The “Waterproofing Data” project has won the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize 2023 in the category “Outstanding Societal Impact” for helping to protect residents of flood-prone areas in Brazil. In 2018, Joao Porto de Albuquerque from the University of Glasgow initiated the project in which HeiGIT is also involved. The main goal of this project is to build sustainable, flood resilient communities in close collaboration with local citizens and institutions, such as Brazil’s National Center for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters (CEMADEN). The project aims to complement the weather data used in flood management research with data collected from citizens, as their knowledge on floodings and respective coping strategies helps to develop several strategies to tackle the problem.
The project utilizes three methods to close gaps in flood-related data: Tracing existing data and visualizing its flow, involing citizens into the generation of new local data by means of surveys and participatory mapping, and integrating citizen-generated data with other data using geo-computational techniques. Allowing to easily create and digitalize paper maps, the SketchMapTool is one of the services enabeling citizens to participate in the “Waterproofing Data” project.
The Waterproofing Data mobile app is another tool that was developed during the project. With this app, citizens can also engage in participatory mapping, as well as record daily rainfall, flooding events and their impact on communities. Currently, more than 410 ‘citizen scientists’ in Brazil have used the Waterproofing Data app, proving its effectiveness: Thanks to their participation in Waterproofing Data activites, two ‘citizen scientists’ from the city of Jaboatão dos Guararapes were able to put their knowledge on flood risks into practice, alerting other citizens in time and saving their lives.
In response to the awarding of the ‘Waterproofing Data’ project HeiGIT Scientific and Managing Director Alexander Zipf says: “We are very glad about the project being honored with the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize and that HeiGIT could contribute to sustaining the project’s success. This success, meaning the successful rescue of human lives, is owed to all people who cooperatively worked on the project, meaning that this award most importantly honors the helpers on site, the ‘citizen scientists’. They have demonstrated what people are capable of when they are given low-threshold opportunities to actively help preparing for natural disasters.”