Technology, Hype, Marginalization

A little meandering on how hype and closed systems threaten to overwhelm all our good intentions…

Yesterday, I visited Mukuru slum (still a blank spot on the map) to discuss possible collaborations and methodology sharing with an ongoing participatory mapping project there coordinated by Emory University and Partnership for an HIV Free Generation, at a well apportioned community site built by Micato Safaris.

Mukuru has developed on different lines than Kibera … the road infrastructure is relatively planned, there are designed gutters, the area is flat and sprawling over a huge area south of the Industrial Area. It also receives less attention than Kibera, so there are relatively less NGO and CBO programs trying to fill the service gap. The Mukuru group has used many interesting participatory techniques to engage the community, some based in the work of Robert Chambers, who we met last week at Erica’s IDS talk on Map Kibera (and told us a brief and awesome story of his mugging in 1960s Kibera while rock climbing). Particularly, the group there had undertaken a “community asset mapping” in two villages of Mukuru, a paper based cataloging of community services, with actual GPS mapping done by a consulting company, resulting in a few map prints and spreadsheets detailing services. The resulting data is good, but they complained that it’s not really reusable or updatable by the team directly. So they were very interested to hear about our techniques which both built capacity to create and make use of map data, and other kinds of information, directly … they can do it themselves, have lots of ideas for applications in the community, and perhaps soon we’ll have an opportunity to explore some merging of methods.

On Tuesday, I met with Umande Trust, who do amazing and innovative work in sanitation, best known for introducing biogas latrines to Kibera. I talked with Aidah mostly about data … we have data from our recent water and sanitation mapping, Umande has amazing data in Gatwekera and adjacent villages, exact locations of many standpipes, toilets; and water piping installed by Nairobi Water.

But also we talked about their programs generally. In an innovative compromise to the usual policy of simply ripping out illegal pipe connections in slums, Umande has worked with Nairobi Water for installation of master meters for the entire area, and may work to dialogue directly with the community about how to legitimize and make secure the entire system, in a way that works for everyone. They are also discussing the installation of proper sewerage, partially to help with the volume of waste in the biocentres. Turns out too many people are using the biogas latrines for the decomposition process to fully digest the waste, an example of the challenges of when innovation meets reality.

Umande has also done community asset mapping of the entirety of Mukuru, by actually training community member on GPS … those individuals and that data could be a great start to further work in Mukuru. Of course we need the data shared. I was delightfully surprised and also shocked that I hadn’t seen these maps before. But realize, this is not due to any intent of Umande, Aidah is very willing to share the data for reuse if only there were an infrastructure to use. I’m interested to build off the Digital Gazette, an integration of Crabgrass and GeoCommons for use in Northwest Pakistan, to help build up the information commons of the slums.

So, on Monday, I attended a Nike Foundation event to discuss innovative use of technology to assist young girls. This is something Map Kibera has focused on through our association with Unicef, and the Nike team were very interested to learn and listen, kudos. One point during the presentation touched on Pamoja Mtaani a video game developed by Time Warner that conveys messages about HIV/AIDS prevention. As chance would have it, I got to see Pamoja Mtaani in action directly in Mukuru.

Before our meeting started yesterday, I was given a tour of one of two centers built in Mukuru to “host the game”. My jaw dropped as we entered a spacious room, with 20 gleaming computers showing Pamoja Mtaani. The game looks pretty well designed and fun, definitely innovative and not overly didactic … the game starts with a matatu robbery, includes graffiti and MC games, runs through a virtual Nairobi … a kinda slum version of Oregon Trail.

What struck me cold was that most of the computers were unused, and were completely locked down to only run this game. Here was a resource that any school anywhere in the world could use well, and Time Warner only permits their game, a game that you also can not download and run freely. Frankly, an idiotic implementation of a good initiative, and somehow emblematic of many things wrong with the inappropriateness technology in development. I can understand the desire to make sure the game is actually played, rather than just giving away computers for kids to check Facebook (of course that would happen) … but you do that through a well designed program and continual involvement rather than locking away all the other potentials of this computing resource.

Now we could make pretty good use of those computers for mapping in Mukuru. As it is they are useless for anything else.

