Colonialism in Open Data and Mapping

by Celina Agaton

On Friday, February 26 at 2pm Manila time, 6am UTC, I’ll be moderating the first session on colonialism in open data and mapping with Filipino David Garcia, Tanzanian Imma Mwanja and Bangladeshi Tasauf A Baki Billah. View the program at

Watch the Video

There is 06:00 UTC session and a 16:00 UTC session. Select the ticket for the session you want to attend. Both are 1:30 long.

About this Event

“And while maps may be missing from digital platforms and social networks, we are still here.” – David Garcia, 2020

Maps and digital data have played crucial roles in humanitarian aid eg. disaster response. Although it is of best interest to help local communities through generating data and features on the map, humanitarian actors and mappers should take note that we are not only mapping features (houses, roads, waterways, etc), but also mapping the land, oceans, and communities who live and are stewards of that space. With this webinar, we want to examine and discuss this balance (community digital information), decolonizing open data and open mapping, and representation and power in humanitarian mapping, among others.

We invite you to contribute questions that we will ask the speakers. Please share your ideas by Friday, 19 February.

There are two sessions so that people in every time zone can attend. You are welcome to attend either or both of them. You must register to attend. You will receive an email a couple of days before the event with a Zoom link to attend.


06:00 UTC Session

16:00 UTC Session

Mindanao: Agriculture, Gender Gap and Logistics Mapping

My Canadian consulting company is currently mapping the Mindanao region to support rural farming, gender, healthcare and artisan communities. The Mindanao region grows almost half the country’s food, yet remains the poorest population, with many communities at 30-70% poverty incidence. War and conflict have increased in the region in recent years, with security and safety concerns for girls and women. Our goal is to help map rural agriculture, logistics and the gender gap to plan improved infrastructure with long-term impacts on health, well-being and livelihood for girls, women, Indigenous Peoples and farm families.

This is a coordinated effort across international agencies, government, business, non-profits, academe and community leaders. Our study results will lead the prioritization and coordinated planning between international funding agencies and private investment in the second phase of this initiative.

We’ll be working with communities to teach them to map and using geospatial technologies to rapidly analyze infrastructure gaps for validation with local communities.

Local YouthMappers chapters at Far Eastern University and University of the Philippines Resilience Institute, Map the Philippines, George Washington University Humanitarian Mapping Society, and USAID GeoCenter are generously supporting the validation of these tasks.

Mapping Party for Mindanao

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Para sa pagmamahal sa bayan! Alang sa paghigugma sa atong nasud! Thanks to your amazing efforts, in two days we were able to complete 120,500 map changes! Keep up the good work, we can do this!

Many thanks to Youthmappers in Bangladesh, Washington and France for joining us remotely!

This Valentine’s weekend, 40 participants joined our mapping party on Saturday, February 16 to help map Mindanao to support rural farming, gender gap, healthcare and artisan communities. MapPH and Youthmappers Philippines chapters at Far Eastern Universtiy Technology Junior Philippine Computer Society and UP Resilience Institute welcomed attendees to

* Learn how to map with OpenStreetMap, the Wikipedia model of maps
* Meet mappers from the public and private sector
* Join the international humanitarian mapping community
* Won prizes of free mobile data for a month and enjoyed free pizza

Learn about OpenStreetMap at and learn more at

Learn how to use iD Editor to edit maps

Learn how to be a humanitarian mapping volunteer with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap

Learn how to help with humanitarian mapping tasks

Learn about the World Bank DRIVER Road Safety Platform

#MapPHMindanao #SDGs #GenderGap #EM2030Index #OpenStreetMap #hotosm

World Bank OpenRoads Project

by Celina Agaton

The World Bank’s Open Roads program requested my consulting company to lead mapping training with local government units, business, NGOs, academe and citizens in partnership with the Philippine Department of Budget and Management’s initiative to fast track much need road infrastructure in the country. By using OpenStreetMap’s free online mapping tools, this would enable the national government to more effectively plan and disburse funding for local, regional and national road networks. Road construction is one of the largest sources of corruption in the country, and by using participatory budgeting and open data, communities can request and track the status of roads in their communities.

Learn more about the project here.

Open Knowledge Foundation and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

by Celina Agaton


Data Journalism PH 2015 is a training programme for journalists and citizen media aimed at growing the practice of data-driven journalism in the Philippines. It is coordinated by Open Knowledge and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). The programme is a joint World Bank funded initiative.

