URISA's GISCorps Actively Supporting Two Projects in Caribbean

February 7, 2011 - 3:08pm — Wendy Nelson, At URISA’s 2010 Caribbean GIS Conference in Trinidad, MapAction volunteers who participated in the on-the-ground response immediately following the devastating Haiti earthquake last year, spoke about the importance of readily available and accurate data in such a response. (Recall that the National GIS Centre in Haiti was destroyed in the earthquake and data was difficult to obtain.) This discussion evolved into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently signed between GISCorps and MapAction. The MOU highlighted the mutual interest of the two organizations in providing GIS Assistance to communities affected by disasters throughout the world.

To start the collaboration, both teams agreed on conducting a pilot project for three Caribbean countries. A job description was developed and it was determined that six volunteers would be needed. The recruitment team has already begun the search process. The goal of this project is to collate spatial data concerning administrative districts, transport networks and population data for the Caribbean Basin countries of Belize, Bermuda and Saint Lucia. The resulting datasets will be used by the disaster-response NGO MapAction, URISA GISCorps, humanitarian agencies and national emergency management organizations in humanitarian missions supporting search and rescue, logistics for food distribution to affected populations.

The project will deploy six GISCorps volunteers for two months. Volunteers will be involved in data mining/collation/cleansing/creation. There will be an overall MapAction project manager and a MapAction project coordinator for each country to assist in compiling existing data and identifying gaps, QA/QC volunteer outputs as well as organize and communicate with MapAction and GISCorps staff. To see the job description for this mission, visit http://www.giscorps.org/documents/mapaction_jd.pdf

The other Caribbean project involves Fonkoze, a US based nonprofit organization, that requested the assistance of a GISCorps volunteer in implementing a complete GPS data collection and web mapping of all of their "credit centers" (2,000 locations that their clients visit to repay loans and receive health and education services). Fonkoze is the largest micro-finance institution in Haiti offering a full range of financial services to the rural-based poor in Haiti. Following a search, Joe Dickinson, a GISCorps volunteer from Seattle, WA was recruited for this project. Fonkoze project representative, James Kurz recently reported that 95 GPS units, 50 battery chargers, and batteries were purchased with the help of Joe’s research and “processed” (changed to the correct GPS coordinate format, French, charged, and numbered so they can keep track of inventory). Fonkoze has put together a training program for their staff so that they can train their staff about why they are doing the collection, in order to promote understanding and professional development. The real action will begin when the units hit the ground in Haiti. Meanwhile, the GISCorps volunteer is working with Fonkoze's webmaster to get the specs on their webserver and assembling data and scripts to build a test/proof of concept of the web mapping component of the project.

For updates on these and nine other URISA GISCorps projects currently in progress, visit  www.giscorps.org.

Operating under the auspices of URISA, GISCorps coordinates short term, volunteer based GIS services to underprivileged communities .

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