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Map it and make a difference

Pajat Management’s PoiMapper enables NGOs to produce point-of interest (POI) data that can make a real contribution to improving the quality of life of local communities. Any field worker can start using the service and collecting and sharing POIs simply by creating an account and downloading the application to their mobile phone.

Critical location-based information is often missing or incomplete for development programmes that target sectors such as the environment, health, education, communication, roads, forestry, security, and energy. Information is often still laboriously collected using separate cameras, pen-and-paper-based surveys, and GPS equipment.

Given that the use of mobile phones in fieldwork is becoming as common as the use of computers is in the office, Pajat Management saw that there was a clear opportunity for putting these devices to work here – and launched a collaborative project with Plan, one of the world’s oldest and largest children’s development organisations.

The result is the PoiMapper mobile Internet solution. Designed to be as simple as possible to implement – with no need for back-end hardware investments, complex installation processes, or IT personnel – PoiMapper enables fieldwork to be transformed into a seamless process capable of providing accurate and real-time information directly from the field.

PoiMapper has been designed to help with planning, monitoring, and evaluating largescale development programs by providing real-time visibility and transparency on what is happening in the field and how budgets are being used.

With its ability to document routes, community boundaries, clinics, sanitation facilities, and other resources, PoiMapper has a lot to offer in developing countries where digital maps are often either incomplete or completely unavailable.

Updating what used to be a slow, error-prone process

Collecting location data with mobile phones makes it easier to analyse this type of data and make use of it in decision-making. It also improves its accuracy, while reducing back-office costs and the errors that can inevitably creep in when information collected in paper format is processed manually.

Based on the Software-as-Service (SaaS) model, PoiMapper is designed for organisations that want to harness locationbased services and GIS data without the need for extensive infrastructure investments or costly software licenses. Photo courtesy of Plan.
With the emergence of affordable GPSenabled mobile phones, PoiMapper makes it easy to gather location data in the field that can be associated with a geographical location and timestamp. The software works on any phone with Java capability and allows users to design case-specific questionnaires to collect field data, including numbers, text, and multimedia material. Routes and areas can be recorded by activating GPS tracking. Access routes to villages, water and oil pipes, cultivated land, and forest areas can all be easily documented. PoiMapper can also be integrated with sensor technologies for things like environmental monitoring.

When a user is within reach of a wireless network, data can be transmitted over-the-air; otherwise, it is stored in the phone’s memory for later transmission. After being uploaded, the data can be stored on a globally hosted database or locally, and can be viewed and shared globally over PoiMapper’s Internet portal, using Open Street Maps and Google Maps, for example. Organisation-specific dashboards can be integrated for data analysis.

Pajat Management’s lead development partner, Plan, recently completed an extensive pilot project using PoiMapper in Kilifi county in Kenya to collect information about points of interest for its community development programmes, such as water points, schools, health and trading centres, and sanitation facilities. Plan is also deploying PoiMapper for tuberculosis monitoring in Chiang Rai in Thailand.

Founded over 70 years ago, Plan is one of the world’s oldest and largest children’s development organisations, and works in 48 developing countries to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. More than 20,000 new projects are launched every year to help children realise their potential. community projects tackle issues such as the lack of clean water and sanitation, a poor environment, lack of family income, HIV and aIDS awareness, and access to education.

Established in 2009, Pajat Management is a mobile Web services company dedicated to developing affordable mobile solutions for use in emerging markets by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and public institutions.

Pajat Management’s services include general consultancy and solution development work in the M4DEV space, as well customising PoiMapper for organisation-specific requirements.

Based in Helsinki, Pajat works with a consortium of small and medium-sized mobile and Internet technology specialists in Finland, Bangalore in India, and Nairobi in Kenya, and a network of partners in its target markets. Engaging in social enterprise activities through capacity-building in local companies is a core element of the company’s strategy.

Pajat Management is funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology; while the pilot programme with Plan Kenya was financed by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

> Pertti Lounamaa & Kristoffer Rosberg
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)