At the other end of the spectrum, a few days before, I was reminded of the Hole in the Wall computer project, when Tanya Notley asked me my impression of this TED Talk on education innovation in the slums. The Hole in the Wall computer, simply an open kiosk installed in the middle of the slum, open for children to experiment on without restriction, is one of my favorites. The radical experimentation here has been widely celebrated and hyped, including in that TED Talk.

Now someone recently went back to actually visit these Hole in the Wall computers. The program had change considerably. Wonderfully, there are many more computers in the slums … but they are not the unrestricted free for all the original program experimented with. Apparently those original computers quickly stopped functioning, and the program now looks like a more traditional digital village, with computers, internet, and programs to use them. There’s still space for exploration, but not without supervision.

So in response to Charles Leadbeater, I wrote Tanya..

I broadly believe in what he’s saying, but the talk is pretty hand wavy. The critique of our education system is not new, and plenty of examples of experiments from the past 50 years abound. Certainly there is innovation in education happening in marginalized areas, enabled by new technology, access, and approach … we see ourselves fitting this movement quite well. What’s more difficult is to see how informal education will connect with the existing models … which are still essential for legitimacy and maximum opportunity for all. We’d like to see the opportunity for mappers to continue studies in GIS if they are keen, and several are, but there is no consistent financial aid here. Seems to me that there’s a need to still engage with traditional institutions, open up the way they approach education.

So maybe after some more research, he’ll have some insights! For one, he needs to ground check his facts … just yesterday I read that the hole-in-the-wall computers more or less stopped working 3 months in, and they’ve now adopted a more traditional approach. I still love the audacity and thought provoking of that project, but too often in innovation (and generally) we’re hiding the failures and not learning.

Perhaps one of the hardest lessons I’ve been learning is the limits of innovation. Map Kibera is innovative, and it’s much hyped, but is it in danger of being another project that only looks good from afar? To really make an impact with technology, is requires far more than simply doing something new. It takes a lot of work which you might think is boring, lots of discussion, lots of program design, lots of failure and revision, lots of reality. There are limits beyond simply getting computers and internet into marginal places, limits beyond training, that have to do with the dense interconnection of all issues facing our increasingly urban and marginal world. The shiny glean of technology starts things off, but after that the work may be the same as ever … learning from each other, respecting different points of view, long negotiations of how things can change for the better.

Freedom and Restrictions in Open Data

Very interesting situation developed last month within the Russian community of OpenStreetMap. It is illegal to map the location of military facilities in Russia. In fact, a permit is required to do any mapping. The Russian community started a vote (well, in practice and discussion, a non-binding poll) on whether military installations should be removed from the Russian map, to protect the safety of the local community.

Response from the international community was that any mapper has the choice to map whatever they like, especially if it physically exists. Deleting someone else’s data would be against core principals of OSM, of open data.

As Frederik states, this puts us in an ideological paradox

With Russia we now seem to have a case where it is possible that a
majority of the local community decides to work differently from the
principles that we have grown to cherish, namely letting everyone map
what the hell they want. We now have people who not only want to keep
certain things out of the map, but even delete these objects where they
have been mapped by others. It is even possible that they form an OSMF
chapter supporting these actions.

If this happens, then we have a clash of two principles. Either we say
that the principle of subsidiarity overrides the “freedom to tag”,
allowing the Russians to restrict that freedom in their area because it
is, after all, their area; or we say that the “freedom to tag” is the
overriding principle and we will not tolerate any local community to
tell us outsiders how they would like to be mapped.

This could have repercussions for mapping in many restrictive authoritarian regimes. It’s my position that for the vast majority of cases, open data is better and the default, and in fact, makes us more secure and informed. This was one critique of our mapping in Gaza, that showing details of Gaza would make Gazans more vulnerable. Fortunately, Gazans also agree that information is all about changing perception.

In general, I view these edge cases as a question of power. Hiding information protects those already in power, but not those that are already marginalized. Legitimate cases to me is only information that puts dis-empowered people at risk, such as refugee routes along the Burmese-Indian border. But does this mean I would remove those tracks if someone added to OpenStreetMap? This and other questions remain to be answered.

