Information Technology, Computer Science, Engineering and Geography are male dominated research and employment sectors. OpenStreetMap (OSM) lies at the intersection of these fields and is similarly male dominated. While the communities for these sectors experience continuous growth in numbers and global extent, the number of female participants in these communities usually fail to keep up the pace. Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL) is trying to address this bias through training and integrating Nepali women in OSM mapping.
With this in mind KLL had organized the first ever Mapping Event in 2013. Last Saturday, KLL invited the fellows of Women Leaders in Technology (WLiT) to join a special OSM session. In the event, participants had a chance to learn about mapping and OSM as well as possible ways to contribute to OSM. In the hands-on mapping session, participants gained the first experiences on the use and contribution to the global OSM database.
The two and a half hour long mapping party began with an opening remarks by Dr. Nama Raj Budhathoki, Executive Director of Kathmandu Living Labs and a person who plays a critical role in developing the OpenStreetMap community, and creating an ecosystem around open data in Nepal. He talked about a variety of fields from geography to technology and the importance of map data in our daily life.
After the opening session, Jasna Budhathoki, an active female mapper and President of Rato Bangla School Mapping Club. She has been mapping from a very young age and was at hand to share her experience of becoming a mapper and how she started the mapping club (her journey into mapping). She also introduced the OSM website with some hands-on tasks, which the tech savvy fellows thoroughly enjoyed.
After getting familiar with the OSM website, Melanie Eckle, board member of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and research assistant at the HeiGIT/GIScience Research Group at Heidelberg University, provided some information about the use of OpenStreetMap for disaster and humanitarian purposes. Furthermore she trained the fellows on how to use the HOT Tasking Manager and how to contribute and edit data using OSM editors.
For this training, one of the least mapped places of the western region of Nepal, Patan Municipality, Baitadi district, was chosen as our area of interest. Helina Shrestha, Jasna Budhathoki, Sushma Giri and Melanie Eckle facilitated the fellows during their first mapping session to help them map these places.
We are buoyed by the active participation, interest and energy our participants demonstrated during the workshop. However, the real measure of a mapping event’s success is what its participants do after the event is over – do they continue to contribute to OSM, for instance? In order to provide them with such opportunity, we are currently going through their mapping work and giving them feedback on what they did right and how they can improve their mapping. They are taking these responses positively and that inspires us. What inspires us even more is that we are now receiving questions from these participants on how they can use OSM in their projects. As organizers and members of the OSM community, it makes us happy. We hope they continue to use OSM in the days to come. We are looking forward to organizing more of such events and taking further steps in strengthening girls’ power in OpenStreetMap.