Seeking prosperity? More often than ever, there's a map for that

Seeking prosperity? More often than ever, there's a map for that

Finding prime locations to generate solar energy in India is one application of innovative mapping technology. <a href="">Photo: hjl (flickr)</a>
Finding prime locations to generate solar energy in India is one application of innovative mapping technology. Photo: hjl (flickr)

New mapping innovations are helping communities around the world make their way toward relief and opportunity.

Mapping where the sun shines: Solar energy is already on the rise in sun-soaked, energy-poor India, and the Indian government plans to help solar developers identify the country’s best hotspots for energy projects, according to The Economic Times. The fast-growing country hopes to generate 20,000 megawatts of solar power by 2022, compared to just over 100 megawatts today.

One tool to get there? A solar atlas currently being developed by the Centre for Wind Energy Technology.

For solar developers, this means they can identify locations of optimal radiation intensity for power generation, and choose the best solar capture technology for each location. Mapping India's microclimates "will help us further optimise prediction,” said Vish Palekar, the chief executive officer of Mahindra Solar. “The entire ecosystem, with solar atlas mapping, will see companies like ours getting aggressive in the future.”

Other companies in India are also looking for a slice of the solar pie under the national solar strategy. The Economic Times reports that the strategy includes “financial incentives and subsidies to attract investment in this form of clean energy."

A new source of data, more accurate than sometimes outdated NASA radiation maps currently used to choose solar projects, will be a boost as intense as the summer sun.

Disaster risk reduction, in color: The Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has developed a series of free, color-coded geohazard maps that identify areas as being "low, moderately or highly susceptible to floods, flash floods and landslides,” according to IRIN Asia.

With the country already highly susceptible to climate-related disasters, recent events like tropical storm Washi and the associated floods and severe erosion prompted the country's Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to make the maps widely available and accessible. "By making these geohazard maps available to anyone for free, we hope to give every community or individual access to information needed for assessing flooding and landslide risks,” MGB director Leo Jasareno told IRIN.

Geographic risk classifications were compiled with the help of base maps, satellite imagery, fieldwork and historical accounts of past disasters. And the MBG, in partnership with the nonprofit Environmental Science for Social Change, has more hazard-based mapping projects in mind, including models to predict further impacts of climate change.

Multinational corporations could benefit from geohazard maps to strategize where to locate new offices and factories, and international aid nonprofits could target their risk-reduction programs to areas predicted to be most at-risk.

Real-time connections aid post-disaster relief: Ushahidi, a Kenya-based nonprofit, has made mapping instant. Its new mapping software is fast, free and can be modified by anyone. The idea is ‘crowdsourcing,’ or enabling people around the world to “document and communicate information about their environment at ever increasing rates,” according to the Council of Foreign Relations' blog, Democracy in Development.

The result? Fast-moving information in post-disaster situations, and rapid, targeted responses.

“Ushahidi’s map was the best source of information for the humanitarian community” following the devastating Haiti earthquake, according to Democracy in Development. People “started posting reports of infrastructure damage, medical emergencies, locations where services were available, and incidents of violence” to a crisis map set up by Ushahidi volunteers, in partnership with Digicel, Haiti’s largest mobile phone service provider. U.S. Marines used the Ushahidi map as a resource in their rescue missions. Global Envision previously reported on additional mobile phone technology aiding in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Ushahidi’s crowdsourcing technology also broke onto the scene in Russia this past summer, creating a “Help Map” to coordinate assistance between wildfire victims and citizens who wanted to help. According to Ushahidi, “Shortly after the platform was launched, hundreds of citizens wrote in with appeals for help, [and] hundreds of people wrote in offering help”, creating a network of information that directed those in need to available resources in their regions.

In Russia, a more extensive interactive map network is already in place ahead of next summer’s wildfire season. And worldwide, Ushahidi’s open-data maps are crowdsourcing for success. Ushahidi’s mapping endeavors extend beyond crisis response, and last month the organization was named one of the top 10 NGOs in the world by the Globe Journal for its innovations.

Globally, these projects are creating a map for better management, economic opportunities and responses. After all, that’s the direction we all want to go.

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