On the second of November 2019, in the 3D Auditorium of Krishibid Institute Dhaka, the presenter opened up with a question “What is the strongest thing in the world?” This made everyone in the auditorium to speak out random guesses while the presenter was confident that none of them will be correct. Because as most of us were going through the physical or theoretical substance of existence as the answer, it was something so simple yet profound that resonated with everyone in the room. The answer was quoted from James H Doolittle and was the heart of a volunteer. The program I was attending was State of the Map Asia 2019 and most of the audiences in the auditorium were volunteer contributors to the Open Street Map.
The program went on for two days encompassing and recognizing small individual efforts of winning the HOT microgrants to companies like Facebook using AI and machine learning, giving each part of the world their identity in more reliable and faster way by mapping. Attending the program as a Regional Ambassador of YouthMappers I was very privileged to moderate a panel discussion entitled “The voices of YouthMappers.” In which, the volunteer contributors in OSM and student leaders for the YouthMappers chapters from three different nations shared their success stories, challenges and learnings being a part of the global phenomenon, which is connecting youth with technologies to cultivate young leaders and to create resilient communities.
Sawan Shariar, currently holding the no. 1 position as an OSM contributor of the world, told us that he feels so great to contribute; as well as, becomes equally amazed to see his contributions helping his community, so that he usually sits aside by his laptop few hours a day to map. The voice resonated with most of the Bangladeshi Youth who attended and volunteered at the conference. Aman Kc and Rabin Ojha from GESAN shared a few tips on sustaining the chapter by giving a training on OSM and other open source mapping tools to the freshmen year students as a way of passing the baton. Monica May from the UP Resilience Institute of The Philippines said the project her chapter is working on. And Airin Akter shared her Research fellowship project and how that is helping currently at her job. Overall in the session, the voices of YouthMappers seemed coherent that being a part of the community provided them the belongingness and helped them move ahead in their career as Rabin is currently working with Kathmandu Living Labs.
Another name that comes to my mind is of Anil Basnet. A YouthMapper who studied Geomatics Engineering at Tribhuvan University who had said that after learning to use OSM he checked for his hometown, Dang, on the map and found that most of the places in his hometown had no existence on the map. Then he stated mapping almost every day that he went on a streak of over 100 days mapping on OSM. By that time, he had gathered significant knowledge on using the mapping tools that he became instrumental while I conducted a training to the newly establishing chapter “YouthMappers Puranchaur” of the students form College of Natural Resource Management, Agriculture and Forestry University.
Shraddha Sharma and Sandhya Dhakal were two other volunteers who had extensive knowledge of field work and mapping, they mapped the entire Modi Rural Municipality of Parbat district of Nepal and published a map book, assisting in the training workshop. Aman KC who then had recently won the 2019 Global YouthMappers Challenge and was selected to represent GESAN at HOT Summit and SOTM 2019 at Heidelberg Germany told us how can we include more members and most importantly female leaders in mapping. The two day open mapping workshop had about 25 participants learning open street map and using OSM tracker and field paper to gather data. The workshop culminated on a mapathon of mapping the farmlands across Puranchaur area.
Sharad Pokhrel from CNRM said that he enjoyed the sessions and will initiate a project to map gardens and parks across the Pokhara Metropolitan city, also they discussed the possibility of preparing a crop-type map of their campus locality. While most of the students studying agricultural sciences changed their view about maps and mapping in general. The event helped collaborate two YouthMappers chapters and paved a way for future collaborations.
Sagar Koirala who had previously participated in Mapping with Mo:mo’s; a mapathon event hosted to engage more youth in mapping told us that the knowledge of open source technology was helpful for his academics too. The first mapping with Mo:mo’s was to build flood resiliency of Gaur area which is very prone to floods while the second was conducted during the OSM geography awareness week.
Another fantastic opportunity came to me while I attended the GNSS summer school held at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. At the event I not only learned from the basics to the operational procedure of GNSS, but used and tested low cost GNSS devices on the field. During the summer school I gave a presentation on “Data Quality Enhancement in Open Mapping” where I also introduced the participants which included experts from various fields about YouthMappers. Even though most of my role as a regional ambassador went on well, it was tough to coordinate new institutions because of their busy schedule and holiday season, also internet went on to prove a decisive element while conducting the mapping events. Although there were hurdles the programs were successful and many more are in the pipeline.
Over these last six months what I have witnessed is that there is an immense joy in sharing whatever knowledge or experience you have. And if anybody is self-motivated and knows what s/he is set to achieve then no amount of set-backs are going to stop them. Also, it is equally important to plan ahead by looking at your roots. As the Keynote speaker of the SOTM Asia as well as the fantastic mapper David Garcia said, “If you want to know where you are going then you should know where you came from.”