Weaver House Still Mapped Properly Only on OpenStreetMap

I’m still amazed that three years after I dug into the history of Weaver House, just when the whole area was being dug into and the East London Line has opened, that only OpenStreetMap is up to date with the massive changes there. Compare OSM with Google and Ordnance Survey.

pedley 026

Look forward to trying it out in person next month, when Erica and I are in the UK (from June 17-24). Erica will be giving a talk on Map Kibera at my alta mater, University of Sussex.

Haiti, Mission 2

Nicolas Chavent and Dane Springmeyer are now on Haitian soil for HOT.

It was just a few weeks ago that Nicolas and Robert returned from the first HOT mission to Haiti. Nicolas had the immediate conclusion … we have to go back. Something amazing was started with OSM and an interesting cross section of CNIGS (the Haitian national mapping agency), the UN, and civil society. The work had to be seen through, and Nicolas is dedicated for the long term. He’s joined now by Dane, adventurous and incredibly skilled technically. Can’t wait to see what develops this trip, and immensely proud that OSM is again on the ground in Haiti.

Our greatest thanks go to the World Bank, and especially the Disaster Risk Management group. They are funding this mission, and the next in June. Besides continuing to support the Haitian government in recovering from the quake, the Bank is particularly interested in how OSM can be used in future risk assessment, particularly vulnerable buildings. This mission in Haiti will continue the discussion.

As HOT is still a developing entity, we are also thankful to OpenGeo for providing a vehicle to move so quickly, and to MapAction for sharing their view on assessing risk and insurance.

HOT’s work in Haiti is all about continuing the open environment of sharing that developed in the immediate response to the quake. In dedication to that openness, and give a small taste of what it takes to go to Haiti, here is the instruction sent by Nicolas to Dane for guidance on his arrival in Port au Prince. I haven’t seen anything like this practical advice posted online before, so here it is.

* Airport International Toussaint Louverture
Functional kaos where
** you’ll be brought to terminal via a van,
** you’ll pass one counter (medic I think),
** Baggage pick up: baggage will brought to the baggage pick up area from the plane by the Airport personnels (all is handled by hands). In principle the baggage pick up area is restricted to airport personnels only & you are supposed to raise their attention to get your luggage. French for this will He ce bagage (look-up in dictionary for baggage items which are not backpack/ SAC A DOS or suitcase/ VALISE & COLORS, so that you can designate your pieces). Things in practice are more fluid: I managed like many others Haitian to get my stuff personally at the cost of not building friendship which is ok.
** Call Fred (glad you’ll have your IPhone; feel free to borrow a mobile from a foreigner) to check with him how the pick up is organized & follow instructions
** Customs: no problem for Westerners-
** Open fenced area outside of the terminal building: this is where that I waited for the driver in mission 1, driver will bear an A4 sheet with your details
** In case the pick-up went wrong & Fred phone is un-responsive::
*** Do not exit the airport area unless you are with a Westerner in a car who will drop you at the main entry of the UN Logistics Base (LogBase). Prepare for the unlikely to happen worst case scenario (no pickup) while you are on plane and/ or through the baggage collection process and identify Westerners working in LogBase or in PAP who could offer you a lift to LogBase. This could be the only option for you to exit the Airport in a car with Westerner.
*** If no westerner, no car, no dirver, then stay at the airport and be hyper patient and calm until pick up finally comes or that I arrive and I hope we will get things sorted out.

* LogBase (CC)
** both IOM & WFP are located in the UN Logistic Base (LogBase) which is lierally at the end of the runway of the international airport Toussaint Louverture. LogBase is a separate spatial entity from the public international airport which is under the control of the various national air forces of the MINUSTAH (the UN peace keeping mission in Haiti) & consequently you access it from a secured entry point relatively open to Westerners furnished with IDs.
** Access (main & only entry point) you’ll have to mention that you are working with OSM and supporting the GIS (SIG & CARTOGRAPHIE) unit of the Registration (ENREGISTREMENT) Department of IOM (OIM – Office International res Migrations) and
*** refer to the GIS Officer/Coordinator of this unit who should have sent an email warning them of our coming. MINUSTAH people at the Gate never read emails (but never admit it), so this generates issues and you have to stand firm and say that you are here to work with IOM and that you must make it to the IOM Office in LogBase to get started and directed to the CampCharlie where you’ll be lodging for the rest of the trip
*** if IOM is not impressive enough, then make the name of WFP (the Head of Programes in WFP and a friend).
*** Again if this is not working, wait at the gate with the guard being calm patient and resolute. This area is safe security-wise so a good place to wait, there should be shade. Furnish you with water bottle from the plane or ask the gards to help you buying water or soda-

