The Practical Radical

MapAfghan Update: New Maps from Afghanistanelectiondata.org

September 16, 2010
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I decided to do a specific blog on mapping of Afghan data, especially now since Afghanistanelectiondata.org has put together all the open source data that is related to the Afghan elections into one nicely laid out page.

I think this is a very nice example of what can be done again with keeping  electoral processes transparent. We saw something in the same vein with the maps during the Kenyan referendum (see my blog post Transparency + Accountability = Democracy, Kenya Style). What is as well exciting is that the data is provided – gotta love that opensource!

The new maps are really interesting. As well as the basic landcover maps, there is one on ethnic groups. experiences of corruption and female candidates. I have put a few snapshots of the maps below. If you click on them you will go to the actual map.

Ethnic Groups

2009 Experience of Corruption

I have as well left the old blog post on the Afghan insurgency in this blog – it is an interesting reference point on how far mapping has come in so short a time.

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Mapping the War in Afghanistan

This is an interesting map visualization of the presence of Taliban activity in Afghanistan from 2007 to August 2009. The maps are based on insurgent activity reports. They give a probable snapshot of “how things are going” in the war (not well me thinks). The use of maps combined with reporting is informative over time, though clearly there are possible issues with both data validity and overlap in time periods.

Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan during 2007 – November 2008
Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan between January and November 2008
Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan during January – August 2009

** Taken from the International Council on Security and Development website. The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) is an international policy think tank working to combine grassroots research and policy innovation at the intersections of security, development, counter-narcotics and public health issues.


Usahidi – Mapping the world one SMS at a time

September 1, 2010
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Usahidi - Mapping the world one SMS at a time

I have been struggling to get my head around Usahidi, the Swahili for “witness” or “testimony.”

I knew it was created during the post-election violence in Kenya in early 2008. I had many friends who went through that terrible time, and felt equally horrified and powerless.

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Mapping the War in Afghanistan

August 5, 2010
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This is an interesting map visualization of the presence of Taliban activity in Afghanistan from 2007 to August 2009. The maps are based on insurgent activity reports. They give a probable snapshot of “how things are going” in the war (not well me thinks). The use of maps combined with reporting is informative over time, though clearly there are possible issues with both data validity and overlap in time periods.

Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan during 2007 - November 2008

Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan between January and November 2008

Areas of Taliban presence in Afghanistan during January - August 2009

** Taken from the International Council on Security and Development website. The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) is an international policy think tank working to combine grassroots research and policy innovation at the intersections of security, development, counter-narcotics and public health issues.


Nairobi Reflection 3: High Touch/Low Tech

June 17, 2010
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Community Mapping has always been quite an amazing tool – it localizes knowledge, draws on the “mappers” personal and community experiences, identifies interconnectedness – all this coming together and increasing social capital (if you are interested in the concepts of social capital read Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone; to better understand how it relates to mapping, read up on John Mcknight’s Asset Based Community Development). You can check out some of the work that the International Centre for Sustainable Cities and UN-HABITAT has done on community mapping by checking out their draft asset mapping manual.

As I have written about before, the Kibera Mapper’s project take this to the next level by combining the “soft” components of mapping – working with community, getting them to identify their “assets” or “social capital” – with the “hard” components of mapping – turning out maps which can be used in community organizing and advocacy. These organizing and advocacy outputs can be used to influence decision makers such as planners – I like to thing of it as the “pointy stick” of mapping, where you can drive your message home with great success.

What is even more exciting is how low tech this has become. Using what they call Walking Papers mappers are able to draw directly onto a map and then have it scanned and that be uploaded directly to a digital map. No GPS, no uploading to an onsite computer. The definition of High Touch/Low Tech.

A Walking Paper example - the barcode in bottom right allows the map to be scanned and lined up with an offsite digital map

Anyways, I am re-blogging Mikel’s post from the Map Kibera blog. It gives a lot more detail and new insight into mapping — real-time — in the field.

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Nairobi Notebook 2: The Sustainability of Good Works

June 14, 2010
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Nairobi Notebook

NOTE: I had a wonderful lunch when i was in Nairobi with some of the people from the Map Kibera project (you can read my previous blog on this here, or go to their website mapkibera.org). What fascinated me was the stage they were at in regards to the growth of their project and their concern about assuring that the project was sustainable. This  got me thinking about sustainability and NGOs. Here are my musings on the subject …

Just as the coin for business is, well, coins, the coin for NGOs is change. Positive change. It is what every NGO assumes it will be able to achieve when they start, and what many fail to do. The challenge often for NGOs as with for-profit companies is achieving and sustaining their success.

To achieve success an agency agency needs to plan, to plan they must have a  “business model” – guidelines to better understand where they stand in relation to their own development.

One traditional for-profit model is that of the “business cycle” or “S curve”.

aides1.jpg (11156 bytes)

This model  is used to understand the growth  of industries and organizations. However, the S curve does not recognize key components of a healthy system – specifically the phases of destruction and renewal. A healthy forest is one that has trees grow older, die, and then become the fertilizer for the new growth. The S curve is silent on these phases of destruction and renewal. Ironically, it is the paradox of having things dies that assures the longterm sustainability of a healthy system.

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Nairobi Reflections

April 23, 2010
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The Nairobi Notebook blog post from americancity.org is a thorough overview of Kibera and the work of UN-HABITAT and the residents there.

If you are interested in more information on some projects going on in Kibera, go to the map kibera site to see how they are working with residents to tell the untold story of Kibera through maps.

Above are some maps before and after the mapping was done by Mikel Maron from openstreetmaps. Unplanned settlements like Kibera go from being seen from above as corrugated roof after corrugated roof, to what it really is, which is a home from those that live there that has streets, churches, clinics, etc.


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