Open Data from Citizens to Develop Their Cities

Celine Jacquin believes that the potential for open data to improve our world relies on a collaborative approach. Read about the projects she's initiated to make impactful open data a reality.

Celine Jacquin - or mapeadora - began to contribute to OpenStreetMap a few years back. Her interest grew and today she is supporting a number of open data initiatives in her free-time. An urban geographer by profession, she sees a tremendous opportunity in citizen participation when it comes to improving the data that is used for development and decision-making. Step by step, she moved from volunteering to leading several initiatives related to open data. We want to share her inspirational story and explain how she realizes her vision in a number of volunteer projects.

From Participant to Initiator

Celine got into OpenStreetMap years ago. In the beginning her contributions were infrequent, but then two things happened. First, she learned about the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) - an initiative that brings together a large network of volunteers, mapping the most vulnerable people and places in the world to help relief organizations respond better to disasters and crises. Second, a conflict ignited in Mali, which is a place close to her heart. These events prompted her to start mapping regularly, contributing to different humanitarian tasks listed in the HOT Tasking Manager tool. "This made me discover the true humanitarian sense of the initiative and the pleasure of contributing to a base map the elements of the land, like meandering rivers that I love to map. So I spent a lot of hours and days mapping the HOT tasks", she says.

Not only did she get into extensive mapping, but also distributing the message of using open maps, particularly OpenStreetMap, for different projects and purposes. Bit by bit she started reaching out to the mapping community, organizing introductions and courses at open GIS software events. Along the way she met other people like her, with the same interests and objectives, so both the events and their impact has been continuously growing. A great example is #MapeoLibre, an event for students that includes trainings about open data and OpenStreetMap editing as well as field exercises using Mapillary and OSMTracker. Two sessions have successfully taken place already and three more are coming up in the public universities of Mexico City.

MapeoLibre workshop for open data and mapping Mapeadora instructing students at the #MapeoLibre session at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

Bringing OpenStreetMap Mexico to the Table

Celine believes in making official government data public. Even before her involvement with OpenStreetMap she has been working with government agencies and initiatives to generate better public data. Now, together with other activists in the OpenStreetMap community in Mexico, she is trying to establish a local chapter in order to form official collaborations with government institutions at both local and federal levels. The aim is to push standardization of open spatial data, involving citizen participation and strengthening the role that the community has in producing this data. The open technology platform that OpenStreetMap has developed fits here perfectly.

She tells of the notable success they've achieved already. "Because of the recognition and visibility that we have been getting, the government has invited us to work on roundtables together with several institutions, so we can learn where we can include the mapping community and the civil society, and to leverage the excellent tools that OpenStreetMap has created. We have collaborated or are starting dialogue with several civil society organizations that focus on habitat and risk, air quality, active mobility, and action against public harassment."

A great example is the Repubikla project that she has been developing for one and a half years. It is a tool and a mapping platform for creating data about non-motorized mobility with the aim to improve safety and sustainability. Observations and data related to mobility are crowdsourced, using a designated web app, and taken to public institutions to discuss the developments of bike infrastructure.

Being to Where You've Never Gone

Celine thinks it's only natural for OpenStreetMap people to get hooked on Mapillary because of the underlying "obsession" with both the quantity and the deepness of data. "The idea to contribute on a platform that wants to cover the whole planet, while living in a country with little documentation, was my motivation, plus I really love the rankings between contributors. Using the app while on the road, I found myself using it more and more, especially in remote places which are not accessible on vehicles, like natural parks and cultural heritage zones", she explains. Her favorite Mapillary sequence illustrates this idea perfectly - taken in a mangrove in Tecolutla in the state of Veracruz in Mexico.

Take a look around the mangrove! - Tecolutla, Mexico

She comments, "I think this sequence shows the potential of leveraging Mapillary and how we can create a “streetview” by the people, as a tool to document remote places and monitor natural zones that have restricted access because of their surroundings. Once I understood the potential of the platform, I began to promote it to be used as a citizenship surveillance tool. It could be used in any theme, but for me it would have to be in the city since this is the place where I work on collaborations. That is the reason I created the #Mapeaton initiative."

For #Mapeaton, people use a common OpenStreetMap and Mapillary account to document pedestrians' and wheelchair users’ environments in cities, with the aim to increase awareness and create better infrastructure. Celine appreciates that Mapillary and other open data tools are in constant development and get more and more integrated with one another (e.g. CartoDB, iD Editor etc.). That makes her positive about the future of the #Mapeaton initiative: "With the many tools involved, I hope to go really far and help activists with Atlas-type materials. This has real potential for public action and management for urban authorities, with maps that illustrate the challenges of the current infrastructure, and make it easily digestible for the pedestrian community."

Street infrastructure through the eyes of a wheelchair user

She brings out what she sees as the strength of Mapillary to use for open data purposes: "It is really easy and friendly to use. It is a new way of discovering places, with a different perspective on showcasing places to other people and allowing them to use that information for any type of activism tasks without having to access the space in person. For example, I really appreciate how a person is able to document walking on a public bridge and showcase how bad the infrastructure is in this place, and I do not have to be there myself to document it or film it myself." This is the power of crowdsourcing - all the information that is gathered by different people is usable by anyone.

So get your phone out, get photomapping, and get your projects going - let's join Celine in gathering open data that will improve our surroundings!

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