Digital Internship and Leadership (DIAL) program was started in 2017 to engage Nepal’s youth in creating critical map data of Nepal’s disaster-prone places while developing their digital leadership skills. In the program, a group of young people from diverse academic backgrounds perform tasks to map at-risk places in terms of disaster vulnerability remotely from the comfort of their home after being trained in mapping, field data collection and working with data among others. On September 16-19, 2018, we trained the third cohort of DIAL interns at KLL premises in Chundevi. The program is designed in such a way that we design every next cohort using the learning from our own assessment of the last cohort and feedback of participants from previous cohorts. The third cohort had 11 interns, compared to 10 in first cohort and 22 in second cohort.
The internship orientation was designed to not only train interns on mapping and digital leadership skills, but also to provide them with a fun and meaningful experience. This means we organized the training in 4 full days (7 hours each) in order to provide enough time to learn, absorb, practice and reflect on the learning experience. The training schedule also featured timely energizers, interactions with relevant professionals, and short discourses on important concepts and issues. Orientation schedule can be accessed here.
Breaking ice, reflecting, and having fun
Every day of the training began with an ice-breaking session that set the scene for diverse learning throughout the day. The games ranged from those intended to enable the interns to remember each others’ names in a fun way to ones that facilitated reflection on competitive behavior and communication skills. There were games to ensure that the interns were able to get refreshed and have fun while learning even in between sessions. Energizers such as Ninja-Cowboy-Bear game helped participants understand their own decision-making processes and games such as Jump In, Jump Out were tools to foster understanding on the importance of good communication. These games had the added advantage of increasing cooperation and comfort among participants.
The daily sessions came to an end with a reflection session. We believe that the impetus to change comes from within, and self-reflection is the way to get to that. Reflection is key to understanding how one can learn better in order to contribute to the development of self and others. Hence, toward the end of every day, we conducted a reflection session and encouraged the interns to talk on their highlight of the day, what could be improved, what did they like or dislike and so on. It surprised us how engaged the interns really were on matters related to OSM and beyond – their responses ranging from ideas on contribution to self, to understanding the importance of work culture.
The participants were also asked to fill in a feedback form every day, and asked to be as critical as possible in doing so. One reason was that we are constantly looking for grounded perspectives on improving our work. A recurrent feedback was that the interns really enjoyed the fun approach toward learning. They also valued the ‘leadership’ aspect of the internship – where individuals from different walks of life talked about their journeys and causes such as progressive education, civic engagement, sustainable development goals among others. At the end of the day, the interns were more familiar with the value of mapping and enjoyed doing so with people from different disciplines.
During the period of four days long training participants were taught lots of mapping tools and field data collection procedures. On the very first day of the training participants introduce themselves by a game called “Blind Mapping”, where two participants, facing their backs create a paper map showing the route they took to reach Kathmandu Living Labs premises. During the process they were not allowed to use any landmarks and proper names. This session was done so that they could understand how digital maps overcame paper based traditional maps.
This session was followed by letting interns explore OpenStreetMap (OSM) website. They tried to find their house in the map and had to figure out what features could be mapped and what were already mapped. They discovered the navigation feature and the way how OSM attributes the user who created it. On the same day, participants were also introduced to mapping in OSM using iD Editor, one of the web based tools to edit OpenStreetMap. Participants were excited to see the earth from aerial view via satellite imagery. Then, veteran mapper Manoj Thapa form KLL taught them about editing OSM using iD Editor. As the participants were new to it, at first they were confused but guidance from other facilitators proved to be helpful.
On the second day, participants were excited to go to field and collect data. Before that, Gaurav Thapa from KLL, briefed them on ethical challenges and things to be kept in mind while in the field. After that students were taught about OSM Tracker, an android application to collect field data. Three groups were formed for field work where each group created a list of features they wanted to collect on the field and shared with each other. Participants then went for an hour long field work around Maharajgunj area. While on the field, participants were confused about how to use “Voice Recording” feature on OSM Tracker but they were confident on using “Text Note” and “Take Photo” feature. On the very same day, interns were also introduced to “JOSM”, another OpenStreetMap editing offline tool. Manoj Thapa taught them about basics of JOSM. At first they found it little difficult then iD Editor, as in JOSM they have to use a same tool to create point, line and polygon (area) while iD has different tools to create it.
