When I first heard about SikSik, a map app for Iqaluit, two thoughts came to mind: firstly, it's about time, and secondly, that idea sounds familiar. It turns out, I was correct on both counts.
According to SikSik developer Casey Lessard, the inspiration for the app came from a post I wrote back in November 2013 called Life in Iqaluit: We need an app for that, where I listed my suggestions for Iqaluit-specific apps, the very first one being a building numbers map app. In an email to Sara and myself, Casey writes that after reading that post he thought, "Someone has to do something about this." And so he did.
For those unfamiliar with Iqaluit's system of assigning building numbers, every single building in Iqaluit has a unique number, starting in the 100s and going into the 5000s. In some of the newer subdivisions, the number system progresses logically; however, in some parts of town, the numbers don’t line up. Iqalummiut use only these building numbers, often in conjunction with the neighbourhood name, in lieu of addresses with street names (we do have street names, but no one uses them). Both charming and confusing, the building number system has left many a newcomer and lifetime resident puzzled or, quite simply, lost.
Enter SikSik, "a city guide with the primary goal of mapping the town." Its selling feature is that it allows the user to enter a building number and receive door-to-door directions, something that we can't currently do with Google Maps (though we do have Street View!).
According to SikSik, using the app will get you to your destination quicker and more efficiently in comparison to using, say, the City of Iqaluit's Building Numbers Map or your memory/coworker's directions. In addition to the mapping feature, SikSik also includes weather, news, and other local information, all bundled into a user-friendly interface that's available to download for free. Interested? Here's what you need to know.
How does SikSik work?
A lot of manual effort went into creating this digital tool. Writes Casey, "Using data from the City of Iqaluit's printable map...I manually inputted all of the houses by marking points on an overlay of the Google satellite image." The result: a basic map of the city with discoverable building numbers. Enter a building number in SikSik's search bar, and the app will locate the spot and tell you how to get there.
Known issues and omissions
One major issue users may face is the time it takes to load the app, especially when using Iqaluit's temperamental 3G network. Even when using wifi, I found the app sluggish at times, though in all fairness, this may have been caused by the challenges of Nunavut broadband access rather than the app itself (SikSik is only 6 MB in size, with a database of 1 MB; in comparison, Google Maps uses 14.1 MB on an iPhone). Diminished user experiences as a result of crappy Internet connections is nothing new to Nunavut, and was a major point of interest in a recent guest blog post about the Pangnirtung Code Club.
Another notable aspect of SikSik is a lack of information: nearly all of its categories are empty, and the news section is not up-to-date. The categories are meant to house local businesses, with space to list specials, menus, contact information, and more. Though these listings are not necessary for SikSik to achieve its main purpose of providing directions based on building numbers, it was disappointing to try to use a feature that is currently under construction.
As a final point, SikSik is currently only available in English, and I say currently because...
SikSik isn't a static app, and Casey has a lot of plans to make it better and keep it relevant and accurate. He writes, "The app will help businesses get their message out there on an equal playing field...My goal is to have every business listed [on SikSik]." Time-consuming and tedious, it's not surprising that SikSik's business database is under construction. That being said, the businesses that do have a complete listing look great. Casey is also in the process of having the app translated into French and Inuktitut.
Where can you get SikSik?
SikSik is available at the App Store for iPhones and at the Google Play store for Android phones. Blackberry users, you have not been forgotten: you can search out building numbers on siksik.ca through your mobile browser. If you don't have a phone, you can also search for buildings and directions using the search function on the SikSik website. Both the website and the apps are free to download, and Casey wants to keep it that way: "I believe it is true that information wants to be free," he says. "And in this territory, there are too many barriers that create inequality between rich and poor...I want to reduce barriers."
The Bottom Line: Should you get SikSik?
In short, yes. If you're new to Iqaluit or just visiting, this app can be a game changer when trying to navigate the town's slightly disjointed address scheme. For residents, you may want to get the app for another reason: to make it better. Casey has included links so that users can suggest corrections or add a business. With a little more information and input, SikSik has the potential to become an all-purpose, dynamic digital city guide. Simple, useful, and free as it stands now, SikSik is a work-in-progress founded on a great idea (if I do say so myself).