sábado, 7 de enero de 2017

A long journey to map together a better world

I still remember that cloudy March morning when I nostalgically left the Netherlands after completion of my MSc degree. I experienced many apparently isolated issues afterwards, but only realize until now how the long the road I had ahead was. One of the visions I cherished the most from the dutch experience, was the growing importance of the sociotechnical advances in the Geo-spatial and geo-sciences disciplines. With this vision in mind and together with other geo geeks from Chile, Colombia and Guatemala I managed to start up GeoCensos, a social enterprise project to support the adequate use of geoinformation in all kinds of organizations, especially at National Statistics Offices.

When we started we were just a bunch of geo enthusiasts posting online geo tech news from our desktop computers at home. Nowadays we can count over 60 members working in 7 countries, having developed together more than 27 geo apps, aiding in 5 national census processes and advocating for the good use of open geo data within a United Nations sponsored organization.

The road was no silky cruise. Just after graduation I lived briefly in Chile surviving as a research assistant and had even to work as a bilingual call center agent in Argentina. Suddenly dreams began to take off as a good friend called me to help in a cadastral project in La Plata. When the project ended I could also muddle through to work for a small consultancy firm in Colombia. My experiences and knowledge empowered me with confidence and so GeoCensos thrived:

·         My group and I wrote 647 papers including articles, blogs and posts for 12 newspapers and media in the region, reporting on geotechnologies and geodata in several studies from 2010 to 2016.
·         Contributed as back office to give support in the Santiaguito volcano earthquake in Guatemala in 2012 for CONRED, National Coordination Agency for Natural Disasters.
·         We organized a self-funded Road Show called GeoCensos Mesoamerica RS in 7cities in 5 Mesoamerican countries for the evangelization with geo data tools for universities and NGOs.
·         Provided support to the Space Apps Challenge promoted by NASA Aerospatial Agency in 2013 in Bogotá, Panama and Santa Marta, and also in San Salvador, Central America in 2014.
·         In 2015, we represented the Latin American civil society at the International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, participated at the SoTM United States in New York and attended the 8th meeting of the Statistical Conference of the America  in Quito.
·         Organized Mapps Hackathon I and II in Bogota, Guatemala City, Medellin, Panama City, Quito, Santa Marta, San Salvador, Soacha and Neiva between 2013 and 2014.
·         We joined the eDiplomacy US State Dept program presenting a GeoData speed geek at Techcamps in San Salvador, Bogotá and Cali in Colombia.
·         In 2016, we portrayed updated results from the Stats Up project and benchmarked other Openstreetmap evangelization experiences at State of the Map US Conference in Seattle 2016. Also, we lectured on census data collaboration at the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data workshops in Nairobi and Dar es Salam.
·         Just recently, we participated as part of the civil sector in the  the high level seminar on the 2020 round of censuses and the 2030 Agenda in Panama.

As the universal athlete Muhammad Ali once said: “Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change”. This quote inspires us every day to keep on walking the road ahead and mapping together a better world.

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