Texas Tech University

Students Gain Valuable Workforce Skills While Filling Data Gaps in the World's Open Map

Glenys Young

May 16, 2017


Four Texas Tech University students will work with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

OpenStreetMap is a map of the world, created by people like you and free to use under an open license.

More than 10 million changes have been made recently to the world's free, editable public map, OpenStreetMap, by YouthMappers, a network of university students who have united to create and use open spatial data to directly address development challenges in the most impoverished countries on the planet.

A few of those students have been selected to work directly with the U.S. Global Development Lab's GeoCenter, part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), on a set of priority projects under a virtual internship, running from June to August.

Bruno Blanco, Megan Rodriguez, Emily Glaeser and David Tomlinson from Texas Tech University are part of a select group of 14 students from 10 U.S. universities to participate in the internship, chosen for their leadership on their home campus in supporting international development projects through mapping with the YouthMappers network.

The internship emphasizes the creation and utilization of open data and open-source software for geographic information directly related to development objectives in unmapped places of the world where USAID works to end extreme poverty.

About YouthMappers
As one of the co-founding chapters of the network, the TTU YouthMappers are enthusiastic to serve as interdisciplinary leaders to help create open geographic data and analyses that address locally defined development challenges worldwide.
The chapter strives to exchange and collaborate with other chapters around the globe while also offering themselves as a local resource and service to Texas Tech student organizations in ways that add value to their respecitive campus activities through mapping.

In addition to mapping, students are encouraged to explore new technologies to accomplish mapping tasks and engage with YouthMappers chapters in other countries. They will work as a team in a virtual environment and become proficient in mapping and validating the volunteered work done through crowd-mapping. The interns gain valuable 21st-century workforce skills while helping with humanitarian and development needs. They will also write blog posts about their experiences.

Previous interns have contributed to improving food security in Bangladesh, health and malaria prevention in Mozambique and disaster preparation and assistance in Ecuador after the April 2016 earthquake, where the maps were immediately put to use by the humanitarian and relief agencies to assist victims of the natural disaster.

All new data created by YouthMappers is open and accessible to the public using the OpenStreetMap platform and tools to ensure it is freely available for the greater public good, particularly local populations planning for the welfare and vitality of their own communities.

The YouthMappers network of chapters organizes a global community of learners and scholars to work locally and exchange collaboratively to help create resilient communities. The program seeks to not just build maps, but to build mappers, supporting universities and colleges to offer meaningful global learning experiences, build a socially engaged citizenry, enhance long-term scientific capacity around the world and foster youth exchange and leadership.

The 2017 virtual interns are students from Texas Tech; George Washington University; West Virginia University; George Mason University; the University of Central Florida; The University of Southern California; Clemson University; California University of Pennsylvania; Central Washington University; and State University of New York, Geneseo.

USAID generously supports this program through a grant from the U.S. Global Development Lab's GeoCenter. Founding partner universities are Texas Tech, George Washington and West Virginia. To date, 62 universities in 20 countries have formed student-led chapters in the network.

This initiative was formally launched in 2015 on Capitol Hill as part of the national Geography Awareness Week, and the network was inaugurated in 2016. New chapters of students are still being formed and are welcome to join the network.

For more information about YouthMappers, visit its website.

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