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Could Google Maps Help End Poverty?

Featuring an article by Forbes on Transparent Chennai, an initiative of the Centre for Development Finance.
Last year in the Indian city of Chennai, more than half a million people suddenly appeared from out of nowhere. These men, women and children weren’t rural migrants who had just moved to the city. Neither were they incomers from somewhere else in the world. They were slum dwellers who had lived in the city for generations. It’s just that no-one had bothered to notice them.
It wasn’t until a group called Transparent Chennai decided to digitally map the sprawling city’s slums that the local government even realized these half a million impoverished souls existed. Using open source software, Google Maps and good old-fashioned shoe leather, this collective of maptivists set out to draw a brutally honest portrait of their city in the hope of persuading politicians to make decisions that would improve the lives of the urban poor. What they achieved in the past year has already influenced anti-poverty groups across India, but some American academics want to see their ideas implemented across the world. Could this tiny group of social cartographers  teach the West a thing or two about running a city?
Map of Chennai city and Chennai metropolitan area, with major roads, railways and water bodies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“Maps can be very empowering,” said Nithya V. Raman, who founded the Transparent Chennai project after taking a degree in social theory from Harvard and a masters in urban planning from M.I.T. “They pose an incredible opportunity for people to write their own narrative about civic problems, their experiences of the city and their lived realities. They offer a means for the urban poor to represent their case against the official record, which may underreport or completely ignore problems faced by communities in the city of Chennai or any other Indian city.”
Read the full article here.

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