(Via Geospatial Semantic Web Blog.)

GeoRSS & Geonames for Philanthropy: "

I heard about Kiva.ORG in a BusinessWeek podcast. After visiting its website, I think there are few places where GeoRSS (in the RDF/A syntax) and Geonames can be used to enhance the site’s functionality.

Kiva.ORG Background

It’s a microfinance website for people in the developing countries. Its business model is in the intersection between peer-to-peer financing and philanthropy. The goal is to help developing country businesses to borrow small loans from a large group of Web users, so that they can avoid paying high interests to the banks.

For example, a person in Uganda can request a $500 loan and use it for buying and selling more poultry. One or more lenders (anyone on the Web) may decide to grant loans to that person in increments as tiny as $25. After few years, that person will pay back the loans to the lenders.

How GeoRSS and Geonames Can Help

I went to the website and discovered the site has a relative weak search and browsing interface. In particular, there is no way to group loan requests based on geographical locations (e.g., countries, cities and regions).

Took a look at individual loan pages. Each page actually has standard ways to describe location information — e.g., Location: Mbale, Uganda.

It should be relative easy to add GeoRSS points (in the RDF/A syntax) to describe these location information (an alternative maybe using Microformat Geo or W3C Geo). Once the location information is annotated, one can imagine building a map mashup to display loan requests in a geospatial perspective. One can also build search engines to support spatial queries such as ‘find me all loans with from Mbale’.

Since Kiva.ORG webmasters may not be GIS experts, it will be nice if we can find ways to automatically geocode location information and describe that using GeoRSS. This automatic geocoding procedure can be developed using Geonames’s webservices. Take a string ‘Mbale’ or ‘Uganda’, and send to Geonames’s search service. The procedure will get back JSON or XML description of the location, which include latitude and longitude. This will then be used to annotate the location information in a Kiva loan page.

Can you think of other ways to help Kiva.ORG to become more ‘geospatially intelligent’?
You can learn more about Kiva.ORG at its website and listen to this podcast.