Review of the KU 2015 Fellowship

KU Development Studies students and YI data experts at a joint AidData-YI presentation

KU Development Studies students and YI data experts at a joint AidData-YI presentation


Aarti and I achieved most of our goals at KU and paved a clear path for future collaboration with AidData.One of our greatest successes over the summer was in coordinating with Young Innovations – the technical arm of the Open Nepal Movement ¬– to assist with GIS trainings for the graduate students. In the process, Aarti and I had extensive contact with a number of skilled individuals at YI who will be valuable partners for AidData in the future. Young Innovations was also instrumental in helping to coordinate a second Open Nepal Conference, a meeting of various leaders of Nepal’s civil society, academic, and government institutions to discuss open data.

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Live and Learn in Lamjung

Students in Sahilitar mapping a bridge with GPS

Students in Sahilitar mapping a bridge with GPS

Namascar,
On July 13, Aarti and I stumbled up a precarious hillside path to our temporary home in Sahilitar, Lamjung District. With the help of a translator, we spent a week teaching 20 students at the Shree Gyanodaya Higher Secondary School how to think spatially, using GPS to map their community to this end. The students struggled at first to overcome a number of misconceptions: most had difficulty envisioning objects from a bird’s-eye view, and had not considered mapping as related to photography or math. We tailored our lessons to take advantage of the student’s skill with geometry, which they were in the process of learning during their regular school hours. Geometry is critical to cartography, so they picked up the basics more rapidly than we had initially expected based on their prior inexperience with maps. By the end of the training, they were able to confidently orient themselves North and South, to conceive of their community in geospatial terms, and were prepared to begin mapping online for Open Street Map (OSM).

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Game Changers in Hattiban and Dhulikhel

My sixth week at the School of Arts was a mixed bag.
The refresher course and advanced training week for KU staff fell short of what my colleague, Aarti Reddy, and I had planned. All of the Development Studies professors and the dean himself made an appearance at the opening presentation by Young Innovations, but we had lost most of our audience within an hour. When I consulted one of the few remaining scholars, he admitted that many were unwilling to learn ArcGIS because they were frustrated with the early expiration of the software last year. However open the staff may have been to GIS initially, some had become wary of a tool that might suddenly and permanently stop working. There was a handful of teachers who were still willing to learn, and one of them advised us to take a different tact.

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New Developments in Development Studies at KU

My opening lecture to KU Masters of Development students

My opening lecture to KU Masters of Development students


Namascar,
My first two weeks at KU School of Arts gave me cause for excitement. While GIS had fallen out of use at the campus months previously, a number of people had continued to think of ways to apply geospatial methods to their work. One PHD candidate wanted to digitize a map of internal migration between various Village Development Communities (VDC’s) in rural Nepal. A different graduate student approached me about monitoring land use change to predict future resource constraints. These are encouraging signs that KU remains a potential incubator for social science GIS research in Nepal. Another such organization is Young Innovations (YI), the technical arm of the Open Nepal Movement, which aims to increase transparency and access to information to improve foreign aid and government finance planning. The parallels between Young Innovations and AidData are striking, so I was extremely pleased to meet a member of YI on my second day at the university.

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Introduction to Kathmandu University School of Arts

Fine Arts building (with sculptures) at left, Development Studies Department at center.

Fine Arts building (note sculptures) at left, Development Studies Department at center.

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