On July 13, I was invited to speak about Map the Philippines and how our mapping initiatives and training programs can create data driven stories on a range of topics including disasters, education, bottom-up budgeting, civil works, business, energy, and elections.

They showcased the results of their work at the November 27 showcase in Manila, where over 100 journalists and civil servants gathered to hear the twelve participating media teams present their work. The Guardian’s Caelainn Barr, Undersecretary Richard Moya (Open Data Task Force Philippines), Kenneth Abante (Department of Finance) and Rogier Van Den Brink (World Bank) were among the keynote speakers.


Bogota Chamber of Commerce

Bogota Chamber of Commerce

I consult as the Community Engagement Director for Don Tapscott’s Open Cities initiative. Open Cities is an international think tank that works to transform municipalites into smart, connected cities for the 21st century.

In 2012, the Bogota Chamber of Commerce engaged us to identify key priorities and engagement strategies during a tumultuous time. Their beloved mayor had completed his two term limit, and the current mayor, along with his brother were on their way to jail for corruption charges.

Don Tapscott writes about our experience in the excerpt below. Read the full article in the Huffington Post.

Around the world our cities are in desperate need of rejuvenation and transformation. Elected officials are scrambling to equip their cities for the 21st century, talking about creating “open,” “networked,” and “smart” cities.

The problems are legion. Mexico City is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Megacities such as Sao Paulo and Johannesburg are straining to the point of paralysis from population influx, lack of infrastructure, traffic congestion, pollution and crime.

Many cities in the United States grew rapidly after World War II, but now have dysfunctional urban centers. By separating where we live, work and shop, cities have been divided into downtowns that become ghost towns at night, suburbia where the commute is brutal and the mall where a car is required for all shopping. Detroit has lost more than half of its population and large parts of the city have become a wasteland, populated by wild animals. The median house price is under $10,000.

Fortunately the digital revolution provides a powerful new platform for the transformation of the city. In areas ranging form public safety and transportation to more transparent government operations, the Internet is enabling a new kind of 21st century city.

However, everywhere local government, business and civil society leaders are struggling with the challenges of making change happen. There is a lot of excitement but progress is uneven.

Surprisingly it is a city in the emerging economies that may have discovered a key to success — Bogota the capital of the South American Country of Colombia. And it turns out the best way to transform a city for the digital age is to use those same digital tools to engage the population in reinventing their own municipality.

The beleaguered city has been beset by crime and corruption, but recently residents have become optimistic that improvements are possible. On October 31, Bogota residents elected Gustavo Petro as mayor. He replaced the previous mayor, Samuel Moreno, who had been suspended from office in early May 2011 after charges of bid rigging and accepting kickbacks.

During Moreno’s regime, the city’s coffers had been depleted by massive expenditures in a public transit system. Relatively little work had been completed for the large amounts of money spent. In the wake of the corrupt Moreno mayoralty, there was a crisis of government and a political vacuum. Huge changes were required but it was unclear who would take the lead in achieving it.

The Bogota Chamber of Commerce had been a relatively strong and active organization in the city for many years. Under the leadership of a new CEO Consuelo Caldas, the Chamber wanted to take a more active role in the city’s economic and social development.

With a municipal election scheduled for the end of October, the Chamber saw an opportunity to challenge the mayoral candidates with ideas and proposals to fix the city. But rather than doing the back room lobbying that characterizes municipal politics, it took a different approach. It decided to engage the citizens of Bogota in a process to reinvent their city.

I was fortunate to participate in this process as an adviser, and from my perspective it was an extraordinary exercise that is rich with lessons for anyone wanting to help their own city. The goal was to encourage local businesses, community leaders and citizens to become involved in the city’s affairs.The campaign was called “Set the Hearbeat of Bogota” (HACEMOS LATIR A BOGOTÁ — HLB)

Read the full article in the Huffington Post.

Us Now Global Screening Project

by Celina Agaton

Us Now




There are a number of global social tech and community engagement awareness days throughout the year, so I thought I’d help shine a brighter light on the awesome social tech community. Based on the success of the Toronto screenings I organized, I thought it would be fun for social tech and social change makers to self-organize screenings of Us Now around the world to inspire new opportunities for collaboration across government, education, technology and volunteer communities.

