Pune, Day 1

Hello from OpenStreetMap Pune! High on the Deccan Plane, refuge from the heat and crowds of nearby Mumbai, it’s only a small Indian city with just 5 million people! “Oxford of the East”, with scores of universities, and India’s fastest growing city freshly imprinted with the physical manifestations of globalization and computers and consumerism (my favorite absurd ad so far is for a not-sexy compact car called the SX4 – “Men are Back!”), Pune sprawls in semi-orderly grids, filled with the usual chaos and cows, out into the countryside with new IT parks and luxury apartments. You’ll see this when we’ve made the map.

We’re hosted here by IndicTrans, a crack team of developers specializing in i18n/i10n (they say the spelling of my name in Hindi is माईकल), open source, and GIS. They’re working with CRIT who organized the Mumbai Free Map work and the other Free Map work, and CRIT have funding from the UNDP to take free and open mapping to India, especially for urban planning in sprawling Mumbai. So part of our time here is helping to set up a work plan for them, and it’s focused on building on appropriate features in OpenStreetMap.

To start with, we’re taking existing data sets and importing them into OSM. kleptog (big thanks!) started the import of the donated AND data for India, which has good detail in Mumbai and Pune, and VMAP0 over the rest of the country. The Mumbai Free Map is a digitized set of maps from the Mumbai municipality, incredible detail, but digitized into CAD and not directly transformable into OSM — so the plan is to use the WMS interface from there, and set up a process for students to redigitize supplemental data like landmarks, and recheck the AND data. There’s also possible data available from the Maharastra state and the city of Pune, negotiation is needed on the licensing. But that data is in Shapefiles, so the another task is to build more of a supporting toolset for Shapefile import into OSM; it’s something we do again and again for OSM, recently completed in Merano and Sudan and soon Arezzo, and there’s got to be a common procedure set. I18n and l10n into Hindi and Marathi is a big focus for Indictrans, and a big need for OSM, so we’re investigating JOSM, the website, and perhaps in the long term the core tile rendering as well. There’s a need among the CRIT folks for SVG export, so we’re looking at building this directly into the osm site. And with the sporadic network in some parts, offline modes and local caching may be a good task to tackle here, and has application much much more widely, for instance in humanitarian response.

The crew at Indictrans and their sister company all live together in a kind of company supported hacker hostel, which is actually a very traditional set up in India. An intense living environment, with parallels to Silicon Valley, except here the house comes with a lovely women who does all the tasty cooking and cleaning and tea making, and really a kind of surrogate mother for these young engineers. And they play cricket in the living room. They’ve been very very welcoming and generous and buzz with the new energy of this place.

Lunch today, delicious, at a restaurant near the office, wow.

Tomorrow we’re doing a sort of dry run mapping party with this crew for the upcoming more public workshops in Mumbai, Trivandrum, Bangalore. Schuyler and I are fleshing out the presentations and schedule and plans, so really Pune is a quick staging stop for the rest of the month. Been up since 5 this morning, and it’s 11 now while I write this, and it’s been an exhilarating productive day. And just the first day. Going to be quite a month.

Free Map India: A Series of Workshops in February 2008

This month, Schuyler Erle and myself will hold a series of multi-day workshops in several India cities. Researchers, students, programmers, activists and members of the community are invited to participate, learn, and take stewardship of their city. These will be very practical, hands-on days, covering the entire toolset of OpenStreetMap and empowering participants to lead the growth of free and open mapping in India. We will map India!

This kicked off by just idly chatting about bringing together Mumbai Free Map and OpenStreetMap. Schuyler had worked with CRIT over the past couple years to bring extensive geographic data of Mumbai online, and spread the word of open source geo. Why not share with OSM? Well that quickly spiraled into an idea for a continent wide month long trip. And it would have remained just an idea, if not for the amazing organizing that has taken place in just a few months. We’re now geared up to visit six cities — Pune, Mumbai, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkotta — and educate, and learn, and discuss, and MAP! If anyone reading is based in these cities, or has connections there, and are interested in participating, please do get in touch.

We’ve been organizing on the FreeMap wiki, and will also be bringing the OSM India wiki page up to date. You can find full details on the workshops there. There’s a Google Calendar for the OSM India events and dates in the OSM Current Events calendar as well.

So I will be blogging, obsessively if there’s time, on Brain Off, posting photos to flickr with tag freemapindia2008, making animations and other artifacts, and of course, maps.

Thanks everyone who has helped bring this to reality — I can’t quite believe this is actually happening. Fantastic!