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Open access book centers student experiences in geospatial technology solutions

Three students in the YouthMapper network sitting together in an outdoor setting.

In Ghana, students and researchers cataloged a database of farmers, properly demarcated farm sizes and gave farmers the opportunity to project farm yields and increase output efficiency. Photo courtesy "Open Mapping towards Sustainable Development Goals: Voices of YouthMappers on Community Engaged Scholarship"

January 20, 2023

In a recently published book that explores geospatial technologies, university students across the globe navigate the role of open mapping in humanitarian efforts and development. 

“Open Mapping towards Sustainable Development Goals: Voices of YouthMappers on Community Engaged Scholarship” was co-edited by Patricia Solís, executive director of the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience and a senior global futures scholar at Arizona State University's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. Fellow co-editor Marcela Zeballos is a research associate in the Center for Geospatial Technology at Texas Tech University. 

The book, which was published online in early December, is available for free online with an open access link

“Everyone says they want to hear from the youth around the world, but few are really working directly to get youth voices out there,” Solís said. “Most of our authors are university students from countries where they may not have had as many opportunities to write for an open access project like this.” 

The book is a compilation of voices, perspectives and actions of 68 university students across 25 countries. It features volunteer work from university students and recent graduates within the YouthMappers network, of which Solís is the co-founder and director. YouthMappers is a community of students, educators and scholars who implement mapping activities that respond to development needs around the globe.

In “Open Mapping towards Sustainable Development Goals,” the authors center the stories told in the book around the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of strategic and urgent goals for humanity’s future prosperity. The book is a part of the Sustainable Development Goals Series, which is publishing company Springer Nature’s inaugural cross-imprint book series that addresses and supports the United Nations’ 17 SDGs. 

Chapters are framed around the SDGs in an effort to connect youth efforts to global sustainability agendas. Authors covered topics that range from water, agriculture, food and waste to education, gender, climate action and disasters. 

“There is a misconception that the work students do, especially if it’s unpaid, isn’t as robust,” Solís said. “But these students have amazing, innovative ideas and creative approaches on how to change the world. ”

Zeballos also serves as the managing director of YouthMappers. She said the book being public access makes an important statement about equitable access to knowledge. In the first six weeks that the book has been online, it has been accessed more than 105,000 times.

“One of our main goals was to make this information accessible not only to the authors but to everyone, including other students who will read this content and be inspired,” Zeballos said. “Students aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow. They’re actively leading, today, through projects like this.” 

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