Ignite Talk: Tom MacWright

This is a liveblog post from the International Conference on Crisis Mapping at Tufts University.  You can also follow tweets from the event’s many open laptops at the #ICCM10 hashtag.

Tom MacWright of Development Seed takes the stage.

MacWright explains that he’s here to talk about offline mapping, which is incredibly important in some places due to lack of Internet access.  He introduces “map on a stick,” which uses USB sticks to provide people with mapping tools that work on any old computer, with or without Internet access.

MacWright notes that the maps created can help influence people on the ground; the visual picture is often compelling enough.

“It might not make sense to put Google Earth on a USB stick, but it makes sense to put Pakistan on a USB stick,” he explains, noting the low Internet penetration there.

“On the open data side, it’s interesting how so many people are creating geotifs,” MacWright explains, but asks what we should be doing with them, noting that by loading them on to a computer (even without Internet access), you can help people in the field.

MacWright explains that his team is thinking about needs first and technology second.

“What are the real problems in the field?” asks MacWright.  He explains that the maps on a stick are not a “do-everything” tool like RTIF, but that it does things that people in the field really use and need.  “We bring data-heavy visualizations to people on the ground.”

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