Why Community Mapping?

After the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010, innovations in information communication and technology has helped disseminate crucial information for post-disaster rescue and relief efforts. Crisis maps became a valuable platform and resource for communities, the Haitian government and international organizations during these periods. According to the report “Media, Information Systems and Communities: Lessons from Haiti”, authored by Anne Nelson and Ivan Sigal with Dean Zambrano, “The most notable innovations to emerge from Haiti were: the translation of crowdsourced data to actionable information, the use of SMS message broadcasting in a crisis, [and] crowdsourcing of open maps for humanitarian application.”[1] The development and use of crisis maps after the calamity had assisted in carrying out disaster response efforts, consequently, helped save lives.

Mapping and crowdsourced information has found new value after the earthquake in Haiti. And a resource easily available and be tapped to produce community maps in the country is the Haitian youth. 34.6% of the country’s population (Almost 9.9 Million as of July 2013) is below 14 years old while 21.5% is in the age of 15 to 24 years. Additionally, the country’s median age is 21.9 years.[2] Haiti’s young demographic provides a huge potential for community mapping programs that are not only needed during times of crisis. This population group presents unique needs and skills that make the application and implementation of community mapping programs manageable. Furthermore, these programs provide young people access to meaningful contribution to the development of their country. It also creates awareness to social even environmental issues happening around them.

[2] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ha.html


  • To train and build capacity of Haitian youth to collect, input and analyze data for community maps and that these skills may be useful for future employment.
  • To encourage the youth to participate in the development of their communities
  • To develop maps that will help communities stay informed especially during situations of crisis such as natural disasters

Program Design Considerations for the Social Tap Youth Community Mapping Project

  • Involving boys and girls in the project
  • Training by specialists, teaching them how to collect data in three ways: through place-based surveys, group discussions, and one-on-one interviews.
  • Teaching basic computer skills for data input and analysis
  • Transportation might be needed within the community
  • Literacy is an area of concern. The project works better with higher levels of literacy
  • Selection? We could put the kids into groups and make the oldest and/or most literate take the lead, with the other kids in the group being the assistants

Project Description
Performance Indicator
Means of Verification
Workshops on creating and running crisis maps that includes teaching them skills on data collection (conducting surveys, focus-group discussions, one-on-one interviews), input (computer software and mapping platform) and analysis skills
- Students’ engagement to the workshop measured by the number of students trained, their attendance rate

- Students’ active involvement after the workshop will be measured by the percentage of students who continue to provide data after 3 months and the number of data points each is adding

- Students’ improved computer skills as seen in the ability to navigate through the data management and mapping program as well as update them
- Number of people using the maps

- Number of people who think that the maps are useful and trustworthy
- Haitan youth are interested to participate (and interest can be sustained)

- Haitan youth accurately and objectively reporting data

- Haitan youth are literate and basic understanding of using computers and technology devices

- Haitans find value in crisis maps

The Goal of Community Youth Mapping Program

To provide young people with the ability to meaningful contribute to the development of their country. Opening this space allows for changes in young people’s self-perceptions and their relationships to their compatriots. As 40% of Haiti’s population is under the age of 15, it is imperative that infrastructure be receptive to the unique needs and skills of this group.

Project Needs
Social Tap, Inc. has 12 Dell laptops donated from Hunter’s College, but the use of tablets would be more conducive for a successful mapping project. Dell laptops combined with SMS messages can be used for community mapping along with the use of 5 tablets.
  • Open Source Mapping App
  • 5 Tablets (approximately $50 each by Surtab)
  • 10 Cellphones
  • Part-time Web Developer to create an operating OS platform applicable to the community in Cyvadier
  • 1 Trainer need to assist the youth in learning how to use the tablets, how to use the mapping app, and how to create maps that are useful to the community.

When is Success?

Success will be measured by surveys distributed within the community two years after the Community Mapping project has begun. The surveys will ask people’s knowledge of the project, if they have utilized the service, and if they would trust the information in a time of need.
Long-term success can also be measured if a natural disaster or emergency hits the area. The students can see the number of people who utilize their map, number of people who adds content, and how effective the map is at helping the community in a time of need.

