In developed countries, we often take for granted that Google Maps has plotted out every street and every corner of our surroundings, thanks to satellite photography and GPS. Surprisingly, many of the world’s largest cities in developing countries remain uncharted. The Missing Maps project is filling these gaps in the unmapped corners of this world.
Yesterday we had a look of crowd-mapping initiatives like Crisis Mapping that can quickly respond to humanitarian emergencies and map out areas affected by natural disasters, conflicts or disease outbreaks.
As a backpacker, a lack of accurate city maps and names of landmarks or streets might not cause you troubles at all, just ‘Ask the locals!’. In the world’s most vulnerable places, however, it’s a different story.
The Missing Maps project builds on the work of the Open Street Map team that connects community mappers - from ground field mappers to GIS professionals and engineers - through open data and open source sharing software. During the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) proved their success by assisting local NGOs and other crisis responders to use their maps to save time and lives.
As an open collaboration founded by the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross, Humanitarian OSM Team (HOT) and Medicines Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the point of the project is to allow local people in rural settlements in Africa access to the maps and to edit and develop them. So, how to get a basic digital city map done and implemented on the ground? This is what the team says:
Step 1: Remote volunteers trace satellite imagery into OpenStreetMap
Step 2: Community volunteers add local detail such as neighborhoods, street names and evacuation centres.
Step 3: Humanitarian orgs use mapped information to plan risk reduction and disaster response activities
Out of my own curiosity, I searched for a city map of Yaoundé in Cameroon, where I spent my 2011 summer volunteering. Users can easily log-in, edit and fix names of buildings and streets, all edits are shown in the track changes function that display a user’s name and time and place. You can leave a comment if you spot any problems with the map and the team will fix it for you.
The Missing Maps team and HOT will launch a ‘Mapathon’ tomorrow on 7 November in seven cities around the world. Check out their facebook page for an update on events.