Want to Report a Problem at School? Perhaps There Should Be an App For That

Although crisis-mapping is often associated, as the name suggests, with the crowdsourcing of data during a time of crisis, there are a multitude of ways in which mobile and social technologies can help gather and crowdsource data. In a post on the World Bank blog, Michael Trucano asks if it's possible to use these sorts of mapping tools to help address educational issues.

Trucano wonders if crowdsourcing with mobile phone technologies and a mapping platform like Ushahidi could be utilized by parents, teachers, and students to report when computer equipment was broken, for example. The purpose of such efforts, he writes, would be to "present and collect school-level data in ways that are easily accessible to the public."

Trucano then points to an initiative in the Philippines that encourages public reporting about schools via SMS. The program Checkmyschool.org maps information about public education services in the country. The idea is to provide a tool for third-party monitoring of school services, including checking up on school budgets, enrollment, teachers, textbooks, classrooms, toilets, and overall student performance.

Currently the database stores information about around 8,000 of the country's 44,000 public elementary and high schools. These are the schools whose GPS coordinates are known. Built using Google Maps, the application is available via a web browser, with feedback solicited via SMS.

Trucano notes, "As open data initatives help to unlock facts and figures previously held tightly within governmental bureaucracies, and as (increasingly powerful and affordable) mobile phones and other ICTs are increasingly to be found among wider segments of populations, exploring how to tap the skills and enthusiasm of software developer communities seems a useful way to help spark innovative thinking and the creation of innovative tools to help us collectively identify and implement new approaches to solving various developmental challenges."

Indeed, it seems as though the tools that are being built for crisis-mapping, in conjunction with the development of social networks and mobile technologies, are providing numerous venues for people to have more open access to government data, as well as the opportunity to contribute their own real-time information. Do U.S. cities and states need an app to track school data? Perhaps, like Checkmyschool.org, we should build one.

Photo Credit: Flickr