* Camp Charlie (CC)-
This is the name of a UN Peace Keeping Mission camp In Haiti where a Danish Hum organization set up a humanitarian camp (all in tents WC, Showers, Kitchen, Dining spaces, lobbies & cubic – the name under which your tent place is designated) where we will be staying. You’ll reach CC from LB there is a shuttle system put up in place between LogBase and Camp Charlie. It’s minimal on Sunday and it’s likely that we will be relying on a car and reach CC with Fred-

* Mobile phone.
I am not 100% sure I”ll manage to get my phone in my commute (train to airport) in Paris since the friend who as it as well as my ext hard drive is likely to be at the maternity welcoming a child… So your iphone (if a SIM card can be loaded in can do good, alternatively if you have an old mobile close to be trashed but functional enough to do text messages & talking it would be worthy to have it with you).

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.

What would it take to map an entire country?

“What would it take to map an entire country?”

With the growing visibility of Map Kibera, that question is coming more frequently, especially in Africa, where both OpenStreetMap and traditional mapping are widely absent. This is a massive question, which is going to depend very much on circumstances of that country, and on who is asking that question; and in the end may be better answered by a different question. In response to a couple queries, from Liberia and Malawi, I decided to write up a few blog posts to start off those conversations, and serve as reference for any of the other 200+ countries on this planet. To start, going look at a few examples to serve as models for answering the question.

Up front, the question assumes one very important thing; the historical growth pattern of OSM isn’t happening. Traditionally, a few individuals had their minds blown by a conference presentation on OSM, or maybe a random blog post somewhere, and they start mapping their home town. And when that looks to be a big task, and they start eyeing the next town, they start recruiting others through mapping parties. A mailing list is set up. The virus starts to spread, and OSM might get the attention of a local government or two, maybe some companies, and soon, the country is well on its way to being mapped. The growth is organic. It might take years. The preconditions are important. Roughly, there has been an active community already of technically proficient people who have leisure time, perhaps already contributing to open source projects. In other countries, there may not be a technical community, or socioeconomic conditions make leisure time a valuable and scarce. Other places may be in conflict. These are places where people start to consider intentional interventions to get mapping going.

The first place I took part in an intentional effort was India. Now, India is well known for having a broad and highly skilled technical base, but at least in 2008, there was proportionally small open source community. There had been interest in mapping through the Free Map project, and Schuyler and I took the invitation to promote OSM through a slightly insane schedule of mapping parties in 7 Indian cities in one month. A wonderful experience. But it did not instantly translate into a frenzy of mapping activity. The idea gestated for a time, and slowly, individuals took up the cause, and now the OSM India community is vibrant, centered in cities. One place to note is Mumbai, despite extensive interest, is still not active, largely due to an import of AND data that turned out to be much less than accurate, discouraging further editing. An issue we’re still looking at, and generally, I’ll talk about existing data sources and imports in another post.

Palestine was a very intentional mapping, first of the entire West Bank, and then of Gaza. JumpStart International funded a project to create a complete, public domain map of all roads. We estimated a time of about 6 months, which turned out to be accurate (more on time estimates in another post). The approach taken was to hire engineering graduates, in teams based in each region, train them through mapping parties, and coordinate the incoming data. Gaza was not to be mapped, but the 2009 crisis there motivated the remote OSM community to fund raise to purchase recent satellite imagery of the entire strip, and trace remotely. After the conflict was over, JumpStart entered Gaza and built up a team to enhance that work with a combination of GPS tracing and imagery. The result is a complete road map of Palestine. However, no sustained OSM community of interested individuals, local companies, local government, and UN agencies is left. The individuals involved saw this as temporary paid work, and many of them have taken jobs outside Palestine. The wider community wasn’t engaged with an aim to build capacity. So now, even though Israeli OSM has been interested to hold joint activities with Palesinte, and Ramallah now has street names, the map isn’t being updated.