Key Stakeholders

  1. Digicel: They are introducing affordable tablets with GIS capacities and increase their network coverage.
  2. PLAN--NGO: They have a large presence in Jacmel and other cities in Southeasern Haiti and can increase the utilization and accuracy of the maps.
  3. Fonkoze bank: They are piloting a youth microfinance program in Jacmel.
  4. KONPAY: Current partner of Social Tap.
  5. Community Leaders: They can provide baseline input to create maps that are effectively utilized by the community.
  6. School Administration: They can assist by increasing awareness of the project among youth in Jacmel. This can increase the amount of people providing information for the map.

Youth community mapping is a platform that can be analyzed through McLuhan’s tetrad of media.

Enhance:Youth community mapping enhances the current crisis mapping platform because youth community mapping recognizes that young people are often very aware of undercurrents in their community, allows them to develop their own skills and shelves the believe that communities should be networked only in times of crisis in favor of providing ways for all stakeholders shape their communities. Youth community mapping also signals to young people that they are worthy of trust and responsibility by allowing them to outline their communities.

Retrieve:I don’t believe t hat youth community mapping brings an earlier action or service back into play because young people do not traditionally have leadership roles within Haitian society. I do believe that this concept, as reaffirmed by the massive push to help victims of the 2010 earthquake, underscores the power of radio, word of mouth and flyers in Haitian society. We are unsure of what the final product will look like, but my group recognizes that community mapping will have a radio component to it.

Reverse: I think that the major weakness of youth community mapping is trusting young people to accurately and objectively layout the strengths and weaknesses of their own communities. Because even scientific data acknowledges that young people’s brains are still developing in adolescence, the issue of maturity comes into play. Inevitably, one young person will exaggerate or lie about a claim, would have real effects on distribution chains, as distributors and supplies could be potentially skewed.

Obsolete:The concept of youth community mapping could potentially dis-incentivize the state from creating its own infrastructure or investing in existing infrastructure to ensure that all community members maintain their cohesiveness. This concern leads to the chicken vs. egg debates in development—do NGOs prevent national governments from carrying out sound policies and efficiently managing or do NGOs support areas that, due to their fragility, are unable to deliver resources to their constituents?

Lessons Learned in Community Mapping from the Haiti Earthquake
Best Practices and Lessons Learned in Communication with Diaster Affected Communities: Haiti 2010:
In January 2010 when an earthquake of 7.0 struck Haiti the focus was on finding and evacuating victims. Search and rescue teams were deployed, and a key source of information was social media (such as relatives posting on responder agencies sites) or via SMS.
Key Findings:
  • Dedicated capacity to handle communication, including local language skills, is essential from the earliest days of response
  • Two-way communication systems, which promote dialogue as well as disseminate information, are both viable and operationally important for disaster response
  • Feedback systems need to be designed to make sure the data they capture can be fed back into policy and decision-making levels of response

Case Study in Haiti: The Noula Project

ICCM 2010 "The Noula Platform from Haiti" Sabina Carlson
It's a web-based system for mapping local needs and sources of assistance. The company created a web-based map to chart the needs and where help was available. They connected with Ushahidi, whom provided financial support and training.

Examples of existing/past Community Youth Mapping (CYM) projects in developing countries:
(1) USAID COMMUNITY YOUTH MAPPING PROJECT IN RURAL HAITI! page 8 (ended in 2010)--this is a toolkit on CYM best practices!
(2) the Academic for Educational Development in Egypt ,
(3) more detail of the project in Egypt that is mentioned in the USAID toolkit
(4) Center for Youth Development and Policy Research and in the United States
(5) Muvuku is a SIM app designed by Medic Mobile: This app can be attached to SIM cards to easily fit into basic cellular phones
Watch the quick two minute video that explains how this works
Also watch this video that talks Medic Mobile's $10 cellphones
(6) Online Mapping for Beginners: Free Online Session by CartoDB

For more information about the Surtab Tablets: