Putting ICMS on the Map

11 March 2015 - First semester students at the ICMS welcomed representatives from Kathmandu Living Labs to present a practical introduction to crisis mapping using OpenStreetMap. OpenStreetMap, an open source mapping software, provides the platform for people all over the world to create and edit maps of their local area using concepts similar to Wikipedia. Nirab Pudasaini, Megha Shrestha, and Pujan Poudyal gave ICMS students with an overview of the basic components of the software and the ways in which it can improve disaster response during crisis.

Afterwards, ICMS students split into teams to practice using GPS enabled mobiles to map the local area. Information specific to a very small geographical area - sometimes called hyperlocalized knowledge - is critical in times of crisis, when responders unfamiliar with the area arrive to assist in response and recovery efforts. Accurate maps provide responders with the baseline information of the predisaster area, as well as the aiding in the identification of critical facilities (eg. open space and medical facilities) and the distribution of relief. Using OpenStreetMaps Android application, students learned how to add and label buildings, roads, and open spaces to the platfrom from their smartphones.  Back in the classroom, members of Kathmandu Living Labs demonstrated for students how to continue editing the places which they had uploaded to the maps from their laptops. 

The mission of Kathmandu Living Labs is to connect community members with technology to solve the complex problems facing society. Dr. Nama Raj Budhathoki, Executive Director of Kathmandu Living Labs, explained how crowdsourced maps not only expand the knowledge base about the Kathmandu Valley, but also engages individuals at the local level. As residents map their surroundings, they become more aware of - and connected to - the community in which they live.    

To learn more about Kathmandu Living Labs, please visit their website at http://www.kathmandulivinglabs.org/