Dear Friends and Sponsors of Wikimapa project,
Before sharing a special report about our news from the field and telling you latest news about what Rede Jovem Coordination team is preparing for launching the next stage of Wikimapa Project, I have the pleasure to bring for all of you the story of this important project, and by that share some nice stories of those who participated on the first stage (pilot) of Wikimapa! Hope you all have fun reading it as we had writing it!
Wikimapa: A pilot initiative on collaborative mapping in Brazil
Wikimapa Project - conceived and executed by Rede Jovem Program - experienced wide national and international media coverage and also had great support from influential web articulators all over the world. In less than one year, project generated highlight news on main media vehicles, from local newspapers to big international TV networks.
Rede Jovem, a social program that has the mission to empower low-income youth from Brazil and stimulate their civic and social participation through the access to new ICTs was created in the year 2000 and began its work implementing communitarian IT centers and spreading a management methodology created taking local youth as leading figure to ensure the use of technology as main tool to deem with local issues. Program coordination team always promotes local activities and qualitative research with local youth for stimulating reflection and the identification of local vocations when establishing partnerships with community based organizations since its conception and in synergy with the values and vision shared among the programs from Comunidade Solidária - context that motivated the creation of Rede Jovem. Rede always fosters the identification of local services, opportunities and structures to ensure community´s appreciation and strengthen local sense of identity through all potential and vocations identified and stimulate content production and sharing trough web tools and solutions besides online participation and interaction.
With the Wikimapa project, the intention is to provide dynamic to practiced working methodology and ensure the creation of a collaborative online map where the identified vocation, services, structures and opportunities are geotagged. The key idea is to promote visibility of good aspects and stuff that low-income communities counts on and has to offer instead of reproducing the usually adopted coverage about low-income reality and areas that only points out and highlights the existent negative aspects as marginality and violence. This negative speech perpetuates that low-income areas should be excluded from the view of ones who may be interested on navigating and knowing about – even if only virtually – the slums and low-income communities from Rio de Janeiro and other cities from Brazil.
The original idea and proposal was to use an existent cartographic base and stimulate the use of mobile phones by youth from low-income communities from Rio de Janeiro for tagging services as well as structures offered locally and to develop a web wiki based system that allows content edition and collaborative construction. However, the project scope had to increase expressively when Rede Jovem found out that there´s a bigger issue and challenge than only ensuring visibility of existent opportunities in low-income areas: the technical restraint and impossibility of tagging places due the fact that slums and low-income areas do not exist on the official online geography and cartography. After this acknowledgement Rede Jovem increased the goals and mission of Wikimapa project: ensure the creation of a new cartographic base to replace the official adding main streets and bystreets before the mapping and tagging work of places and services offered locally could be done.
When the execution stage of the Project began, the coordination team had to deal with many criticism and doubts. The main doubt and critique was related to the use of smartphones for collaborative mapping on low-income areas based upon the perception that low-income youth don’t have access at all to these kinds of devices and high technology. However many researches demonstrate that low-income youth not only wants but also possesses most modern cell phones available for sale. Cell phone is today a major symbol of status among youth regardless of the social class. Having a cell phone equipped with GPS, internet access and all available services on the market means being connected with the world. This demand for being connected with the world is exactly one of the problems that Wikimapa tries to face by taking youth as agents of social change, offering technological resources that qualify the use of cell phones for promoting local development.
During the process of streets collaborative mapping it was possible to identify expressive change on the relation that residents from benefited communities started to identify with the territory where they live. The marginality sensation inherent on not finding references of their occupied space on the world when navigating on virtual maps began to be replaced by the twinkle that could be seen on youth´s eyes after identifying their streets and schools among many other used services available locally. The results that may be seen are the recreation of concepts regarding territory, a strengthened sense of identity, increased self-esteem and expressive contribution to local appreciation.
After starting the mapping work the team involved with the project realized that youth was reproducing and perpetuating the speech usually adopted by public opinion. By that even unconsciously low-income youths were reinforcing pre-judgments that only strengthen the social depth and abyss that tear them away from the city by confirming the already existent dichotomy that illustrates the separation of rich and poor. This reality is beginning to change with the rise of a new vision about the slum, transposing culture boundaries and popular imaginary produced by media coverage. This can be clearly noticed on the speech of Rafaela Gonçalves, Wiki-reporter from Santa Marta slum, that before participating on Wikimapa used to say that she lived in Botafogo, the neighborhood where the slum is located and now, when the same question appears she answers proudly that she lives in Santa Marta community and talks about her place of residence with great enthusiasm.
