Carto the free online GIS system that work with mapping data for analyses and storytelling.

By Wesley Ford

“They will never treat you like you are asking a stupid question.” These are the words of the project manager of OpenUp, Julia Renouprez during a session on the use of Carto which is a data mapping tool used for analysis and storytelling at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference. Renouprez highlighted what makes Carto, the free online geographic information system (GIS), a system designed to analyse geographic data. It also specialises in Location Intelligence mapping.

“The thing I can tell you about Carto is that they [Carto’s support team] are fantastic with the product, they get back to you within 24 hours and will help you with any question you have… and they are really professional,” said Renouprez. According to the Carto site, they have assisted foreign organisations like, Sanitas which does site planning for the healthcare industry and WWF Finland that deals with seal cubs being stuck in fishing nets.

In South Africa, Renouprez showed the audience in attendance how Wazimaps, who provide census data for the population of SA worked with Carto. The GIS platform also assist Non-profit organisations like Ndifuna Ukwazi and the Social Justice Coalition to map the informal settlements of SA and the challenges they face with the use of temporary and permanent toilets in those areas.

Indonesian journalists, Wan Ulfa Nur Zuhra from Tirto.Id which is an Indonesian online media and news portal acknowledged how Carto can add value to data presentation. “It can be useful with your visual data and I can learn on how to prepare it better because it is the most important thing if you already have your data pressed it will be easy to work on Carto to do what you want to do,” she said.

According to Renouprez, Carto analyses data effectively and a process of geocoding is used where mapping is viewed on a latitude and longitude x and y axis using different types of map objects which include points, lines and polygon. The challenges faced with geocoding in SA, according to Renouprez is that a large portion of the population is rural, which hasn’t been mapped, different languages make places hard to find when it come to spelling and mapping doesn’t always keep up to date with name changes.

Carto is good with mapping, as Renouprez gave further users tips when working with mapping data which is that the shape, size and position of the map helps in telling the story and is mapped data used for the story.