Community Lightning Talk, Aliya Ryan – Transcription

And Aliya is next.

Next up, Aliya Ryan talking about offline maps in Ecuador. Take it away.

Hi. So this is Opi. He’s the coordinator of a project to map 2 million acres of the rain forest in southeast Ecuador. I’m Aliya Ryan. I work with Digital Democracy. But I’m going to tell you his story and his people’s story. So about two years ago we were contacted by Opi and others who live in about 54 small villages. I’m talking about villages of less than 200 people deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Mainly reachable by plane, on foot. The government has overlapped their land with oil concessions. But they have seen the environmental, social and health impacts that oil extraction can have and they don’t want any new oil development on their land. As a part of their strategy to defend their territory, they want to make maps to illustrate the special relationship they have with land. So it’s important for subsistence, hunting, gathering and fishing and smallscale farming. And also their spiritual and historical connection with it. They want maps to show how their livelihoods and cultures would be impacted if oil operations were to happen. In addition, they sent a couple people to learn ArcGIS. But they found this overly complex for their needs and alienated other community members because it concentrated knowledge and control in a couple individuals in the communities. And this is completely antithetical to the autonomous and independent Huaorani. We have a new tool to enable them to map simply and collaboratively. And they have been piloting if for about 18 months, giving us feedback on the development. So they like it because it’s easy to use and to teach others to use. It’s adapted from OpenStreetMap’s ID editor. ID editor has been modified for offline use. This is crucial because many communities don’t have permanent electricity let alone cell phone signal or Internet. They can use Mapeo collaboratively, and team members coming back to sync over a peer to peer system and share the synced files with a simple USB device. In Mapeo, it is private and protecting culturally sensitive data. And they can decide what information to make public and how. It allows them to tag and classify items in ways meaningful and relevant to them and use custom icons they designed. There are 54 villages and a team of three travel between them working in a few villages at any one time. When the team arrives, they start with a participatory workshop in which the villagers draw a map, marking the rivers, streams, hunting paths, historical sites and other resources upon which they depend. Then they train a couple of people to use a GPS and do extensive ground truthing, collecting GPS points along all the important paths and of farmlands, hunting, fishing and other significant sites. Currently they record all details about the points in a notebook and back in the village they copy the GPS and assign tags. And we are currently developing the Mapeo mobile app. And after updating Mapeo with changes, the final maps are printed and returned. In many ways their methodology is similar to that of many other indigenous mapping projects across the world. However, while many involve community members in the data collection aspects, in very few cases do the communities maintain control and decision-making power during the data entry and publication process. However, with Mapeo, they can stay in the villages almost the whole time, leading to community members retaining far greater ownership of the mapping process and its products. So the maps are made by those who know the land and its history better than anyone. Their maps are a testament to their detailed geographic, ecological, historic and cultural knowledge. And also works of art, giving insight into the Huaorani world view. We hope they won’t be the only ones to benefit from Mapeo. And hopeful it’s useful to other indigenous people and academics, scientists and others in cases where offline, collaborative mapping is wanted. You can download and test Mapeo today if you want to. And we would welcome any feedback on it. Thank you. [ Applause ]