Brazil: Rede Jovem, a youth enterprise, has initiated a mapping project Wikimapa in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are using mobile technology and GPS systems to map the favelas (-a shanty town) of Rio de Janeiro. Five young “wiki-reporters,” armed with GPS-equipped mobile phones, have been mapping the neighbourhoods of Complexo do Alemao, Cidade de Deus, Morro do Pavao-Pavaozinho, Morro Santa Marta and Complexo da Mare and creating the first real maps of these areas.
According to Natalia Santos, the executive coordinator for Rede Jovem, “The main goal is to mark public interest spots on a map and show places like schools and institutions and hospitals and restaurants. We want to spread the news about what slums do have, so all the people can get to know that the slum is not just a place for violence and marginality and robbery.”
All the young “wiki-reporters” are women, according to Santos. Although the project originally intended to have male participants, the men were nervous about being in the favelas with costly mobile phones. The reporters are between the ages of 17 and 25. For the person who maps the most information there will be the prize of a scholarship to study communications or journalism at a private university.
‘Rede Jovem’, which translates roughly as ‘Youth Net’, is a non-profit organisation committed to bringing social innovation to the poorest youths of Brazil.
The favela mapping project, known as Wikimapa, was designed to tackle the lack of interaction, access and usage of new information and communication technologies by residents of slums and low-income areas of Brazil. These technical barriers only go to heighten the exclusion experienced by this area of society and so projects that bring residents into the technology loop are invaluable.
Rede Jovem recognised the potential for social innovation provided by the ever-evolving mobile technology and wiki based platforms. The organisation hopes that mapping low-income areas and slums, will lead to better social inclusion for residents of the slums. Using virtual and mobile mapping services has never been offered to these areas, until now. So now, for the first time, this social innovation project will literally will put the favelas on the map.