Broad Street Maps: Finalist in the ITU Telecom World Young Innovators Competition
By Kelly Budish, media lab intern, Emerson College 2016
Maps provide its users with a visual way for looking at information. They serve more purposes than simply providing directions to a destination, but they also create an easy to view format for critical information. While studying Geography and Global Health at Middlebury College, Anna Clements and Hannah Judge wanted to learn more about the intersection between the two fields, and began researching how maps could be used to more effectively show patterns and trends in public health. Upon discovering that mapping is extremely underutilized among global health organizations, the two decided to start Broad Street Maps, an organization that uses geographic data to determine why some people in certain areas are disproportionately affected by health problems. Now, they travel the world using GPS technology to mark location coordinates that they can use for their maps. With this data, they are able to develop maps that will allow them to improve operational efficiency and communication strategies amongst global health organizations.
Recently, Broad Street Maps was chosen as one of 10 finalists for the ITU Telecom World Young Innovators competition. Out of over 600 applications from 88 countries worldwide, Broad Street Maps was chosen to attend this year’s ITU Telecom World in Bangkok from November 19th through the 22nd. The competition seeks out young social entrepreneurs who are developing innovative digital solutions to global developmental challenges. Broad Street Maps was the only organization chosen from America.
ITU Telecom World is known for providing a forum for debates, the sharing of knowledge, and networking for members of the global ICT community, and this year’s theme is “Embracing Change in a Digital World.”
Being a part of the Next Mile Project has allowed their young organization to grow and partner with global health organizations such as Gardens for Health, another Next Mile Project organization that works to combat child malnutrition in Rwanda. The project focuses on collecting GPS points for the households that GHI works with, allowing the organization to visualize where families live in relation to each other, and in relation to local medical services and infrastructure.
As Hannah Judge comments, “Our main inspiration is that it is a lot more compelling to visualize data on a map than to look at it in a spreadsheet.” The maps they make provide an easier way for organizations to identify patterns and answer the big question: why do things happen where they happen?
At the conference, Judge and Clements will be participating in a variety of workshops and pitch sessions. They will have the chance to learn from mentors on how they can improve their business plans and ideas to better serve their purpose as well as network with other young organizations that have the same goals as them. They also have the chance to receive up to $10,000 in funding for their project.
According to Judge, one of the things they are most looking forward to is collaborating with other organizations that specialize in technology, since the two are not programmers. They are currently using handheld GPS devices and Quantum GIS (Global Information System) to create their maps. A GIS is a mapping software that allows them to import several layers of information so they can analyze data and identify where people who are malnourished or have a chronic illness live. However, they would like to learn about or develop new technologies to better create their maps. In addition, they are excited to hear constructive criticism from the judges on their business plan and receive one-on-one mentorship sessions.
Everyone at the Next Mile Project congratulates Broad Street Maps for earning a spot in the ITU Telecom World Young Innovators competition in Bangkok. The duo now has the opportunity to learn answers to their questions and will be given the resources to take their maps to the next level.
Upon returning from the conference in November, Broad Street Maps hopes to have the funds, the connections, and the knowledge to show the public that maps are so much more than a destination tool, but they can also reveal patterns that will help solve global health issues.