Mapping Our Issues: Data Visualization Made Easy for Rural Activists

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Mapping Our Issues: Data Visualization Made Easy for Rural Activists

Mountain Area Information Network
Asheville, North Carolina

This project would use data visualization tools to map the availability of broadband Internet access across Western North Carolina.

Empowering citizens and grassroots organizations to use GIS and data visualization is the Holy Grail of public-interest IT applications. This project will demonstrate Civic Navigator, an easy-to-use suite of GIS and data visualization tools being beta-tested by the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network and CN’s developer, the nonprofit Navigating Our Future. Fortune 500 companies, universities, think tanks, and government agencies have long used sophisticated mapping and data visualization tools for research, training, and policy advocacy. But the financial and IT resources required to exploit GIS/DV have put the power of these tools beyond the reach of average citizens and grassroots organizations. Civic Navigator has the potential to change this power equation.

This project will demonstrate Civic Navigator’s open-source GIS/DV-powered census block tools to map the availability of broadband Internet access across Western North Carolina. Since the advent of broadband Internet, many rural residents have lacked access to high speed Internet services long taken for granted by urban residents. Even where broadband is available, its cost is often out of reach of lower-income households, and its speed is often slower than advertised. This project will empower rural residents to crowdsource a “People’s Broadband Map” to compare with the “official” broadband maps provided by incumbent carriers and the FCC. The project will also use the FCC’s Consumer Broadband Test to compare advertised broadband speeds with actual performance. By focusing on this core rural policy issue, the project will model the power of open-source GIS/DV for other rural advocacy groups.

 

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