State of the Map Scholarships, looking back

The State of the Map scholarships were focused on the benefit to the recipients. Travel to Amsterdam, connection with the wider project, the intention was to provide a boost to local OSM projects in the developing world, where the communities are young and the opportunities great.

And that definitely happened, but the most definite success sign of the program was the impressions from other attendees. Many people expressed to me how much the recipients added to the entire experience, some raising up the program as a highlight of the conference. Despite coming from the other side of the planet, from vastly different experiences, there was a recognition from everyone that we’re all united in the same pursuit of open knowledge, facing the same challenges and winning the same wins. Whenever I have travelled promoting OSM, in India, Africa and the Middle East, I’ve shared that same experience of encountering like-spirited people, and it gives me the greatest optimism for this OSM endeavor.

“To meet in person the people that keep the project going stronger had a curious effect – It boost the confidence in the potential of my contributions to the project because, now, I see that those guys are pretty much like me.” – Claudomiro Nascimento Jr.

“In the same time it eas wonderful to be able to talk in person with all the guys that I only knew over email.” – Ciprian Talaba

Of course it helped that all the guys were awesome, and jumped into the conference full on, everyone gave “State of” talks, and helped out with videos and the auction. Fredy Rivera even offered up 100 leather OSM keychains for the auction, and I snatched up 25, some of which were distributed at the Camp Roberts exercises.

The talks .. charming and impressive work from all.

Pakistan, Ludhiana, India, Romania, Moldova, Cuba, Vietnam, Egypt, Chile, South Africa, Brasil, Chennai, India (and missing links to Columbia and Georgia)

To meet the guys a little more personally, Christian Kreutz did some great short interviews at the conference. Was great to finally meet Christian in person after a couple years correspondence online. (I myself tried to do a few Flip interview cameras, but with all that was going on I couldn’t get it together .. something to try for another time).

“Being at SotM was great. Great event, great people. their great passion. Get motivated to do more and felt need to do to more outreach activities.” – H. S. Rai

“It helped me understand that it is not all about completing the map but to get more people to discover it and enjoy contributing and using it.” – Julio Costa

“Now I see that inviting friends to a mapping party, explaning them there about the details, walking out with GPSes and/or walking papers and finishing the day with some beer could be much more effective. :)” – Arlindo Pereira

I asked the recipients about the experience of SOTM, and what the future looked like. Again, the remarkable thing is how much is shared in OpenStreetMap, no matter where you come from. Learning, fun, motivation.

The main impression has been that OSM is much more than a technical project, and in fact, it’s primarily a social project. Folks in Western Europe and the US aren’t surprised by this, as mostly people have been introduced to OSM through a mapping party, conference, or contact with an experienced mapper. For folks who have only heard of OSM through the internet, this tacit knowledge is somehow lost. They now see the importance of building a community, and the key to growth in organzing mapping parties.

Direct connections to other people were very welcome. The opportunity was taken to develop regional connections, in Easter Europe, and especially in South America. I was surprised by the number of program applicants from South America, and their energy is going to help accelerate OSM there. Many of the guys are interested in technical issues, and it always helps to have personal connections with other developers.

One immediate result from SOTM was Flickr increasing their coverage to Hanoi, Havana, and Santiago. Hanoi was added just in time for the first Hanoi mapping party.

More on future directions in the next post.

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