In Kenya, we haven’t set out to map the entire country, but it seems like the base we’ve built in Kibera is ready to spread throughout Nairobi and beyond. We’ve focused heavily on Kibera, but with the idea always that the group here, and the entire community, will be able to take the project forward. The impact of mapping a place that was unmapped, and considered unmappable, has made a great impression within civil society, the government, and the UN. We’ve taken a lot of time to outreach to others already working with map data. The approach is more like planting a single seed, nurturting it, and then allowing it to grow. It’s yet to be seen how this pans out.

JumpStart started next working in Georgia. Their approach is now long term but different. They have first focused on conflict areas, following the Georgia-Russia conflict in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and also in the capital, Tbilisi. From this start, they are building a country wide network of regional offices, Open Maps Caucasus, supported by an NGO structure. They are producing curriculum, hiring a team, and doing extensive outreach with map data users. The question to my mind is the long term sustainability of the structure. If JumpStart decides to stop supporting the NGO structure, will it be able to find more funding to keep going? And if that doesn’t materialize, will a community be in place to take it forward organically? Again, yet to be seen, and a question they are certainly considering.

In the USA, mapping hadn’t taken off until last year. This was perhaps due to the TIGER data set, available public domain. CloudMade set out to initiate this community by hiring community ambassadors in regions throughout the country, and holding mapping parties. One of the most spectacular was the Atlanta mapping weekend, involving hundreds of people in cooperation with the Atlanta municipal government. However, after a time CloudMade discontinued the ambassadors program. From there, what has developed has looked like a more traditional growth, with a wide spectrum of individuals, companies, organizations, and government getting interested and involved. The GeoDC group has been very active, and recently OSMF US has incorporated. Hard to calculate what effect the intentional effort of CloudMade had on this growth, though it was certainly a contribution.

Finally, many have seen the extremely rapid growth of the map in Haiti. Prior to the quake, very little data existed there for familiar reasons. Following the disaster, and the release of imagery for derived works and other data sources, remote mappers quickly and spectacularly produced comprehensive maps of Port au Prince and much of the country. Mappers wanted to contribute to the relief effort. Certainly in other unmapped places, remote mappers are motivated to contribute just out of interest. If you look at any capital city covered by Yahoo imagery, there will have been remote mappers contributing at least geometries. Does this translate to places not in crisis, but in more prolonged issues that prevent mapping? Probably to some extent, but not nearly as focused and quick, and very much dependent on imagery. But imagery is not enough. Local knowledge is needed to name places, and identify features … most roofs don’t tell you what’s going on inside a building. In Haiti, two deployments have gone to advocate, train, and build capacity for OSM locally. Nicolas is now planning to go again, as part of our long term plan for OSM in Haiti, to continue the work to the point where the Haitian community, which includes their government and civil society actors, are ready to take it forward.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Deploying to Haiti

This weekend, Nicolas Chavent and Robert Soden will deploy to Haiti for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. MapAction and OCHA are facilitating this mission, with generous support from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department — many thanks to MapAction and ECHO for helping to make this happen. Nicolas and Robert are a dream team for this work, adventurous and passionate map makers. They are joined by experienced MapAction volunteer Chris Philips. Broadly, the mission is to support use of OpenStreetMap on the ground in Haiti within groups of UN and international responders, the Haitian government, and Haitian civil society. In other words, make sure OpenStreetMap stays relevant and useful into the recovery, reconstruction, and, most crucially, long term development of Haiti.

They won’t be going in alone, but with thousands of mappers globally ready to back them up.

