This week in Sarajevo the POINT conference will convene activists, technologists, and interested citizens from all over Southeastern Europe to discuss political accountability and the use of new technologies to improve governance. Hosted by a group of Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian and Kosovan civil society organizations, this is a strong signal of a new era of political engagement in a part of the world that was ravaged by civil war just a little over a decade and a half ago.

I am excited to have the opportunity to speak at the conference on how mapping and data visualization can be used in a great variety of ways relevant to civil society, such as to expose fraud, create political realities, highlight environmental issues, and respond to disasters. Most importantly, I am looking forward to drawing people’s attention to the radical drop in the barrier of entry in creating compelling web maps and publishing geodata. Polished web maps are not a matter of big budgets any more.

In my session I will give a glimpse into our data processing and mapping toolbox and show how we use open source tools like Quantum GIS, PostGIS, and our own TileMill together with data from sources like OpenStreetMap, the World Bank, and UNOSAT. I will also touch on collecting geodata with commodity GPS trackers and contributing to OpenStreetMap. This should be of particular interest given how incredibly detailed available OpenStreetMap data for Bosnia and Herzegovina is in comparison to Google Maps data.

In my talk on Friday (Feb 17, 3:15 pm), I will focus on strategically using map based visualizations and give an overview of an open source toolkit to do so - all geared towards a non-technical audience.

For those eager to dig into using the technology, on Thursday night (Feb 16, 7:00 pm) there will be a hands on geodata workshop. I’ll walk through how to put data on web maps using TileMill, contribute to OpenStreetMap, and create maps from OpenStreetMap data. All you need to bring is a laptop. If you’re interested or want to share a dataset to map ahead of the workshop, drop me a line on Twitter at @lxbarth - I’m looking forward to hearing from you.