Final Musings/Conclusions

I have been back in the States for about 10 days now – it is so hard to believe that my summer in the Philippines is now behind me! After a packed week of RA training back on campus, I have found a little bit of time to reflect about my time abroad this summer. Here I will focus on a couple of factors that made my summer experience truly memorable.

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A Different Role: Teaching GIS

A major component of my work this summer was implementing GIS trainings for my host organization. During my fellowship I conducted one for the staff at ANSA-EAP and another for the auditors at the Commission on Audit (COA) Regional Office in Albay.  Developing these trainings was a much more arduous task than I anticipated! Everything I previously knew about teaching GIS skills came only from my own experiences of being taught GIS – that is, in a formal class setting over the course of a whole semester.  About a week prior to the first session, ANSA informed me that I would only be given three hours per group – and so began the efforts to prune all training materials and guides I had accumulated to somehow create a comprehensive yet accessible introduction to GIS and spatial data concepts. I had to condense material into 3 hours of something that could be tangible to people totally new to the topic! Thus I was forced to really think about what few skills would be of most value to the trainees.

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Open Data Matters

On July 23rd Uganda’s Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team joined USAID and Youth Mappers on a weeklong pre-assessment trip in Karamoja. These three organizations have partnered to implement the “Mapping for Resilience” project: an initiative out of USAID’s Geocenter in Washington D.C. “Mapping for Resilience” will mobilize local youth to gather much needed data on the undermapped region of Karamoja. Despite a high concentration of aid flowing to the area and a relatively high number of nonprofits located on the ground, partners and government officials work with very little geospatial data and struggle to measure and evaluate programming.

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Month #1 at ANSA

I cannot believe that I’ve been in the Philippines for over a month!  I’ve become (well, somewhat) accustomed to the heat, always-noisy streets, smog, and the occasionally frightening tricycle commute. Never again I will I take the ease of getting around in the US for granted – it often takes me an hour to get to another neighborhood in Quezon City, two hours to get to downtown Manila (only about 6 miles away), and three to get to the airport or beyond the Metro area.

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Calling all map nerds!

A month into my fellowship at CERSGIS in Accra, Ghana, we are hitting the ground running. We are beginning to lead professional trainings in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) at the National Development Planning Commission, which will be the main focus of the rest of our time here in Accra. GIS is a digital system that allows the user to perform advanced spatial analysis and ultimately create maps that make what otherwise might be overwhelmingly complicated data more accessible to policymakers, planners, researchers, or consumers.

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