After a series of talks and orienting 150 students, the official launch of LightsOn movement was organized in Kathmandu. The one-day event brought contributors, prospective volunteers, policymakers on a single platform where interactive sessions including presentations,...
To mark the International Open Data Day on March 2, Youth Innovation Lab (YI-Lab) in a joint initiative with NAXA launched a movement-‘LightsOn’. The event was organized with the support of The Asia Foundation and Development Initiatives under Data for Development (D4D) program. With rigorous brainstorming sessions, the colleagues at YI-Lab came up with the idea of mapping street lights of Kathmandu valley and NAXA joined with technical backstopping to develop the mobile app and an interactive web interface.
LightsOn movement advanced the digital advocacy campaign by sensitizing youths and collecting evidences that has the potential to pressurize the policymakers, and bureaucrats to effectively focus on solving societal problems. YI-Lab engages youths to map local urban utilities and upload them on open platform. They are rewarded with certificates and merchandises for these contributions. In the initial start of the movement that lasted for 10 days, the volunteers from various colleges gathered for open data awareness. They were informed about the step-by-step contribution procedure, Open Data, and the rational of long-term impact of this campaign. In addition to that, the prospective volunteers were also informed about the importance of street lights and how their contribution would help LightsOn movement.
After series of talks and orienting 150 students, the official launch of LightsOn movement was organized in Kathmandu. The one-day event brought contributors, prospective volunteers, policy makers on a single platform where interactive sessions including presentations, experience sharing of mappers, panel discussion on Government’s preparedness, lightning talk, keynote speech and workshop were conducted.
Excitement filled the room as the event kicked off with the introduction to the movement ‘LightsOn’ by Aashish Sharma. Highlighting the importance of LightsOn campaign and the necessity of maintaining database, Executive Director of YI-Lab, Pradip Khatiwada gave a powerful presentation. Some of the key takeaways from his presentation were the growing urban challenges, insufficient actions being taken by the local governments and how the cities are failing to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). He highlighted SDG Goal: 11 -Building Sustainable Cities and Communities and the importance of maintaining and updating database to enhance the informed decision making process.
Fig 1: Pradip Khatiwada, Executive Director of YI-Lab presenting on Mapping Urban Utilities and Maintaining Datasets.
The experience sharing session gave a chance for the participants to know about the actual conditions of streets lights in Kathmandu from the volunteers who went to the field for mapping. Their overall response clearly showed that there is lack of streetlights in much needed places around the valley and a lot of them are damaged or in bad conditions.
The panel discussion with prominent personalities representing the organizations/departments that directly or indirectly play an important role in the urban development became one of the key highlights of the event. The panelists were Narayan Chimariya, Deputy Superintendent of Nepal Police (DSP); Mahesh Thapa, Survey Officer in the Survey Department, Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, Government of Nepal; Sagar Basnet, Geomatics Engineer, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and Niroj Panta, Innovation Lead at YI-Lab.
The panel discussion began with the opinion of the panelists on the LightsOn movement. All four panelists gave positive feedback and extended their good wishes. The discussion targeted on the roles of Survey Department, NEA and Nepal Police in the development of urban utilities. The answers varied; however, concluding that the Survey Department, and the NEA does not consider urban utilities as a priority. Both the panelists argued that it is the responsibility of the local government since the country is now under the Federal System. Despite that, question rose on capacitating the local government to which the panelist from survey department stated that they are currently working on segregating the roles of survey and mapping in the local and provincial level to avoid duplication. Representative from NEA explained that NEA’s role is till the distribution level from where the entire authority is with the local government. As per him, there is no coordination on monitoring whether the electricity that they have been distributing is being used properly or not. His response clearly indicated that there is communication gap between the two regarding the number of street lights being installed and their payment to NEA.
On the other hand, as per DSP Chimariya, Nepal Police have been involved in the installation of CCTV in the sensitive areas and have been collaborating with the Kathmandu Metropolis to install CCTV in the areas with street lights. DSP Chimariya interestingly related LightsOn movement to security by stating that ‘turning the lights on is like turning the security and safety on’. He ensured that the team will have full support of Nepal Police in this movement.
The innovation lead of YI-Lab, Niroj shed light on how simple technological innovations can solve complex problems. He elaborated on the importance of spreading the awareness on breaking the stereotype of considering technology as complex. As per him, this mentality have restrained many youths from getting involved in technological innovations which can only be resolved by spreading awareness through such movements as- LightsOn.
Interesting question was raised during the final Q&A session- on the concept of Open data with conflicting opinions. Mr. Thapa from the survey department mentioned about the data being open in the National Geoportal of the survey department. However, two participants argued that only putting the data in the online portal does not make the data open when there is a price stated in most of the data that has to be paid to get access. They argued that the data is ‘open’ only when it is available in a platform to be used and shared ‘freely’. It was not just about the money charged but as the citizen of the country they insisted on having the ‘Right to Information’. As per them, there are so many data collected at the ministry level but hardly these data are being made open. To search for these data and get access is another major challenge. They concluded stating that these issues need to be raised in the policy making level and the urgency of formulation of National Open Data Policy must be addressed as soon as possible.
In his defense, the representative from the survey department argued that there are different perceptions on open data and the government’s perception is a little different. He said that the Survey Department has to abide by the acts and policies while making these data open and thus, all the data cannot be provided for free. He added few more reasons in his argument such as to maintain the data standards, avoid its misuse and to compensate for the costs incurred during the mapping process.
Fig 2: Panel Discussion (From the left DSP Narayan Chimariya, Nepal Police; Mahesh Thapa, Survey Department; Sagar Basnet, NEA; Niroj Panta, YI-Lab)
The keynote speech by the Keynote speaker, Hon. Biraj Bhakta Shrestha, Member of Parliament, Province 3 was another major highlight of the event. A short lightning talk by the CEO of NAXA, Arun Bhandari was on introduction to the web interface and its usability followed by his views on the need of such innovations in the development sector.
Fig 3: Lightning talk by Arun Bhandari, CEO of NAXA
The keynote speech at the end by Hon. Shrestha was a blend of his thoughts on the movement and his suggestions on how to make this movement more effective. He encouraged the spirit of volunteerism, participation and the notion ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’. He expressed his happiness on seeing the increasing rate of social entrepreneurship and growing strength of technology amongst today’s generation. Few suggestions that he gave to the team and the volunteers was to start from a small scale so that the results are tangible and convincible. He suggested on starting from one ward as a pilot project and then expanding beyond. He also emphasized on the importance of having right policy and encouraged the team to start advocating on open data policy as well. Finally, he ended his speech with best wishes and promised to give his full support to make LightsOn a successful movement.
Fig 4: Keynote speaker, Hon. Biraj Bhakta Shrestha delivering the keynote speech.
The YI-Lab is a collaborative platform and experimental pop-up to catalyze and mobilize the creative energy of young people between 15-29 to co-create solutions for inclusive development.
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