Geohazards and Earth Processes Research Group
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Volunteered Geographic Info

Volunteered Geographic Information



Title: Biases in Volunteered Geographic Information: Impacts on ‘Smart’ services

Fellowship: Daphne Jackson Trust

Part-funded: EPSRC

Facilitated by Web 2.0, recent developments in global mapping have witnessed a shift away from government produced printed maps to editable online versions created by non-expert volunteers, typically described as ‘volunteered geographic information’ (VGI). Examples of VGI include active edits to online geographic databases (e.g. OpenStreetMap), such as the location and position of buildings, open spaces, road names or service location, as well as passive contributions, such as automatically geotagged Twitter feeds. This kind of geospatial data typically form the basis of location-based services; those that rely on a users’ location to provide services through applications downloaded to ‘smart’ technology.

This new form of geospatial data is increasingly harnessed by Local Authorities, Governments, Quangos and NGOs for sustainability, strategic development, planning, organisation and the delivery of services towards the development of ‘smart’ cities, which use digital technologies to improve the quality of location-based services for urban planning. However, strong biases in participation, related to gender, economic status and age have been demonstrated. Research to date has neglected to define the extent and exact nature of these biases as well as their impact on data quality. Using an interdisciplinary analysis of contributors’ data collected from VGI projects, my research aims to define the impact of these biases on smart-city services and approach how the effects might be mitigated. Understanding these processes will have direct relevance to the use of volunteered geospatial data in Geo-hazards and Earth Processes and work towards a clearer understanding of their role and utility alongside more authoritative and proprietary datasets.

The project is part-funded by the EPSRC.

Open Street Map



Geohazards and Earth Processes

Nottingham Geospatial Building
Jubilee Campus
The University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2TU

telephone: +44 (0) 115 95 15445