The 3rd BAIRAL Research Meeting for 2021 Report on “Crowdsourcing GIS and Diversity”

Hiroki Kato (Research Assistant of the B’AI Global Forum)

・Date & Venue: Monday, 28th June 2021, 18:00-19:30 (JST) @Zoom (online)
・Language: Japanese
・Moderator: Hiroki Kato
(Click here for details on the event)

On June 28th, 2021, BAIRAL (a study group organized by research assistants of the B’AI Global Forum) held its 3rd online meeting for 2021. The guest speaker was Professor Yuichiro Nishimura in the Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences at Nara Women’s University, who has been investigating the use of crowdsourcing geographic information systems (GIS). He gave us a presentation on what crowdsourcing GIS is, the situations of its use in Japan, and its relationship with fairness, equality, and diversity in society. This was followed by participants asking and discussing related topics.


Crowdsourcing GIS consists of maps edited by local people on the Internet. A well-known example of a GIS is OpenStreetMap (OSM), which originated in the U.K. in 2004 (earlier than Google Maps). According to Prof. Nishimura’s presentation, Japan is one of the countries which has many active users of OSM. At the same time, rural areas and developing countries have deficient maps and there are huge gaps in the use of OSM among regions, both domestically and globally. Since maps themselves are an important source of information and significantly affect the lives of local people such like disaster prediction and recovery assistance etc, the disparity in accessibility to such geographic information can be considered a kind of information gap. Some global NGOs, which are mainly organized by the younger generation, have tackled such geographical gaps.


As observed in the explanation above, though crowdsourcing GIS itself is equally open to everyone, it could connote unfairness or inequality based on the power structure in society. Besides the regional gaps, for example, existing research has generally indicated that there is a huge gender gap among its users as well. While it is said that the internet has brought democratization in a variety of fields, it can also expand gaps which already exist in society. Therefore, it is important to accumulate more data on the use of online services and grasp how these services influence society.