Teaching the World with Open-Source Mapping
Updated: Jan 4
Hello everyone, my name is Nick Altizer! I am a first year graduate student at the University of Central Florida pursuing a Masters in Sociology. Over the course of this past semester I have also been a virtual intern through the USAID GeoCenter. I was first introduced to YouthMappers a little over a year ago when my university took part in a multi-school mapathon. Shortly after that I assisted in forming a YouthMappers chapter at my university. Since then I have taken part in events ranging from mapathons to educational workshops.
My knowledge of GIS has centered primarily around Esri and their suite of tools from ArcMap to ArcOnline. Being a part of the USAID GeoCenter internship has shown me what else is out in the world when it comes to open-source mapping software. This knowledge has been incredibly useful as the majority of research I participate in through UCF is meant to produce publicly accessible data. The Open Street Map platform has made it easy to participate in humanitarian efforts while learning the tools used to create such large amounts of open-source data.
Our weekly calls have been incredibly productive and informative. I have had the opportunity to both collaborate with and learn from other organizations in mapping areas of developing nations for humanitarian projects. For example, this internship has focused a lot on mapping parts of Tanzania for AIDS relief. Accessing satellite imagery to map the region is helpful to better understanding the importance of the work. There are things you can see from the air that are difficult to notice from the ground, such as clusters of homes located at a great distance from the nearest road. All of this information makes participating in work like this streamlined and incredibly rewarding.
Education is a huge part of the internship as we learn how to use computer software such as JOSM and mobile software like Maps.me. Educating youth is a key component in much of the work I do as well. The tools that are available through YouthMappers make it easy for anyone to learn basic digitizing and mapping skills. Over the summer we will be holding workshops to teach younger generations on a multitude of GIS and mapping technologies currently available. Open Street Map will be an important factor in this work.
It has been a wonderful experience being an intern for the USAID GeoCenter and learning more about the initiatives taking place to increase relief efforts around the world. I look forward to continuing to volunteer while utilizing my knowledge and skills to inform others on the importance of the YouthMappers work.