More accessibility at Social Good Summit 2018

Social Good Summit is an event organized globally by United Nations Development Program (at a local level by UNDP Albania) in the framework of the Leave No One Behind project.

It is a yearly event and quite an important one for the Development program of the United Nations. The topic for 2018 was #2030NOW, which aims to shape the world via civil involvement, democratic partaking and technology as we want it to be in 2030. In the official statement, Social Good Summit is described as below:

[...] The intersection of technology and new media has redefined our understanding of human progress. In the midst of this rapidly changing world, the Social Good Summit focuses on where we’re headed. Held annually during the United Nations General Assembly week, the Summit  unites a lively community of global citizens and progressive thought  leaders around a common theme: #2030NOW. A dynamic exploration of the  world we want to live in by 2030, the Social Good Summit will focus on how we can unlock technology’s potential to make the world a better place.

But how can we reach a major objective like this? It goes without saying that it is more than a challenge and more than a persistent and generative work in local level. Initially, we demand data to have a clear evaluation of the actual conditions of a certain social group or social structure. The very first thing we have to do, is to address our work of progress toward quantitative analysis based on available data. The challenge in such situation is: what happens when there are no data available?

This definitely sounds intriguing especially for a team like ours, where open technology and social issues are essentially part of our mission as a collective. During many of the conversations between us, we always talk about how we started falling in love with open source technologies and the reasons why we work in this field. There is always a common understanding that we got involved in FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Softwares) platforms mainly due to the participatory character, the public domain, and knowledge sharing. In this context, it made sense for our team to get involved in this year's local edition of Social Good Summit, in Pogradec, Albania.

Although a lot of work has been done at grassroots level, the application of FLOSS technologies is still not so popular in Albania. Nevertheless, hard work of individuals and collective contributors has produced the first results, which in our opinion are quite apparent. For example: in Tirana you can notice a remarkable improvement in OpenStreetMap, from 2007 to 2017, which is the direct outcome of  a persistently cohesive crowdsourced work.

The state of Tirana on OpenStreetMap, from 2007 to today / Screenshot by OSM Than And Now / CC BY-SA 4.0 License.

Preliminary research and mapping before the Summit

Ten years is a relatively big amount of time, but you can behold the exponential progress of accessibility of OSM in Tirana, the capital of Albania, but also in the smaller city of Pogradec. In terms of buildings, the city was in-existent in OSM in 2007, it had a basic pickup in 2017 and another point of growth in 2018 right before the summit due to mapping from Collective68 members.

Volunteers mapping the city of Pogradec via Wheelmap App / Photo by Margrethe Rosbach / CC BY-SA 4.0 License.

When we checked out around the city for the state of the wheelchair accessibility via Wheelmap app, we realized there was info only for two buildings. By the passionate work of some local talented youngsters and mentorship from our crew, more than 93 objects were added on Wheelmap along the main boulevard Dëshmorët e Pojskës. A result achieved only  one day of field work.

Points of Interest (POIs) showing wheelchair accessibility status on OpenStreetMap. Data were added from young volunteers using Wheelmap app during Social Good Summit 2018 / Screenshot by / CC BY-SA 4.0 License.


After the mapping session with the youngsters we managed to map the accessibility levels for 95 objects in total. More specifically:
• 18 objects (19%) resulted fully accessible;
• 13 objects (14%) resulted partially accessible;
• 64 objects (67%) resulted not accessible.

Those results would be technically unreachable and our efforts would be in vain if it wasn't for the engagement of the local volunteers. Since the beginning of the summit, we realized those guys were not accidentally part of the team. Their fast-learning abilities, desire for learning and their proactive actions generated the best paradigm of the youth that could make the world a better place to live in 2030. Their commitment also should be pure inspiration for every FLOSS activist.

Impressions from our young mappers

“This activity should be organized more often in all the cities of Albania, especially in tourist destinations. One suggestion from me for the organizers, would be to present its purpose and pursuit in high schools of the cities, to raise interest among young people. This would have a lot of positive impact and increased participation in other activities that will be developed,” — said Dea, one of the local girls who participated in Social Good Summit. She appreciated the initiative and is committed to use Wheelmap App and OpenStreetMap in her daily routine to map the buildings of her city of wheelchair accessibility.

Kesi, another talented young girl who was part of the team, expressed her inclination in community contributions in every moment of the activity. When we were having some small talks about the city, we asked her why did she join the team for this Social Good Summit? “I like to help others as much as I can. I like to be active and attend the community”, answered Kesi, remembering us once again that sometimes in countries like Albania the human capital is underestimated.

With volunteers, mapping the city of Pogradec via Wheelmap App / Photo by Margrethe Rosbach / CC BY-SA 4.0 License.

During the mapping session even the boys' camp was not behind. A great job was done by Argi and Skerdi, — a duo of two close friends who told us that they were very interested on activities like this, and there going to use Wheelmap and OSM more often. As we may know, friendships are human relations established on the common interests. And when one of those interests are such sublime as helping people with special abilities — in the case of Argi and Skerdi, — the friendship is authentically blessed.

Very good impressions we have even from Sara, a fast learner and of course a team-player. Sara showed off a very high level of motivation for the Social Good Summit. “I'd like to get engaged in activities like this. I'd like to help people who really need our support, like people with special needs... which should also have accessible places for them”, she said genuinely.

The second day of the summit

In the Municipality of Pogradec, talking about open data, FLOSS technology and announcing the work results. / Photo by Margrethe Rosbach / CC BY-SA 4.0 License.

In the second day we had to announce our work to the Municipality of Pogradec, in the presence of municipal officials, local experts, stakeholders and citizens. They appreciated the work done by us and volunteers, and considered it an innovative work for which municipal officials have to do further hereafter. Part of the discussion were even representatives of the association of the blind people. They urged the necessity for the application of similar technologies in support of the blind people. Their intervention made the all participants to reflect the ability of being equal, and to understand that today, the accessibility is still a luxury only for some people.

In conclusion

Social Good Summit in Pogradec was a very productive project where our team, in a fruitful collaboration with the UNDP Albania team, worked with local youngsters to co-map the city in OpenStreetMap and to add wheelchair accessibility information to 95 buildings in the city with the perspective to continue our work in close collaboration with local institutions, organizations and active citizens.

Cover image: Collective68 / CC BY-SA 4.0 License.

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This article is published under a CC BY-SA 4.0 License.
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