The street mapping work disclosed the memory of many personalities and characters that tells the story of the communities. On Cidade de Deus community (known as the City of God slum) there are cases such as one about the Tucão Square named after a resident that used to promote parties on the spot or the one about the Zilá Stret locally known as Botafogo Street due the presence of Botafogo soccer team symbol on public phones and street walls, placed by a local fan of the team. Those are stories that defined a local identity and culture that unfortunately is gradually being forgotten due the promoted depreciation driven by the stereotype about slum reality and reproduced by the new generation of residents.
The purpose of Wikimapa project is not to create a map of low-income and slum areas but to integrate and include those areas on the map, providing a new sense of local identity.
The challenge is huge, but the project is counting on detailed planning work that includes effective communication strategies, a long stage for communitarian mobilization, selection and training stage for youth, besides the articulation and establishment of strategic partnerships.
Existing for short time only, the project also counts on over than 800 volunteers registered on the Wikimapa website to map places from Brazil and other countries. Most of them downloaded the application, adopting Wikimapa as main tool for mapping public interest places.
Wikimapa was selected winner for best startup using mobile for social change on the Mobile Premier Award, awarded in partnership with MobileActive.org. Says Katrin Verclas, director of MobileActive.org: "Rede has shown great innovation in using mobiles for story telling and mapping in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Rede Jovem is effectively showing how mobile phones can be used by young people for social inclusion and for their social and political expression. We are impressed!"
This award was major recognition and an important milestone that settled the beginning of a new chapter of Wikimapa story, with awards, rewards and positive feedbacks that helped us disseminate the methodology, technology and thus raise a great number of collaborators worldwide. On the same year that Rede Jovem celebrated its first decade of existence, Wikimapa project achieved expressive results generating many important opportunities for Rede Jovem coordination team, invited, to pitch and present Wikimapa experience, methodology and results on summits, conferences and workshops related to many different themes and therefore met collaborators from different areas such as mobile technology, GIS and Open Source.
Wikimapa Project was announced winner on the Mobile Application Mobilefest Competition from Brazil and as reward participated on the Mobile ICT/Digital Media R&D Exchange in Canada. Also Wikimapa won an Award promoted by an important magazine from Brazil focused on social change and social organizations. Category was Innovation and Technological development for the Third sector in Brasil (social organizations from society). Another great recognition was being selected Winner on South East region (Brazil) on the FINEP Innovation Award 2010 on Social Technology category. This award is promoted by FINEP, the Federal Financing Agency for Studies and Projects.
After a hard year of work to evaluate and systematize the activities, Rede Jovem ended the year of 2010 with a flourish. On December, Wikimapa was announced winner of Stockholm Challenge 2010, on the Economic Development category. The Challenge is considered to be the highest recognition in Information and Communication Technology initiatives worldwide and this year received over 290 entries, from 90 different Countries. In the jury's words: “Wikimapa is a Stockholm Challenge project at its best. It meets all the development and empowerment criteria. It reaches out and in into the poverty areas. The grass roots approach with young people and their familiar ICT environment is a unique aspect of the project. It has the high potential of making "invisible" areas more visible. It does so by distributing knowledge. Wikimapa has a model that can be used elsewhere for similar communities. It can be duplicated in many other countries. Sustainability is always an issue in projects like this but Wikimapa has received sufficient news media and visibility that it will probably go on and expand. Wikimapa has the potential of opening doors and creating new opportunity/jobs by empowering low-income youth. This will be the next step. Wikimapa has the clear vision to bring value added to the low-income groups. Wikimapa does what Brazil, and the world, needs - to contribute to the great wealth distribution”.
After the achievement of great results, Rede Jovem believes in the expansion of the project and also in the possibility of answering the received demands to adapt and create new versions of the website and mobile application ensuring replication and appropriation of the developed methodology in other portions of the globe and by much more users. By that Wikimapa will be used as tool to promote social change all over the world by any organization or people committed with the production of a new and inclusive geography to replace the official and existent one that ignores a huge portion of society and population that does not have sufficient purchasing power to rely on the basic infrastructure that ensures access to citizenship.
Rede Jovem team hopes you've all liked the story and results of Wikimapa project and would love to receive your feedback! Interested on knowing more about our work? Contact us! - firstname.lastname@example.org or send direct messages to me email@example.com!