Early Careers Network

Volunteered Geographic Information Event Blog Post

On Friday 28 January the AGI ECN kicked off their programme of events for 2022 with a virtual networking event on Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI). VGI is about crowd sourcing data and usually involves empowering the public to collect data on your behalf. There are heaps of benefits to this approach but also a few things that need some serious thinking about before you start.

The session started with a great presentation from Jack Cornish, Head of Paths at the Ramblers and Dan Ormsby, Head of Operations at Astun Technology on the Ramblers Don’t Lose Your Way campaign.

Thousands of miles of Public Right’s of Way are currently missing from our maps. To date volunteers have been collecting evidence to prove there was a right of way, then submitting this evidence to the local authority for approval. Whilst this is great and much appreciated the Ramblers needed to understand the extent of these missing rights of way, and also get more volunteers involved to meet the challenge.

Enter the use of VGI and the Ramblers Don’t Lose Your Way campaign! In the presentation Jack and Dan explained the process for capturing these lost rights of way. England and Wales were split up into 154,000 one-kilometre squares, with members of the public able to compare current mapping with historic mapping, adding any missing rights of way. Some 3,500 people volunteered for this task capturing just under 50,000 miles of paths! The data collected was then verified, stitched together at the square boundaries and prioritised – Of these identified paths, which add the most value to the network? The campaign is currently in the evidence stage – building up evidence of these missing paths from historic records before applications are submitted to the local authority for approval.

Following the presentation attendees were split into two breakout rooms. What followed were interesting discussions on VGI, understanding participants involvement and experiences in these types of projects. Topics discussed included how you keep large numbers of people engaged, and also the need to ensure that the process of contributing data is easy and intuitive.

Massive thanks to Jack and Dan for giving up their time to do the presentation, and to all those who joined! Keep an eye out for details of the next AGI ECN event which we’ll be releasing shortly!