Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mapping the Poverty Landscape

In this modern era, many things can be done expeditiously with the help of information technology.

Even in poverty reduction where most of the work takes place at grass roots levels in remote communities, information technology has been intensively used. In our case, we have developed our own software to monitor poverty and track the progress of family, communities or individuals.

This system takes survey answers so that individual households can be determined how poor or not poor they are. These data, based on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are then used to rank them and identify which are the poorest of the poor that deserve interventions.

To further enhance data for non-technical planner and decision makers, the software can present locations in map format. To do this, the software employs the use of ArcGIS.

We are using ArcGIS version 9.2 which, if I am not mistaken is the latest version. We are particularly heavily using ArcGIS's spatial analysis feature to analyze the different potential causes of poverty in an area. For instance, it becomes very easy for us to correlate a relatively dry land area to poverty due to harvest.

We also use ArcGIS to pinpoint the exact household locations of families. So, if there are groups or individuals wishing to extend help to impoverished families, the can simply look at the maps and look at the color codes of households. Those households colored red are the most impoverished.

We have not employed this feature yet but I read that in this version of ArcGIS, there is a feature that allows the user to zoom in and out on a place much like Google Earth. This can even make things easier because many policy makers especially in poorer countries are old and not technically inclined so this feature can be a visual aide.

Althoug ArcGIS has many predefined maps, most of these are on more familiar places notably in rich countries. But this has never been a great worry for us. We simple get our base maps from planning agencies in the province or community and with the help of ArcGIS's wizards, we can already customize the acquired maps for our software's use.

ArcGIS has many more available features and tools like metadata management and support for many kinds of data types, images and multimedia to for easy analysis of any given geographic location.

By the next year, with our GIS expert coming in from Europe, our organization is planning of setting up a web based poverty map. This will make it easy for many poverty reduction groups to pinpoint exact targets around the world, or whoever uses the software we developed.

And 2015 is very fast approaching. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals include reducing poverty around the world by 15% by the year 2015. And there can be no guessing at the target because time flies very fast. With the help of maps, interventions to poverty can be hit bulls eye!

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