The Geoweb and the Rural Digital Divide


McConchie, Klinkenberg poster at GEOIDE

GEOIDE poster abstract: Interactive User Validation of Volunteered Geographic Information

Authors: Alan Mc Conchie, alan dot mcconchie at geog dot ubc dot ca and Brian Klinkenbergbrian at geog dot ubc dot ca

Department of Geography, University of British Columbia

Efforts to encourage the submission of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) must be tempered by the realization that unless some form of quality control is enabled the resulting information might be discounted by many who potentially could make use of such information, such as government departments.  An effective quality assurance (QA) process, while enforcing some form of oversight on the submission of information, could, at the same time, provide feedback to the users that encourages them to become even more involved volunteers.

In this poster, we illustrate our work in progress to develop an interactive validation system for VGI of invasive plant species in British Columbia. Using existing species records and ecological parameters, we have developed maps that delimit the potential range of each species, and and thus determine the likelihood that a new submission is valid or not. Based on whether a record is a geographic or ecological outlier, our system will either provide suggestions for alternative species (e.g., "could you have been looking at species Y, which looks similar to species X, but occurs at higher elevations?") or note that their record represents a significant range expansion and therefore is an important observation that would benefit from additional information. Ultimately, the volunteer receives feedback that enables them to judge the validity of their information, and encourages them to learn more about their environment.


Poster to follow

Team 41 at the GEOIDE Conference

Several graduate and undergraduate students represented Team 41 at the 2011 GEOIDE Annual Conference held this year in Toronto on May 16th and 17th:

  • Lukanyenko, Roman. 2011. Citizen Science 2.0: Increasing quality and participation. Poster presented at the 2011 Annual GEOIDE Conference May 16-17, Toronto.
  • Torio, Dante. 2011. Using Fuzzy Logic to Map the Threat of Coastal Squeeze in Marshes at Wells Reserve and Portland, Maine. Poster presented at the 2011 Annual GEOIDE Conference May 16-17, Toronto.
  • Tudge, Pamela. 2011. Participatory Geoweb: Communicating Climate Change Report for Year 2. Presented 2011 Annual GEOIDE Conference May 16-17, Toronto.
  • Walker, Blake, and Claus Rinner. 2011. Deconstructing Effective Participation on the Geoweb. Poster presented at the 2011 Annual GEOIDE Conference May 16-17, Toronto.
  • Zhou, Jian. 2011. A Debate on Using Climate Models: Is it Crazy or Not?.  Presented at the 2011 Annual GEOIDE Conference May 16-17, Toronto.

Team 41 students Blake Walker and Steven Chung also served on administrative roles during and after the conference: Blake moderated several conference sessions in his capacity as coordinator of the GEOIDE Student Network; and Steven was the coordinator of the GEOIDE Summer School that followed the conference.


Team Members at AAG


An army of citizen scientists


From Poptech: Yasser Ansari’s Project Noah (Networked Organisms and Habitats), strives to be what he calls “a field guide for every organism.” Inspired by Darwin’s Field Guide, bio-instruments, and a little bit of steampunk, the platform encourages citizen scientists to step into the world, eyes open, and begin documenting what they find.

Our first article in Nature

Congrats to team members, Yolanda Wiersma and Roman Lukyaneno for their article in Nature

Jeffrey Parsons, Roman Lukyanenko, and Yolanda Wiersma. 2011. Easier citizen science is better. Nature 471: 37 (03 March 2011)

Project students presenting at SKI Canada 2011

Several students from the Participatory Geoweb project are presenting at SKI Canada 2011 in Fernie, BC, at this moment: Roman Lukyanenko gave the opening presentation in the Geoweb and Governance session, which also includes presentations by project students Nama Budhathoki, Korbin da Silva, Pierre Beaudreau, and Pamela Tudge. Blake Walker and Nicholas Blackwell are scheduled in the following session on Applications for Better Decision-Making. Finally, Alan Mc Conchie is presenting on Digital networks and the Geoweb tomorrow. Alan also organized a pre-conference workshop "Hands-on with Neogeography: A VGI/OSM/API Participant Activity". Way to go, everybody!

Empowering communities to manage their water supply

As part of the project “Geoweb and Community Development in Quebec“, two teams of McGill School of the Environment students spent the fall term 2010 working with a community-based watershed monitoring agency CDRN (Corporation de développement de la rivière Noire) to explore the potential for the Geoweb to serve as a conduit for citizen participation in watershed management. These student groups developed two tools, conducted a series of workshops with community members, and produced reports and instructional materials. McGill Public Affairs produced a short film about the group activities that gives an excellent overview of the project and the potential for the Geoweb in a community development context.


Follow up to Rural Geoweb Workshop

We had a successful and productive workshop (McGill University, Montreal QC, Nov. 18-20th, 2010) with 20 participants, representing our GEOIDE team from coast to coast including students, faculty and invited affiliates. Over the 2 days participants brought their rich experiences working in rural communities and remote regions of Canada and abroad to the table. The discussion brought forth challenges faced and also a diverse range of opportunities found in using the Geoweb to enrich rural community development and environmental management. 

The three main themes for the workshop were:

  1. Digital Divides in rural communities
  2. Rural Friendly Web 2.0 Applications and,
  3. Research Partnerships

These themes and the position paper questions were used to guide discussions and presentations to the group. Each participant team provided a position paper based on their projects and experience in this area. Attached below are the presentations given by students at the workshop. 

Thanks to GEOIDE and GEC3 for funding this worthwhile endeavor. 

**Coming soon is a media production outlining the context, main findings, and recommendations put forward from the workshop.  


Workshop on Connecting Rural Communities through the Geoweb

Dates & Location: Thursday to Saturday, November 18-20th, 2010 at

McGill University Montreal, QC 

Hosted by: Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre (GEC3) &

GEOIDE Network’s (Team 41): Participatory Geoweb for Engaging the Public on Global Environmental Change


The geospatial Web 2.0 (Geoweb), the combination of technologies like Google Earth and social networking, has revolutionized how non-experts can volunteer geographic information. From Open Street Map to trip advisor, new technologies have changed how citizens can communicate about place. An emerging theme is its potential use in rural communities to communicate and mitigate environmental issues (e.g. our team’s development of We are organizing a workshop to bring together academic researchers, government and community affiliates who are interested in this area. Our intention is to foster rural research applications in Canada as part of the current GEC3 and GEOIDE collaborative research program.

Over the last 2 years, researchers with GEOIDE Network’s Team 41 and GEC3 have identified areas of interest through their work in rural regions in Canada including concerns around access and skills. In Canada regions outside of urban centers have limited ability to access the high-speed Internet that is required for many Geoweb applications to properly function. Another aspect is the growing division of skill level within and between communities that inhibit Geoweb use in rural regions. Preliminary research suggests the Geoweb can be beneficial to communities that are geographically separated from each other and urban centers.

Exploring the Geoweb in rural communities presents a unique opportunity for investigation to strengthen our understanding of the applications of the Geoweb in rural setting. The workshop is intended to develop a national rural research node that can further contribute to this important area of inquiry.

The workshop intends to be an opportunity to foster our experiences into pertinent research outcomes and actions for participants interested in this area. Exploring challenges and successes while identifying further questions, learning from our peers and from keynote researchers will provide a platform to form a research direction for this topical area. Participants will have an opportunity to present on their research, in addition from learning from other researcher’s experiences. The workshop will culminate with a research action plan that will synthesize the major findings presented and discussed over the two days.


Open with no cost to GEOIDE team 41 and GEC3 network students, faculty and affiliates. 

Contact: Pamela Tudge



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