More than just maps!
The interns had opportunities to learn from the experiences and interact with few people working in mapping, progressive education and Digital Leadership.
On Day 2, we had a webinar with Retired Prof. Dr. Helmut Seichter from Germany. He is also an avid mapper who has mapped Eastern Nepal in OpenStreetMap in his leisure. As DIAL interns also contribute their leisure time to map Nepal, he shared his motivations to map a faraway country and mapping challenges he faced in the process. Dr. Seichter emphasized on the need for people from Nepal to be involved in mapping, as they understand the context better and can identify attributes from satellite imagery better.
Students also interacted with Dr. Nama Raj Budhathoki, Executive Director of Kathmandu Living Labs. After learning about Dr. Budhathoki, the students wanted to know more about his decisions to choose OpenStreetMap as his subject for doctoral dissertation at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, return to Nepal after finishing in post-doc at McGill University, and decision to start Kathmandu Living Labs. Dr. Budhathoki was also asked about the role that youth like themselves can take on to advance OpenStreetMap movement in Nepal. He chose to answer it on final day of the program, to which he replied that youth can be ambassadors of OpenStreetMap to talk about the project, help others learn the project and be active in engaging others by starting mapping clubs and community events.
On the third day, students interacted with Narottam Aryal, Executive Director of King’s College Nepal. He talked about the relevance of progressive education, community as curriculum and experiential learning. The students also heard from former Digital Interns from Cohort I and II about their DIAL experience and how it has helped them.
On the final day, a panel discussion was moderated by Sazal Sthapit, Projects Manager at KLL. The panelists included Arogya Koirala – Tech and Innovation Lead at KLL, Manoj Thapa – Map data expert at KLL, and Kshitiz Khanal, Open Data for Development Research at KLL. The session was intended to unearth Digital Leadership experiences from KLL. Arogya Koirala talked about using OpenStreetMap and other data in the civic-technology applications developed at KLL, Manoj Thapa shared his experiences with mapping and validating data to maintain OSM data quality in Nepal, and Kshitiz Khanal shared how the program helps teach digital leadership skills to the interns.
In addition to the talks and interactions, short discourses on important issues were also integrated in the orientation schedule. On the first day, Ritika Singh – Research Associate at KLL introduced the interns to KLL culture. Similarly, Gaurav Thapa – Mapping Team Lead at KLL spoke about the background, history and philosophy of OpenStreetMap on the same day. On the second day, Gaurav Thapa talked about data, metadata and the ethical issues in data collection. On the third day, Kshitiz Khanal talked about the Sustainable Development Goals and how the interns are contributing to the development goals by contributing to OpenStreetMap.
From the horse’s mouth
We collected feedback using online forms everyday of the training. Most interns rated each day between 8-10 out of 10. This shows that the interns had a pleasant experience. There were some complaints about poor internet and time delays, as we had to schedule sometimes to adjust to various speakers.
One intern writes, “This four day session was very much fruitful than I had expected it would be. Not only mapping but also i got chance to learn many office disciplines and cultures. I feel that i am very lucky to be a part of it and at the same time i feel very sad that those moments will never come again.”
Another intern recalls his interaction with Mr. Narottam Aryal as, “Today, the whole idea behind progressive education was good to know about. Knowing that someone has been trying to question the status quo and working towards the betterment for the overall learning process felt good. I got know that learning always happens with fun , interaction and being challenged.”
After the training, 3 months long internship formally starts. During the internship, students will remotely perform mapping and digital leadership tasks. Remote mentoring and assessment of tasks will be carried out. Students and mentors will be communicating through channels such as Google Group and Facebook group. Physical meetings will also be organized during the internship period. We are all excited about the internship program!
Written by Ritika Singh, Roshan Poudel and Kshitiz Khanal.