemas (i.e what data is relevant) to be defined by user NGOs
– a database to compile all data so that queries can be made across all layers, relating them geographically)
– a GUI for queries with a set of pre-defined queries for different user groups
– a mobile interface to add data : crowdsourced (i.e citizens should be able to provide data), moderated data (i.e. someone responsible should filter out nonsense, and automatic system to remove duplicates) on one hand and
Interface for bulk upload based on available databases
– a cost model that NGOs can afford: so any NGO should know what it will cost to add incrementally some of relevant layer
– an initial funding estimate to put this in place: needed
Those interested in discussing further may respond
#Dated 2nd November 2014
From _ jitendra
Unfortunately, I did not receive response to this mail from anyone.
I do not know if people already have a better solution. However I wish to pursue till I am convinced there is need.
I refuse to accept that there is no need of a service like customizable webGIS for most of the NGOs and individuals on this list.
However I will agree that many may not have understood what that can be.
So I will like to clarify a few points and invite all in the list to get back for more clarity and possible demo.
Why this email: Some applications can be developed as templates so that they can be customised for different users. This dialogue is meant for deciding what such applications should be and what its customizable should be so that it can be affordable for even NGOs.
Historical opportunity: web-based maps have become very powerful over last 4-5 years, mainly due to Google, but there exists a non-profit, non-commercial and more ‘free’ (as in freedom) open source, open data solution like OpenStreetMap. Why should the needy and poor of this country not be able to use such a lot of resources created by such capable noble hearts!!
Scales: There are three scales of maps:
– micro level (say like fusion tables which require only excel files)
– medium level (which can take large scale data, complying with standards, with relatively complex relations and can have good interfaces and be maintained well over time with changes in requirements and changes in the environment)
– enterprise scale where national level, multi-disciplinary, multifunctional, multi-tenant, big data, real time data etc
Who can use: We wish to create a roadmap for every size of NGO that may need data at different scales, starting from micro-size to large scale
Map making using cheap alternatives: there is a way of mapping without much cost for adequately accurate mapping of (points, paths and areas): useful for volunteer based data
– use of http://www.fieldpapers.org (associated with OpenStreetMap) based on internet access and paper and pencil technology
– use of commodity mobiles as smartphones which have GPS, using some free apps like ‘my tracks’, ‘geo paparazzi’. some post processing with QGIS can give fairly good maps
Web/ Desktops: the maps can be used on desktops as also on the web
Permissions of access: the maps (this is a middle-level application) can be accessible with varying access rights if one can use the applications where user roles and rights can be assigned. This is the type of application (Drupal or Django) that needs to be dovetailed with GIS based on specific organisation.
Database: Maps are more meaningful when attribute data are well organised in databases This is the backend with complexity best left to professionals. Users should have a simple facility to use. That is where the dialogue between users and professionals will need to be sustained
Commercial or non-profit or free: Some efforts are involved in preparing this. If some CSR funds can be obtained the facility or service can be free for some. But to some extent this service may need to be paid for as commercial effort. Some non-profit NGOs can carry out some tasks through a collaborative effort. This dialogue is meant to bring about such a mix. The undersigned believes that users or beneficiaries can pay for the service they can get. The costs, broken up over the large numbers can be actually affordable. The challenge is only to collate the microscopic needs to a macro level solution.
#Dated 2nd November 2014
From _ SANTOSH SURVE
Dear Friend Jitendra,
Thanks for sending your views about GIS, but I want to suggest you that, most of activist were working on this issues, I think you can discuss with Ms. Leena Mam (TISS) and YUVA team about this.
Another thing is that, if you want our participation in GIS, then you have to come in local people who are working in Grass root, (in the Community) and discuss it. Then they will suggest you about GIS.
Thanking you once again.
#Dated 3rd November 2014
From _ Omkar Gupta
Greetings from UDRI!!
Thank you for opening a discussion on use of GIS technologies for mapping of Mumbai and for the use of it for the betterment of citizen’s voice in governance. I am pleased to inform you all the UDRI has already initiated development of such a platform with desktop, web and mobile GIS option since May 2013. This platform is nearing completion and we will be making it available for all through the web interface and structured desktop interface which will be operational by January or February 2015. The interface will be connected to a backend open source GIS database which is not constructed on Google and hence inherently safe for putting up of information, sharing information, launch various online campaigns, and to do various statistical operations.
Your interests in this field of GIS endorses our belief that we have taken a step in the right direction of making GIS available in the third space and will keep you posted on the developments. We look forward to your participation in great numbers in the testing and launching of the application.
Thank You and with warm regards
To observe at the time of publishing this post, it’s been almost around nine months since the dispatch of this thread. Neither from the three, individual/ organisations have hence in any which way made public the work or any updates regarding the respective engagements. It could be also noted that this thread is the only conversation on the subject on the mailing list of YUVA’s City Development Plan Campaign Hamara Shehar Vikas Niyojan. UDRI’s mail server too hasn’t particularly have had anything informative on the issue. Adding to this there also hasn’t been any subsequent inquiry from the public end to investigate what work has been going on and in some ways report back. Some questions which arise in an attempt for discussion is what is the capacity level of agencies and citizens participating in urban advocacy to utilise these technologies? If at all these are developed what are the kinds of projects they can or should be using them under? What is the level of transparency these organisations, who are in possession of GIS resources and technology, operate with? and Finally the citizens or any identified stakeholders themselves, is the technology more important or its progressive outcome is of paramount concern. Using corporate or sourced funding is welcome to introduce and develop on technologies but over time their respective impact on permeability of the same into the domain it’s being developed should be audited and presented such that any future work in the field can benefit from learnings from the duration of the project.
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