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Open Street Map

The rise of local mapping communities

Vivien Deparday's picture
More than 150 people participated in the SotM Africa conference in 2017. (Courtesy of SotM Africa)
More than 150 people participated in the SotM Africa conference in 2017. (Courtesy of SotM Africa)

There is a unique space where you can encounter everyone from developers of self-driving cars in Silicon Valley to city planners in Niamey to humanitarian workers in Kathmandu Valley: the global OpenStreetMap (OSM) community. It comprises a geographically and experientially diverse network of people who contribute to OSM, a free and editable map of the world that is often called the “Wikipedia of maps.”  

What is perhaps most special about this community is its level playing field. Anyone passionate about collaborative mapping can have a voice from anywhere in the world. In the past few years, there has been a meteoric rise of locally organized mapping communities in developing countries working to improve the map in service of sustainable development activities.

The next opportunity to see the OSM community in action will be the November 14th mapathon hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)’s Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI). Mapathons bring together volunteers to improve the maps of some of the world’s most vulnerable areas, not only easing the way for emergency responders when disaster strikes, but also helping cities and communities plan and build more resiliently for the future.

Blog post of the month: Mapping Nepal after the earthquake

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In April 2015, the featured blog post is "Media (R)evolutions: Mapping Nepal after the earthquake".

On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, rattling the country and affecting 8 million people across 39 districts, with a quarter of those in the worst affected areas. More than 5,000 people have been confirmed dead so far.

Relief agencies are now in the country, providing supplies, administering medical treatment, and searching for survivors. In an effort to support disaster responders, teams of volunteers around the world are scouring through thousands of high-resolution satellite images to provide those on the ground with as much information as possible so they can do their jobs most effectively.

Many of these so-called “crisis mappers” are untrained volunteers who compare before and after images of the affected areas to tag buildings that have collapsed, roads that are blocked, and areas of heavy debris. This provides crucial information to disaster response teams on the ground.

The people of Nepal have also been utilizing other tools to locate missing family and friends, identify themselves as safe, and find rescue and gathering places where help can be obtained.

Here are a few of the initiatives underway:Nepal Earthquake: Before And After In Kathmandu

Media (R)evolutions: Mapping Nepal after the earthquake

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, rattling the country and affecting 8 million people across 39 districts, with a quarter of those in the worst affected areas. More than 5,000 people have been confirmed dead so far.

Relief agencies are now in the country, providing supplies, administering medical treatment, and searching for survivors.  In an effort to support disaster responders, teams of volunteers around the world are scouring through thousands of high-resolution satellite images to provide those on the ground with as much information as possible so they can do their jobs most effectively.

Many of these so-called “crisis mappers” are untrained volunteers who compare before and after images of the affected areas to tag buildings that have collapsed, roads that are blocked, and areas of heavy debris.  This provides crucial information to disaster response teams on the ground.

The people of Nepal have also been utilizing other tools to locate missing family and friends, identify themselves as safe, and find rescue and gathering places where help can be obtained.

Here are a few of the initiatives underway:

Give It Up!

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Access is the big topic when people discuss ICT on this blog. The digital divide is still the biggest obstacle for using ICT in development effectively. The access issue has more than one side: It's not only about access to the technology, it's also about access to content that feeds into the technology.

Still a Niche? ICTs for Disaster Response and Development

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

When I try to wrap my head around the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for development, I usually don't get much further than "blogging" and "text messages." It was therefore enlightening to attend today's World Bank Institute Keys to Innovation Discussion Series on "Developers for Development: Using Open Source Technology in Disaster Response and Beyond." Five presenters from open source organizations introduced their projects. The relevance of those projects is painfully obvious in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.