“I’ve read both parts of [your] article On Empowering Our Youth and agree with you that there is new gold rush where mining raw human potential fueled with imagination through creative use of the Internet and the Web [can] become an economic development strategy [for which] countries like New Zealand can depend upon in the future. Maybe you can write about one or two concrete examples how this can happen for our own local communities ….”
From a comment submitted by: Myers House – North Shore City, Auckland
BACK IN THE OLD DAYS
The Map of Roger or ‘Tabula Rogeriana’ was a world map drawn for the Norman King Roger II of Sicily by a learned Andalusian geographer, carto-grapher and traveler of Arab descent by the name of Muhammad al-Idrisi in 1154. In that map, al-Idrisi incorporated the knowledge of Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East gathered by Islamic merchants and explorers recorded on Islamic maps with information brought by Norman voyagers to create the most accurate map of the world in pre-modern times.
The compilation of the Tabula Rogeriana by al-Idrisi marked the dawn of a new era in the history of mankind’s development. Not only was its historical inform-ation interesting, useful and valuable, but its descriptions of many parts of the then known Earth was authoritative. For three centuries geographers copied his maps without alteration and not until another 400 years later, when Samuel Baker (a British explorer and naturalist) and Henry Morton Stanley (the Welsh journalist and explorer), was the mechanical accuracy of al-Idrisi’s map sur-passed.
So why are maps so useful to us?
The simplest answer we can give you is that maps are a visual representation of an area – a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of that space such as objects, regions, and themes. Although most commonly used to depict geography, maps may also represent any space, real or imagined, without regard to context or scale.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
The functionality of maps today have been greatly advanced by technologies which simplify the superimposition of spatially-located variables onto existing geographical maps allowing for more efficient analysis and better decision-making.
From the last two decades of the 20th century, the indispensable tool of cartographers has been the computer. Much of cartography today, especially at the data-gathering survey level, are driven by Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It is a system that captures, stores, analyses, manages, and presents data that are linked to location by skillful merging of cartography, statistical analysis, and database technology.
To communicate spatial information effectively, GIS users make use of what’s called automatic label placement or ALP. It is also sometimes called text placement or name placement. ALP eases the process of creating interactive maps. It uses computer-aided methods of placing labels automatically on a map or chart all the while allowing users to zoom in or zoom out to increase or decrease scale without too much loss of visual integrity.
MAPS FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
With GIS technologies, imagine now how Faith in Families and its technology partners can make it possible for a local community to collect and create their own customised community map, one that will contain detailed information of all their community assets and resources such as, to name a few: their schools, hospitals and clinics, pharmacies, historical sites, police stations, fire departments, libraries, repair shops, coffee shops, bakeries, dry cleaners, theaters and other enter-tainment establishments, dining outlets, food choice stores, shopping centres, parks and recreation areas, gardens and commons, internet cafes, other ser-vices, and even points of interest for tourists wanting to visit their community.
Simply pointing and clicking on an interactive map on the Web can display the best a community can offer. What’s more, it’s a clever but subtle way to promote a community to anyone who has access to the Internet. This is not an insignificant statement because according to Internet World Stats, the number of people who can access the Internet is estimated to be about 1.8-billion people (26.6% of total) around the world and over 3.3-million people (79.7% of total) living in New Zealand! That’s certainly not small change, is it?
Liveable and vibrant communities are created by neighbours helping neighbours and Faith in Families believes community mapping is an excellent way to identify them, their assets, their networks and as well provide other opportun-ities which can help them develop further.
By using data and web-based tools, any local community can virtually create for itself a visual display of where their community is and what it is all about. Web-based interactive asset mapping even allows young and older community mem-bers alike to sign-up and add their own thoughts and pictures … an online community involvement project!
BY THE COMMUNITY FOR THE COMMUNITY
Community mapping is a process carried out by the community for the community. Because of its poten-tial impact, it is now one project that Faith in Families is developing as a tool – one that aims to tap into and expand the breadth of knowledge, information, and experiences within communities in order grow their capacity to deal with a variety of issues and challenges while also enabling them to develop their own solutions and opportunities in ways they see fit.
When local communities and their neighbourhoods carry out surveys of their own area and use that data to build an accurate representation of what their community actually looks like, in a way it keeps that information within their community and neighbourhoods. It’s like looking at yourself in the mirror every morning before breakfast and saying to yourself, “ … hmmm, I think I can do something good about that today.”
By just doing something like that, it puts them in a much stronger position to represent themselves with NGOs, service providers, local, and national gov-ernment agencies in matters like funding support for community-based projects or provisioning of new services they lack or desire to have. Undertaking the very process itself creates a valuable and unique identity too.
Lastly, it is a way for encouraging and empowering communities to take more action by themselves for themselves – ones that will skill up and build capacity for their own members.
So there you have it, Mr. House. We end talking any more about it at this point lest more of the cat’s tail gets out of our bag!