Usually, when government officials set out to survey a poor urban neighbourhood for data on disaster risks, the job can be impossible. The official arrives in the community with their clipboard to investigate the needs and thatâ€™s where things can start to unravel; as initial conversations with the community results in emotional confrontation seeped in a history of conflict and limited development. Last but not least, the youth, the next generation, are excluded from the local debate and have a very limited say in how theirÂ environment is managedÂ and shaped.
To solve these issues and more,Â UNICEFÂ has pioneered digital mapsÂ created by youngsters to establish a collaborative space for municipal government and community to work together towards safer neighbourhoods.Â UNICEF has discovered that given the proper digital media training and tools, local young people can be influential and effective drivers to activate their community and create change to reduce risk of disaster in poor urban neighbourhoods.
Over the past eighteen months in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, UNICEF hasÂ empowered the local youth here to create new media maps thatÂ show the exact location of disaster risks in a way that compels action and enables youth-led public advocacy. The maps and digital stories become both real evidence and a rallying point for the community, government and civil society to come together and take action. Youth reports have already led to bridges being fixed, flood walls reinforced, and playgrounds cleared of stagnant water and rotting garbage. Moreover, the turnaround time for fixing hazards has improved and these youngsters become committed advocates on behalf of their communities.
ThisÂ UNICEF solutionÂ toolkit was developed with theÂ MIT Mobile ExperienceÂ andÂ Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science. ItÂ uses a smartphone app which allows the youngsters to collect and share location sensitive reports in a simple, private and secure manner. The app creates aÂ mapÂ of all reports filtered by type of hazards and risks, which become a social monitoring and evaluation tool for governments to track their disaster risk reduction activities. To increase public attention to their reports, the youth workshop curriculum contains a module on digital journalism.
The young people in Rio who have been taught digital mapping techniques to better illustrate the problems facing their communities and have created maps that clearly show which parts of the community need improving, with better sanitation and sewage infrastructure, and provide aÂ starting point for resolutions.
Photo Credit:Â Unicef Voices of Youth Maps
– See more at: http://www.justmeans.com/blogs/the-youth-in-rio-have-been-digitally-empowered-by-unicef#sthash.68sPh3QV.dpuf
ByÂ Sangeeta Haindl