Nonprofits and humanitarian relief agencies are using location data to tackle some of the most challenging problems in the world today: from housing discrimination, to climate change, to disease prevention.

Water insecurity is one of the biggest challenges being addressed today by nonprofits, journalists, and technology companies, both at home and abroad.

Let’s take a look at how location intelligence helps transform location data into possible solutions for water insecurity problems.

Enriching water data through crowdsourcing and other external sources

How can nonprofits find data-driven solutions when location data on water resources are not readily accessible? The Regional Food Security Analysis Network RFSAN) and cMapIT confronted this problem while trying to improve water access in Syria and Nigeria respectively. But let’s see how both organizations employed Location Intelligence to surmount this obstacle.

The Regional Food Security Analysis Network (RFSAN)

The Regional Food Security Analysis Network (RFSAN) is a nonprofit based in Amman, Jordan using open data provided from several different humanitarian groups including iMMAP and USAID Food for Peace. RFSAN leverages these various data sources while locating solutions to:

  • Eradicate hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition
  • Eliminate poverty to ensure economic and social progress
  • Encourage sustainable management and utilization of natural resources for future generations

As Syria’s civil war enters its sixth year, however, it is nearly impossible safely assess current conditions on the ground.

For its Water Resources map, RFSAN’s team of data analysts imported available datasets on both Syrian infrastructure and water resources gained from satellite imagery. In building this interactive map identifying the amount and location current water resources, RFSAN is helping raise situational awareness of the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis while providing a much needed data resource for future relief work.

WaterDataNG

In response to a World Bank risk assessment on Nigerian water insecurity, cMapIT, a Grants for Good program recipient, attempted to provide transparency on water supply and consumption levels in Nigeria. Problematically, neither a technological infrastructure nor reliable data on water resources existed.

cMapIT, undaunted, enlisted help from both Nigerian citizens and water point operators first to collect water data that would allow the organization to build WaterDataNG. As a result, crowdsourced data visualizations showing water supply and consumption across Nigeria were made available, which also allowed cMapIT to lay the foundation for open data portal for Nigeria.

In response to a World Bank risk assessment on Nigerian water insecurity, cMapIT, a Grants for Good program recipient, attempted to provide transparency on water supply and consumption levels in Nigeria. However, neither a technological infrastructure nor reliable data on water resources existed.

cMapIT enlisted help from both Nigerian citizens and water point operators to collect water data that would allow the organization to build WaterDataNG. They created crowdsourced data visualizations showing water supply and consumption across Nigeria, which allowed cMapIT to lay the foundation for an open data portal for Nigeria.

Visualizing water contamination data.

Access to clean drinking water is not only a problem for countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Lead contamination is a serious problem across the United States. While Flint, Michigan’s lead contamination crisis made headlines in 2016, data journalists continue to identify higher than reported lead contamination in drinking water across the United States.

Journalists have built data visualizations showing school districts whose antiquated irrigation systems have contributed to increased lead levels in drinking water in cities like:

Houston, Texas

San Diego, California

New York, New York

In each visualization, journalists employed interactive features, like widgets, to encourage higher levels of engagement from local residents. In response to public outrage, the state of California began to offer free testing for lead in school drinking water, demonstrating the power of location data on driving change.

Interacting with near real-time data

Global Fishing Watch, an interactive map monitoring fishing vessels around the world, has taken data visualizations to the next level. This transparency tool is the result of collaboration among several tech companies, including Google, SkyTruth, Oceana, and Vizzuality, to reduce ocean pollution caused from illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

In its demand for greater data transparency, public and private sector accountability, and citizen engagement, Global Fishing Watch provides anyone with an internet connection near real-time data on approximately 60,000 vessels on the waters at any given time.

By making fishing monitoring accessible in near real-time, the Global Fishing Watch has motivated world leaders, like Indonesia’s Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs Susi Pudjiastuti, to increase transparency on their countries fishing industry with more open data.

Conclusion

“Good leaders know that using and interpreting data is not only a search for insights,” writes Frank V. Cespedes and Amir Peleg in their recent Harvard Business Review article, it is “also about enlisting the hearts and minds of the people who must act on those insights.”

We couldn’t agree more.

If you’re looking for more information on ways to use location data for good, then don’t miss our upcoming webinar!

Learn more tips on working with location data for good at our upcoming webinar on June 22, 2017 at 1PM EST/ 7PM CET

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