Identifying success factors in crowdsourced geographic information use in government

GFDRRA few weeks ago, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), published an update for the report from 2014 on the use of crowdsourced geographic information in government. The 2014 report was very successful – it has been downloaded almost 1,800 times from 41 countries around the world in about 3 years (with more than 40 academic references) which showed the interests of researchers and policymakers alike and outlined its usability. On the base of it, it was pleasing to be approached by GFDRR about a year ago, with a request to update it.

In preparation for this update, we sought comments and reviews from experts and people who used the report regarding possible improvements and amendments. This feedback helped to surface that the seven key factors highlighted by the first report as the ones that shaped the use of VGI in government (namely: incentives, aims, stakeholders, engagement, technical aspects, success factors, and problems) have developed both independently and in cross-cutting modes and today there is a new reality for the use of VGI in government.

Luckily, in the time between the first report and the beginning of the new project, I learned about Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) in the Giving Time event and therefore we added Matt Ryan to our team to help us with the analysis. QCA allowed us to take 50 cases, have an intensive face to face team workshop in June last year to code all the cases and agree on the way we create the input to QCA. This helped us in creating multiple models that provide us with an analysis of the success factors that help explain the cases that we deemed successful. We have used the fuzzy logic version of QCA, which allowed a more nuanced analysis.

Finally, in order to make the report accessible, we created a short version, which provides a policy brief to the success factors, and then the full report with the description of each case study.

It was pleasure working with the excellent team of researchers that worked on this report: Vyron Antoniou, Hellenic Army Geographic Directorate, Sofia Basiouka, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport, Robert Soden, World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction & Recovery (GFDRR), Vivien Deparday, World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction & Recovery (GFDRR). Matthew Ryan, University of Southampton, and Peter Mooney, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. We were especially lucky to be helped by Madeleine Hatfield of Yellowback Publishing who helped us in editing the report and making it better structured and much more readable.

The full report, which is titled “Identifying success factors in crowdsourced geographic information use in government” is available here.

And the Policy Brief is available here. 

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Crowdsourced Geographic Information in Government

Today marks the publication of the report ‘crowdsourced geographic information in government‘. ReportThe report is the result of a collaboration that started in the autumn of last year, when the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery(GFDRR)  requested to carry out a study of the way crowdsourced geographic information is used by governments. The identification of barriers and success factors were especially needed, since GFDRR invest in projects across the world that use crowdsourced geographic information to help in disaster preparedness, through activities such as the Open Data for Resilience Initiative. By providing an overview of factors that can help those that implement such projects, either in governments or in the World Bank, we can increase the chances of successful implementations. To develop the ideas of the project, Robert Soden (GFDRR) and I run a short workshop during State of the Map 2013 in Birmingham, which helped in shaping the details of project plan as well as some preliminary information gathering. The project team included myself, Vyron Antoniou, Sofia Basiouka, and Robert Soden (GFDRR). Later on, Peter Mooney (NUIM) and Jamal Jokar (Heidelberg) volunteered to help us – demonstrating the value in research networks such as COST ENERGIC which linked us.

The general methodology that we decided to use is the identification of case studies from across the world, at different scales of government (national, regional, local) and domains (emergency, environmental monitoring, education). We expected that with a large group of case studies, it will be possible to analyse common patterns and hopefully reach conclusions that can assist future projects. In addition, this will also be able to identify common barriers and challenges.

We have paid special attention to information flows between the public and the government, looking at cases where the government absorbed information that provided by the public, and also cases where two-way communication happened.

Originally, we were aiming to ‘crowdsource’  the collection of the case studies. We identified the information that is needed for the analysis by using  few case studies that we knew about, and constructing the way in which they will be represented in the final report. After constructing these ‘seed’ case study, we aimed to open the questionnaire to other people who will submit case studies. Unfortunately, the development of a case study proved to be too much effort, and we received only a small number of submissions through the website. However, throughout the study we continued to look out for cases and get all the information so we can compile them. By the end of April 2014 we have identified about 35 cases, but found clear and useful information only for 29 (which are all described in the report).  The cases range from basic mapping to citizen science. The analysis workshop was especially interesting, as it was carried out over a long Skype call, with members of the team in Germany, Greece, UK, Ireland and US (Colorado) while working together using Google Docs collaborative editing functionality. This approach proved successful and allowed us to complete the report.

You can download the full report from UCL Discovery repository

Or download a high resolution copy for printing and find much more information about the project on the Crowdsourcing and government website