We launched the crowdsourced Blackspot Mapping Project (garbage dump mapping project) in the last week of August, 2016. Two weeks into the project, we are already nearing 200 spots. As we reached out to people for help, we also faced many questions: Why are you doing this? What’s the intent? What will this data be used for? So many apps to map garbage and other issues - why should we contribute data to this project? In this article, we try to explain it all in detail.
Why are you doing this? What’s the intent?
Our cities suffer from multiple problems. Especially a mega-city of 10 million people like Bengaluru has so many issues waiting to be solved, and new ones cropping up. Data about the problems can help solve them, but the government doesn't have the mechanism and bandwidth to collect enough ground level data about issues. So how do we collect useful data? How do we get the governments to address them?
A Citizen Matters and Datameet initiative, Opencity.in is one such attempt, to put more and more data in the public domain. As a pilot project, Citizen Matters has taken up the most pertinent problem Bengaluru is facing - garbage problem.
The data is crowdsourced from interested readers of Citizen Matters and people who perceive the issue of solid waste management in this city to be a serious one that needs effort and attention. It's basically a people's project. We are only putting it all together in one place and presenting it, for all to see. Our intent is to help the city solve the issue, with the help of authentic data marked on map.
What will this data be used for?
Bengaluru often sees open burning of garbage in all parts of the city, especially in winter, causing enormous pollution. Garbage dumps, or blackspots are also the brutal deciders of the efficiency of garbage collection system. This project aims to map the blackspots in the city and put it in the public domain, so that whoever wants to address the issue can take action.
What can be done, and by whom? Citizens can work towards fixing the blackspots through 'spotfixes'. The city administration, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) can look at the micro-management plan for the areas where there are garbage blackspots, improve waste collection systems and take other required steps. The higher-level administration can look at the data, figure out patterns and see if there's anything to be done to solve the issue.
There are multiple possibilities here. The indication of the efficiency and effectiveness of the measures taken is again the presence or elimination of the garbage dump. The data in the form of photos and observations will help evaluate the situation over time, as this project has the scope for adding timelines in the form of more photos and comments over time.
What's the difference between other apps and this?
True, there are many other apps meant for blackspot mapping. The main difference between them and this project is this: the data collected in other apps is not in the public domain. Once you enter the data in an app, it is fed into the system, generally you will be given a complaint number and phone numbers, if it is an app that promises you to fix the problem. The cases are treated as individual, and temporary, and there is no attempt to look at it as a pertinent problem, for which long term solutions and systemic fixes are required.
As a result, nobody knows how many garbage blackspots (dumps) the city has. And no one knows how serious the issue is, the reasons and what needs to be done about it. Hence this project, to map it all and put it online, to SEE the problem on a map.
This is an open data project. The primary app we use for dta collection is going to be MapunityGroups. This app requires your email id for registration, does not ask for phone numbers. You can post even anonymously.
The data collected from the project will be published on Opencity.in website, and on Mapunity.org. The data will be governed by Open Data policies.
Okay, I feel this will be useful, and I want to contribute.
You can be a part of this fun mapping-cum-public problem recording project. To contribute, all you have to do is to share with us geotagged photos of blackspots, with address, date and time, ward.
To make the data collection and presentation easy, we are using a form prepared in MapunityGroups app. If you want to go for this app, here is what you need to do:
1. Download the app.
Link to Mapunity Groups IOS app: https://itunes.apple.com/in/app/mapunity-groups/id1094602497?mt=8
Link to Mapunity Groups Android app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.mapunity
2. Sign up and join the group Citizen Co-Lab.
Here are the detailed instructions to mappers:
3. Shoot blackspots or problem spots, on your camera and put them on the map.
The map will be visible here on web: http://citizen-co-lab.mapunitygroups.com
You can check the ward boundaries here: http://bcity.in/wards
The Android and IOS versions of the MapunityGroups app may have some minor usability issues. Please report any bugs you find, along with screenshots, using this form.
What are blackspots?
For the sake our project, we are taking BBMP's official definition of a blackspot. Blackspots are areas where garbage is dumped daily, either by citizens or by garbage contract workers, or by BBMP workers. A garbage spot qualifies as a blackspot even if it is cleared daily, because it is a symptom of inefficiency of garbage collection system and needs solutions.
What are Problem spots?
Since the Mapunity Groups app we are using has the capability to map any issue in the city, we have expanded the scope. When you try to post the data, you will see two layers. They are,
- Problem Spots in Bengaluru
- Blackspots in Bengaluru
Problem spots, as we have defined for the sake of this project, are areas on footpaths that are:
- filled with construction rubble, mud or debris,
- having unwalkable footpaths, broken footpath slabs etc.
Black Spots and Problem Spots are in different layers, or two different templates, so you can choose to map both as you go on.
Can we map anonymously?
Yes, currently we are allowing it in the app. As long as the data you provide is authentic, it doesn't matter who provides them. We have enabled moderation so that admins can check each spot before taking it live. Having said this, we might remove the option of anonymity if there is too much junk data coming in anonymously.
The downside of mapping anonymously is that you will not be able to update the blackspot you post, if a spot is eliminated by BBMP or citizens.
Is the app recommended by you the only way to share data?
No. You can share photos, location, date and time of capture, description of the spot, address etc in an excel. You can collect this data manually or using any app you want. Even geotagged photos and Tweets are acceptable. Tweet to us the geotagged photos, with a line of description, using the hashtag #BBMPBlackspot. Or email the geotagged photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have data, and want to share it, but don’t want to use the app recommended by us, you can reach out to us on email@example.com.
We will be planning a Data Party soon, where people can gather in different parts of the city, and go mapping. More on that soon, but meanwhile you can start the process on your own. The app currently has 30 mappers, and about 200 spots mapped.
We hope to make this project an example of utilisation of public data in problem-solving. Do join us in this journey!