Maps have become an integral part of our daily life – one cannot imagine travelling to a new destination, planning a trip, or even tracking deliveries without a map. There is a simple reason for its ubiquitous presence: maps are easy to understand, as they transcend language barriers and are accessible to people of diverse backgrounds.
These reasons are also why urban planners and development organizations use map-making extensively as a community participation tool. Participatory mapping – the creation of maps by local communities – is a useful exercise that helps people analyze problems with a geographic dimension. It reflects the daily realities of communities directly impacted by these problems, while improving their collective understanding of these problems and their implications.
In the programme city of Bandung, Indonesia, our local sub-implementation partner Perkumpulan OpenStreetMap Indonesia (POI) has teamed up with WRI Indonesia to help build young people’s capacities to digitally map Bandung’s safety issues. By training young people in the collection and use of open geospatial data, POI is supporting the implementation of Component 1 of our Theory of Change, “Building System Understanding,” in Bandung.
In this interview, we speak with Anjar Akrimullah, Project Manager at POI, to learn more about the organisation’s role in the local implementation of S²Cities in Bandung. An urban planner by education, Anjar brings his experience in community capacity building, open-source mapping, and geospatial analysis to train the young people of Bandung to understand their city better through mapping.
Anjar trains an S²Cities team member to use Ushahidi, a digital open-source mapping tool. Source: Kelly Donovan
Author: What sparked your interest in maps and a career in participatory mapping?
Anjar Akrimullah (AA): Mapping blends my interest in science and art. It allows me to play with spatial data while also exploring the unlimited artistic potential of maps, as there are so many ways of displaying spatial data. I fell in love with the way that maps connect people to their surrounding environment and help them understand how humans interact with these environments.
View more of his artistic mapping explorations here!
Author: How does POI support the local implementation of S²Cities in Bandung?
AA: We are contributing to the program by providing community capacity-building sessions for our youth partners and supporting them in data collection. Additionally, we are developing a WebGIS platform that will allow local government agencies, partner organizations, and young people to map and report urban issues in Bandung.
Our goal for these capacity-building activities is to enable young people to understand urban safety issues in Bandung through the act of mapping. Involving young people in every mapping activity, from the capacity-building workshops to data collection, equips them with the awareness and skills to contribute to solving environmental issues in the city. Moreover, it helps them understand some of the many ways through which they can create a safe and sound Bandung.
Author: How did you train young people to be enumerators and collect field data on urban safety?
AA: In our training method, we combine Theory, Exercise, and Simulation before allowing young people to venture into the field for data collection. In our Theory sessions, we educate young people on crowdsourced mapping, open-source tools (such as ODK Collect, OSM Tracker, and Ushahidi), and how these tools help communities. In Exercise, we give young people a specific area to map to familiarize themselves with the functions of their digital mapping tools. During Simulation, we accompany the young people, giving them advice, tips, and hacks on simplifying the mapping and reporting processes for the given simulation area.
Young enumerators attend Theory sessions on open street mapping as part of the spatial data workshop. Source: WRI Indonesia
Author: It’s great to see the 200+ safety reports collected by young enumerators and recorded on Ushahidi! How did you determine the safety predeterminants that you collected data for?
AA: Together with WRI Indonesia, our partner organization, we collectively determined several parameters affecting urban safety through in-depth interviews with stakeholders, including government bodies and young people. We combined these insights with literature studies of factors affecting urban safety to arrive at our final list of safety predeterminants.
Safety reports generated by the young enumerators and recorded on Ushahidi.
Author: What were your learnings from the capacity-building and data collection activities carried out with young people? How can we apply these learnings to future phases of S²Cities?
AA: Our training cohort included students from diverse backgrounds — most came from geography-related fields, while the rest came from fields as varied as chemistry and social science. We observed that our mapping methodology could be learned and adopted by students of any background, as all of the trained young people easily implemented our methodology to produce remarkable results.
However, technical and administrative disruptions pose challenges to young people during data collection, like limited cooperation from civic bodies, complex processes to acquire secondary data, and unexpected weather in Bandung, a rainy city. On the other hand, primary data collection allows young people to challenge their assumptions and understand urban problems through on-ground data — sometimes, the survey results would be vastly different from what the enumerators had assumed or heard.
In future programs, it would be great to involve a more diverse group of young people in participatory mapping who are selected not just from educational institutions but also from varied youth communities.
Author: How can young people who want to improve urban safety benefit from open-street mapping?
AA: Through maps, young people can see and understand spatial patterns or tendencies of factors and events that affect safety and security in the city. It is really interesting to understand an issue by mapping it — it allows young people to not just understand the problem, but also how far it is from their location, how it spreads around their environment, and how the issue is connected and related to other urban issues, just from looking at a map.
Since the platform that we use (Ushahidi) is accessible to the public and easy to use, young people can express and report safety issues anytime and anywhere, while also increasing their awareness of issues around them through the reports on our open-access platform.
Improving urban safety is not just about reducing or preventing safety issues, it’s also about developing young people’s awareness of these issues. Open-street mapping helps build this awareness, while actively involving young people in collectively creating a safe and sound Bandung!
View the results of field surveys and mapping exercises conducted by the young people of Bandung: https://s2city-bandung.ushahidi.io/.