The project will create a Volunteer Technical Community (VTC) by training and mobilizing Nigerien students in ‘collaborative open source humanitarian mapping’ to increase inclusive information sharing in crisis preparedness, international solidarity and citizen agency through targeted digital capacity building and outreach. The VTC will then engage key humanitarian actors in Niger to contribute to OpenStreetMap, a free online mapping tool. This initiative will train motivated youth in an employable skill, encourage volunteerism, and promote the active use of social media for positive outcomes.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Describe the specific community with whom you will be working.
The project aims to broaden the capacities of university students, who despite a strong theoretical basis, lack resources to develop digital and social media skills, in a country where internet penetration of the population is very low (1.3%). We decided to work specifically with geography students because while they have a strong background and possess basic computer and internet skills, they lack specific knowledge in Geographical Information Systems and how they can be linked with social media to contribute to the development of their community and country. Thus, the project will not only strengthen key skills amongst youth and give them a voice online, but increase their employability and equip them with transferable skills, while encouraging community activism both off and online.
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
The project participants will do distance mapping and field surveys in Niamey and surrounding areas as well as contribute to the map of neighboring countries also facing difficult situations. They will be able to map different points of interests that will be an open source for the public as well as different organizations and agencies to use for the benefit of the community. The youth will also be trained on how to advocate for the needs of the communities they map through the use of social media. Specifically, they will contribute to the project’s blog, Twitter and Facebook page with regular updates, photos and videos. This directly links the objects that the students map (such as schools, streets, hospitals, etc.) with the digital world of social media, and the reality of the field.
What technologies and digital tools do you plan to use in the trainings?
Describe the connections that you or your organization have already established that will contribute to the success of the project.
This initiative was designed in partnership with the Department of Geography at the Abdou Moumouni University of Niamey and the students of the University Geography club. This inclusive partnership not only leverages the support of both students and professors alike, but also the strong links that exist between the university and the community of Niamey itself. This community grounded and education based design also puts resources such as computer labs and meeting spaces at the disposition of the project, free of charge. The project also plans to build on existing community relationships of the university and collaborate with humanitarian actors, such as OCHA, WFP or UNHCR. Additionally, the project will benefit from the on-line support of the OpenStreetMap Community.
How many participants do you think will be involved in your project?
The initiative is based on the principle of sustainable participatory education. The initial trainings will be held for 15 students, who will create the core team. They will be responsible for not only contributing to the online map on OpenStreetMap, but also for organizing and facilitate trainings of future participating students and organizations and share their experiences on-line. After the initial inputs, the project will become entirely sustainable because the students will employ their skills in identifying and training other students and key community actors, ensuring student ownership in years to come. Altogether, throughout the year, the team will to train over 100 people on the basics of mapping and social media.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
As the project organizer, I have a strong background in community volunteerism, education, and working within the context of the Sahel region of Africa. I also have experience in training a range of key actors in OpenStreetMap, mapping, and social activism through social media. My role in the project, though, will be to provide initial trainings and to serve as a focal point for the beneficiaries. The project itself is based on the ownership of the students in all areas of the initiative. My skills will also be coupled with those of the Geography department at the University. The training content will consist of a managable tookit of focused technologies including OSM, GPS, Java OpenStreetMap, as well as social media tools to include but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
The location of the workshops is both intentional and rooted in the sustainability component of the project. The trainings will be held in the computer labs at the Abdou Moumouni University of Niamey as its contribution to the initiative. The training room is a computer lab with generous space, largely adequate seating, a projector and screen, and equipped with desktop computers with sufficient internet speed. The university facilities will also be made available for any relevent meetings and follow up consultations as well as for students to upload their data onto OpenStreetMap and the social media applications. The campus itself will also be used as a ’lab’ for the GPS mapping, permitting students to practice at the campus ahead of applying their knowledge in the field.
What is your current relationship with the community with whom you plan to work? What makes you the most appropriate individual or organization to implement this project?
My current relationship with the community is dually beneficial to the proposed initiative asa volunteer in education in Niamey, Niger, but also as a member of the OpenStreetMap coummunity as well as in social media. As a volunteer working with under priviledged primary school students in educational development, I have established ties with the community, which have since led me to seek out and attain a partnership and support with the Abdou Moumouni University of Niamey. This relationship is built on the spirit of both education but also community activisim. My experience working with both children and youth as well as a volunteer, coupled with my existing technical expertise has laid a solid foundation for this partnership to flourish with the support of this grant.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
The primary challenges that we foresee for this initiative are related primarily to the sometimes difficult conditions of the terrain. Specifically, during the rainy season in Niger, travel can be restricted due to the poor conditions of the roads. In order to mitigate this challenge, we will plan any travel to regions with less accessible roads both ahead and after the rainy season, and plan on urban and peri urban mapping during the rainy season. Additionally, frequent powercuts can slow down training and limit access to computers and other pedagogical equipment. In order to mitigate this, we ensured that the rooms in which we will hold the trainings at the university were equipped with generators.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
The success for this initiative will be measured both at the individual level of the participants as well as at the collective group level. Ahead of the trainings, in collaboration with the professors at the University, we will develop a basic set of ’pre-test’ and ’post-test’ questions to be given. This will measure if the participants have gained the neccessary knowledge. Secondly, once the students begin mapping, their progress/results will be monitored on the ’ITO Maps’ (http://www.itoworld.com/map/main) website. The social media content will also serve as an indicator for the students progress. In this manner, the results will be easily identified as gains in ’learning’ and ’doing’ and also helping them to both stay motivated and ensure sustainability.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2013?
The project is designed to begin shortly after notification of approval. Initial steps will include the establishment of social media sites and a planning session with students and professors. The first set of trainings will be held on Saturday mornings for a period of six weeks. These will cover the principles of GPS, field surveying, data analysis, distance mapping, and social media. These modules will run through the end of the semester to align with the students’ schedule. The second phase of the project will consist of employing the skills gained in the trainings. This will consist of the field and distance mapping and the advocacy component of the project and will run throughout summer. In October through December, the students will begin trainings with ’new recruits’, expanding the Volunteer Technical Community to other students and the humanitarian community. This period will also lay the foundation for the volunteers to continue the initiative in the next academic year.
Detail a specific budget of up to $4,000 USD for operating costs.
The project will be heavily cost shared (nearly matched) with the kind contributions from the University and will be an entirely volunteer initiative. As this is a volunteer iniative, we want to base our costs on a ’low input –high output’ model. The costs of the project will include basic training supplies and local transport for participants, GPS equipment and cameras, and contributions to travel costs for participants as they map in urban, peri urban and rural zones. Below is an outline of our anticipated costs: 4 GPS devices with batteries and chargers ($250 x 4) = $1000, 4 medium pixel cameras ($100 x 4) = $400, training supplies and refreshments for 6 trainings (17 participants x $15) = $255, Urban-Peri urban mapping transport costs for 3 months (17 participants x $20) = $340, multiple rural mapping costs (15 participants x $80) = $1200, transport support for advocacy visits and trainings (17 participants x $9) = 153. Total = $3,348
Besides the microgrant funding, what other resources and support are you seeking for your project to ensure its success?
Besides the microgrant funding, technical support and consultation with specialists working on social media promotion and advocacy, as well as connection with former Rising Voices mapping grantees would be a valuable contribution to ensure the success of the project.