Before 2010, State of the Map Scholarships 2009

The State of the Map Scholarship program’s wider objective is to support nascent OpenStreetMap communities by building connections and exposing ideas. The application process is in full swing for 2010, so it’s a good time to look back at the effect 2009 has had on participants. It’s also required as a final report for OSI!

Following SOTM 2009, I took a look forward at what could start to happen. The kinds of things in mind were GPS loans (GPS are still hard to come by and expensive in some places), mapping in marginal and conflict areas, access to satellite imagery, localisation of software and tiles, organization of local chapters, and promotional activities. We also had funds for select follow up activities with some of the participants, to build on promising leads in these areas. Everyone invited in 2009 is still very involved in OpenStreetMap, probably more so … these are true believers. Like Arlindo says, “I don’t think on OpenStreetMap as a hobby anymore” … it’s more of a way of life.

Local chapters made progress. Well, the Foundation is still working to come up with a legal agreement that will work in jurisdictions across the globe (just a little complicated), but that hasn’t stopped local groups from formalizing anyhow. Khan Le has helped form a Vietnam OSGeo local chapter (which can also work as an OSM local chapter), as well as holding mapping parties in Hanoi and Saigon. Fredy Rivera in Columbia used part of his follow up funds to establish a Columbia OSM chapter. Backed by the follow up funds, I actually pushed Latin America as a whole to come together as a chapter, considering the small communities last year, but it was harder to coordinate the decision making at this scale; things have grown anyhow, and along more national lines.

Giorgi was able to take part in a massive local push, by joining the Open Maps Caucasus initiative. He met Jeff Haack at SOTM, the coordinator for the OMC project with JumpStart International. They started there in some of the conflict affected regions in the recent Georgia-Russia conflict.

Abdel in Cairo is sees SOTM 2009 as a key instrument for moving forward in Egypt and may have more to say soon on plans there.

In Cuba, PB kept things moving well despite difficulties like the illegality of GPS, and a failed attempt to get spare servers from Wikimedia (illegal to distribute from the US). He used his follow up funds to attend an SDI meeting in Panama and wave the flag for open data. OSM is increasingly being seen as a core component in national scale Spatial Data Infrastructures in many countries, and PB’s work in Panama made a great push on this issue.

Everyone still sites the major need for GPS units. Brazil used its follow up funds for a GPS loan program, and just distributed the first of the units. Julio in Chile used funds to purchase GPS units also but within the dire emergency of the Chilean earthquake. Despite the difficult times there, OSM has continued strongly. Columbia has also been contributing to the relief effort in Chile, and Haiti.

Pushing for cross border collaborations doesn’t necessarily work. Though everyone gets along wonderfully, OSM is still seen often through nation state boundaries. So as in Latin America, the same in the even trickier relationship between India and Pakistan. Professor Rai in Ludhiana has done amazing work, including an impactful effort to map the enterity of Gill village. Across the border, in Multan, Professor Rasul has been pushing ahead in the pursuit of open mapping. The follow up grants to them were meant to both strengthen their own programs, and encourage them to collaborate across that difficult border, as both lie within the former region known collectively as Punjab. Map Punjab is intended to be a site with localizations, in both language, national borders, and historic borders, as well as a point of technical and social collaboration. So far, it hasn’t materialized. Some things take longer to brew.

Elsewhere in India, Arun Ganesh does lament the long gestation of OpenStreetMap in India, though his strategy to increase visibility seems wise. Rather than focus on open data in the extract, he’s producing beautiful maps, especially of transit systems, that are only now possible with OSM data. Nic Roets is taking a similar tack in South Africa cooperating on mapping World Cup venues. Finally, Ciprian in Romania is collaborating with companies using OpenStreetMap.

So, different stories all over, but the same core story is individuals energized by the experience of SOTM, growing OSM naturally and with purpose. Can’t wait to see what’s next, and especially who’s coming in 2010, and what might develop from there.