Integrating OpenStreetMap in the local governance of Nepal

Aishworya Shrestha and Sushma Ghimire

Playlists: 'sotm2022' videos starting here / audio

Through open mapping, we hope to inspire local youths and leaders to use technology to improve and create sustainable local governance system. We engaged 44 youths from 3 municipalities to participate in open mapping in first phase. In second phase, we gathered 10 IT officials from province 2 and highlighted OSM to connect geospatial elements for better local-level administration.

Here, we will discuss our methodological framework, challenges, how we gained support from local units to coordinate with community youth, and impacts we successfully created. This talk will be relevant to those interested in laying a strong foundation not only for better governance but also for engaging youths.

The success of local governments in meeting development targets is crucial for the goals of federalism in Nepal. The local governments have a colossal opportunity to set the course of development based on people’s aspirations, as citizens have increased power and responsibility to choose and act on their agenda in the federal system. However, these governments face daunting challenges in human, capital, and other resource constraints. Innovative citizen-centric approaches are necessary to navigate these challenges to achieve the development goals. It is also imperative to note that properly achieving the development goals and measuring their progress is contingent on decision making and planning, driven by data. Geospatial data is valuable to the local economy and community in various aspects. The openness of the information, or more specifically the freedom to access and use such open data, is crucial to achieving such multiplier effects of taxpayer-funded data generation processes.

So hereby, our interest lies in training and encouraging local youths and leaders to leverage technology for good governance through open mapping in coordination with local administrative units. Our initiative looks beyond the myopic vision of training a handful of youth on digital mapping to create a limited number of outputs, i.e. maps. We implemented a mechanism in which we created a batch of OpenStreetMap (OSM) leaders, who in their regions, can inspire and enable such processes beyond the life of any particular project. As such, we wanted to set in motion a process that can beget far-reaching, longer-term benefits in the form of active citizenry (on the youths’ part) and data-driven development (on the local governments’ part). This will be in addition to the immediate, short-term outputs such as up-to-date maps and enhanced mapping skills of the mappers.

In the first phase, KLL trained 44 citizens from 3 local bodies in the use of OSM and mapping in coordination with the municipality. The trained youths were also involved field data collection. Simultaneously, we started remotely mapping the municipality. Based on the need, we collected field data to complete the map. On mutual interests and availability of resources, the mapping of the local governments included points of interest like: Roads, Settlements, Educational institutions, Health facilities, Government offices, Banking institutions and others as agreed upon by the municipalities. Using the data hence collected, we created softcopies and hard copies of ward (smaller administrative unit of government in Nepal) level and municipality level maps and handed them over to the municipalities for their use.

In the second phase, to ensure better understanding of OSM within the local governments, we trained 10 IT officers from Province 2 on OpenStreetMap, its uses and applications in local governance. We also led a focused group discussion on how open mapping can be utilised by municipalities, what features need to be mapped for the integration of OSM in local governance and challenges they foresee in this process.

Hence, we will be discussing our methodological framework and challenges in involving local youths and leaders in open mapping and in contributing to develop more promising local level governance. We will also share how we gained needed support from the local units to coordinate with the youth of the community and the impacts we successfully created. This talk will be relevant to those interested in laying a strong foundation not only for good governance with the core idea of open mapping and its application at its center but also for involving local youth in the process.