Here are the cities that have hosted Us Now screenings:

Portland screening at OneWebDay PDX

San Francisco flagship screening at TechSoup Global

Tokyo screening with Netsquared Tokyo  

Toronto screening at OneWebDay Toronto

Vancouver screening at VanChangeCamp

Screenings being planned or screenings looking for help with co-organizing:

Argentina, Arkansas, Chicago, Columbia, DC, Latvia, New York, Ohio, Paris,   South Korea,

Samples from my Toronto screenings: This cross-sector screening model has been well received, with over 300 people attending each screening:

  • The video TVOntario, the Canadian version of PBS filmed and aired for us for the first screening.
  • Here are the event details from the second Toronto screening with Toronto Mayor David Miller, Don Tapscott, and social innovation centers.
  • The podcast from the second screening.
  • And photos from the first and second screenings.

About the Film:

Us Now is a UK documentary film project that discusses how Web 2.0 inspires people to participate in their communities in new ways. The film’s strength is its appeal to a broad audience; it speaks well to non-techies and boomers. It’s a great conversation starter for people to take back and discuss Web 2.0 opportunities in their communities. Film length: 59 minutes.

Featured speakers in the film: Don Tapscott, Clay Shirky, Alan Cox, Charles Leadbeater among others.

You can watch the entire film for free and view rushes, bios etc. at

Event Format:

  • Don Tapscott, Anthony Willams or Director Ivo Gormley, based on availability, can Skype/video/keynote the event and/or answer audience Q&As.
  • Us Now will link to event videos made by organizers and audience members and post it on their blog.
  • Promo, event and audience content with be shared via Us Now, Don Tapscott and Netsquared sites.

Number of potential host cities around the world


Screening Schedule:

  • Individual screening dates are totally flexible and decided by the organizers. But, it would be fun to have a group of them around the same time or at the exact same time for organizers and audience members to connect across cities and capture this online and on film.


The ideal audience includes a cross-section of community members (students, politicians, techies, non-profits, funders etc.) to inspire participation and cross-community collaboration. Ideally (but optional), you could invite community-friendly organizations to host display tables at the screening to directly connect attendees to local meetups, organizations and conferences to facilitate more learning and participation.

To Do List & Costs:

  • If you wish, organizers can charge a pay what you can fee for the screening to help raise funds for your group/meetup. Since the film is on a Creative Commons license, the Us Now producers, Banyak Films have agreed to receive 20% from the fees collected in lieu of negotiating film distribution rights since I have no funds to cover this. You can PayPal the fees and mark as ‘US Now Services’. Us Now is free for the public to view online, so this is a way to help the producers cover their costs.
  • Us Now is available for free online viewing or organizers can purchase the DVD online for about US$20.
  • Theatre space: approach social innovation centres/universities to donate free space=$0
  • Keynote: Don Tapscott or Anthony Williams to Skype/video/keynote and/or answer audience Q&As. Celina to arrange with Don. Cost=$0.
  • Catering: In Toronto, we asked a green caterer to sell drinks and snacks, so catering cost=$0.
  • Event promo: Used Eventbrite, Eventful, Twitter, Facebook and bloggers to plan and promote the event, cost=$0.
  • The Us Now Blog, Don Tapscott, and Meetup sites will also post the event screening on their blogs=$0

Toronto Non-Profit Open Data Launch

Listen to the audio recording of the event on

On May 5, 2009, I created an event to launch open data to the Toronto Non-Profit Community with Toronto Mayor David Miller. Toronto was one of the pioneering cities to first launch open data. I screened Us Now, a documentary on the power of the open web, and led a panel discussion with Mozilla Foundation Executive Director, Mark Surman, MaRS Discovery District Director of Social Entrepreneurship Allyson Hewitt, Family Assoc. for Mental Health Everywhere (FAME) Executive Director Christine Cooper, ChangeCamp Co-founder Mark Kuznicki, and Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) Online Capacity Development Coordinator Marco Campana.

Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.

Lifted from the Open Data Handbook, the key benefits to open data include:

  • Availability and Access: the data must be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading over the internet. The data must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.
  • Re-use and Redistribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets.
  • Universal Participation: everyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute – there should be no discrimination against fields of endeavour or against persons or groups. For example, ‘non-commercial’ restrictions that would prevent ‘commercial’ use, or restrictions of use for certain purposes (e.g. only in education), are not allowed.

Open data formats enable the interoperability of datasets across various operating systems, and tax payer funded research should be saved in open data format to ensure its use and access by the public.