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Collaborative Mapping

Need better maps? Take it to the crowd!

Charles Fox's picture
A detailed map of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Open Street Map
Amateur mappers the world over have long known that they can support global development, from the comfort of their homes, through one simple tool: OpenStreetMap (OSM). What has been less clear is how we can build this effort into the fabric of World Bank operations.

OSM has revolutionized geography. It is the ‘Wikipedia’ of mapping: anyone can edit the map by tracing features such as roads and buildings against free, high-quality satellite imagery. In contrast to other map services, the platform is entirely open:  anyone can download a layer of the roads and buildings that make up the map. It is built for the people, by the people, in all regions of the world. It epitomizes the best features of open digital collaboration: leading-edge technology made freely available to all, regardless of location. Because everyone can contribute, OSM maps are often much more complete than commercial alternatives—especially in areas that are hard to survey, such as informal settlements].

The World Bank makes frequent use of OSM for research purposes, and occasionally supports one-off initiatives to complete OSM maps in specific areas, e.g. after natural disasters (Nepal and Haiti are recent examples). But we have put less effort into nurturing the community of altruistic mapping volunteers who make OSM so special, and play a critical role in keeping the map updated over time.

A recent series of initiatives, however, is bucking that trend.
 

Mapping Water Efficiency and Climate Resilience in South Asia

Gazbiah Rahaman's picture



Water is an essential part of life and roughly one in ten of the world’s population—748 million people—do not have access to safe water.[1] In South Asia, about 1.5 billion people are affected by water stress and scarcity, due to increasing demand for water resources; as the climate changes, this may worsen the situation.

Treating water as a precious natural resource important for all, brings new perspective to sustainable water resource management and long-term sustainable growth in the Ganges-Brahmaputra river basin both upstream in India and downstream in Bangladesh. A World Bank initiative serves as a linchpin for developing an inclusive analytical framework that promotes access to water, improved efficiency, climate resilience and poverty alleviation in South Asia. So, the question arises: Is this too ambitious and is it achievable?

OpenStreetMap volunteers map Typhoon Haiyan-affected areas to support Philippines relief and recovery efforts

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes's picture


Mapping impact on houses in Tacloban

In the aftermath of a disaster, lack of information about the affected areas can hamper relief and recovery efforts. Open-source mapping tools provide a much-needed low-cost high-tech opportunity to bridge this gap and provide localized information that can be freely used and further developed.

A week ago, devastating typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. As the images of the horrifying destruction emerge, there is a clear need in accessing localized high-resolution information that can guide communities’ recovery and reconstruction. Responding to this challenge, over 766 volunteers have been activated by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) to create baseline geographic data which can be freely used by the Philippine government, donors and partner organizations to support all phases of disaster recovery.

How Scalable Web 2.0 is Changing the World of Disaster Management

Tanya Gupta's picture

Disaster management 2.0: scalable human connections fired by high technology

Scalability, virtual communities and Web 2.0 have changed the world of disaster response.  The most successful and disruptive inventions of modern times owe much of their success to scalability.  Although people always had the ability to read books, it was only with the invention of the printing press that it became possible for millions of people to do so.  Web 2.0 and social media make the ability to connect with people scalable.  Scalable human connections combined with open source software and platforms, and unprecedented computing power, results in human-machine synergy also being scaled up. This human-machine synergy results in disruptive technology innovations.  Such disruptive innovations have most recently been seen in the area of humanitarian support to disaster and conflict affected countries.  USB drives were an innovation that disrupted the market for floppy disks.  Although they are not likely to go the way of the floppy disk, the world of traditional disaster relief organizations with proprietary systems, closed data sets and bureaucracy have been up-ended by the disruptive human-machine synergies of Web 2.0 and crowd-sourced humanitarian volunteer organizations.