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UNICEF-Geographic Information System (UNICEF-GIS) is a mobile and web tool for digital engagement with youth through digital mapping. It has been successfully piloted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Port-au-Prince Haiti. The tool supports a program cycle for community action based on the illustration below. The constructed maps become public domain and the involved communities conduct advocacy targeted at the competent government organizations. The availability of this material permit anyone to accompany the processes of community change and improvement. Periodic seminars and thematic meetings will be organized with public authorities to foster dialogue. Through the transfer of technology and education process, this initiative integrates itself directly into existing government programs in the communities.
The five day youth workshop methodology that goes alongside the deployment of the UNICEF-GIS app is structured to train youth to use the technology, understand the risks they are looking for, how to advocate for change, overcome apathy, and address privacy and ethics issues related to data collection. Involving government and duty bearers actively from the start of the data gathering process helps them to become engaged from the start. In this methodology, the duty bearers cannot claim they were unaware of the process and be surprised by the reports. During the workshop, a module on digital citizenship and ethics helps the youth mappers to understand the ethical concerns of reporting risks and hazards to the government. Finally, the training of trainers workshops in year one of the project and continued direct support from UNICEF ensures the technical viability of the system and all challenges can be overcome.
The cell phone mapping is completed with mobile app "UNICEF-GIS" which localizes the point of the risk using GPS, takes pictures, and includes user commentary. UNICEF-GIS system was built from the Open Locast core developed by the MIT Mobile Experience Lab and deployed with technical support from Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters.
Youth reports are uploaded via wireless internet and the app does not require access to cell phone networks. The location reports, saved on the phone at point of collection, identify specific problems, such as garbage accumulation, loose wiring, holes in the road, dangerous pedestrian crossings, and inaccessibility for disabled persons. The process is conducted entirely by youth residents of the community, who already know the area.
The current pilot project maps can be seen at www.unicef-gis.org