November 9, 2011

There’s a Map for That.

The following is a guest post from coworker and resident global health guru Rachel Lonsdale. The post originally appeared on the @wsseattle blog.

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I’ve always had a thing for maps.

I think it comes with my obsession with traveling and seeing new places. There are times when I miss unfolding the giant maps and navigating my way across the country – followed by frustration and never being able to fold it back up again. A few years ago, I remember getting a bit nostalgic thinking about the death of the unfold/fold map and thinking of how archaic it felt that it wasn’t so long ago that it was the norm.

Fast forward a few years, and it’s clear maps aren’t dead. They are almost creepily alive. Mobile and online maps can help us find the nearest happy hour, Starbucks, read the front page of papers around the world, or plan the next Urban Mural cross country road trip. Nearly anything you can imagine — there’s a map for it.

While all of this is pretty great for my personal life, I’m even more blown away at how this technology is being applied to health and development. Maps are being used to promote causes, raise awareness, and ultimately improve and save lives. Here are just a couple of examples of how maps and mapping are being used to for social good.

  • A couple of weeks ago, the Center of Foreign Relations (CRF) launched a searchable interactive map tracking vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. The CRF has been tracking outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, and rubella – all of which are easily preventable with an in expensive vaccine – and careful map plotting.
  • We all know Google Earth is a pretty amazing tool, but check out this video about how nonprofits can use Google Earth to raise awareness and communicate quickly and effectively on issues including genocide and climate change.

Obviously these are just a few of thousands of examples. Comment below and let me know if you have other examples of how organizations are using online mapping technology to help address social problems.

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