This pioneering trip has emerged from several threads. Nicolas and I identified the need in our meeting in January, and published in the HOT Haiti Strategy and Proposal. The remote response of OSM has been very effective in the initial response, with high visibility and urgent need for data sets, but as time goes on, geodata management processes are put in play on the ground, and capacity building to use OSM within those processes is very much needed. OSM has to meet these communities half way to be effective, and the only way now to really understand deeply is to go to Haiti. The second thread has been a long running discussion between MapAction and OSM. I really admire the work of MapAction; they deploy rapidly and create maps by any means necessary in the crucial first days after a disaster, all through volunteer professionals. They first used OSM in their work last year in the Philippines, and we have long wanted to learn from each in how open source and open data can be deployed in emergencies. Third thread was the incredible World Bank deployment last month; Schuyler Erle and Tom Buckley had tremendous insights and made key connections with government and the UN that we hope to build on. Wonderfully, Tom has redeployed to Haiti. Final thread is the ongoing collaboration with Ushahidi and Kartier par Kartier, and their work to build local and diaspora capacity to take the Haiti Ushahidi install on in the long term. This definitely involves base mapping, and there’s an interest in linking in our approach, and eventually Map Kibera like projects in Haiti.

In detail, Nicolas and Robert will be doing hands on training and lots of conversing to assess needs and find solutions that integrate with OSM. Their work will address all levels. At the UN and international NGO level, we are blessed with many good contacts through Nicolas, MapAction, OCHA and myself, and are very eager to continue cooperation. CNIGS (Haitian national mapping agency) and CIAT (main government development coordinating body) have been working with the World Bank and others to rebuild themselves, and their capacity with new technologies; there’s interest here in really getting a solid national road network data set, with addressing. And within civil society, KpK has established an amazing grass roots network. Sabina Carlson from Ushahidi and Shadrock Roberts from KpK will also be in Haiti at the same time as the HOT mission.

The preparations have been intense. We’ve spent the last month budgeting, planning travel, getting equipment sorted, discussing the plan. Haiti is still in chaos, and perhaps even more so within the international responders as their hard work goes on and on. Not certain at this moment where there’s space to throw up Robert’s and Nicolas’ tents. Nearly certainly they are landing in Port au Prince on Sunday afternoon (with risks of delays). It will be Agile at its highest. Sourcing all the appropriate equipment has been intensive … printers, computers, and GPS units are on their way down, need to perform in difficult conditions, and find a good long term home. Software and data work is ongoing, including iterations of Map on a Stick. Clear training materials, including approaches relevant to short-on-time GIS and data collectors new to OSM, are being compiled.

Nicolas has spent a great deal of time on the Humanitarian Data Model. This work reconciles data models and schemas in various response sectors, maps to OSM map features, and works to engage new tools for Extract-Transform-Load processes, and JOSM presets. In other words, make OSM directly relevant to the systems already in use in Haiti. The OpenStreetMap community is invited to review and join the discussion on this process.

I’m very excited for this mission, and wish the best of luck and safe travels to Nicolas and Robert. Hopefully their busy schedule will allow for some updates and documentation. We’ll be listening closely to support whatever they need from afar.

Why Google MapMaker is not Open

I get asked a lot lately if Google Map Maker data is compatible with OpenStreetMap. There seems to be an effort within certain quarters to position GMM as “Open” data, when it certainly isn’t … Google completely owns MapMaker data, and applies strict requirements to using that data. This is hardly news, but just for convenience, I’m posting this quick analysis of the Map Maker Licensing Terms.

There are three main points in the Google Map Maker Data Download that makes it incompatible with the license of OpenStreetMap data. And in my opinion, even outside of my involvement with OpenStreetMap, Google’s terms are too strict and anti-openness.

– Non-commercial use only (8.1, 8.2, 10.2)
– Attribution method is quite strict (8.3)
– No use for services that might compete with Google (10.4, 10.5)

OpenStreetMap permits commercial use; we do give full attribution, but not in the way prescribed; and the data may be used for any purpose, including services similar to Google’s.

From any data user’s point of view, I’d say that all three points are also problematic, and I’d advise that they would want to either require share-alike (CC-by-SA/ODbL) or public domain data licensing from its partners.

OpenStreetMap currently uses the Creative Commons Share-a-Like license, and is moving to the Open Database License. The ODbL applies the principles of share-alike in a more appropriately legal way to databases.

HOT List

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team now has a mailing list.

During crisis, the HOT list supports coordination among the OSM community, along side appropriate local country lists, and the talk/dev lists when needed. It is the point where disaster responders and affected people can connect directly to members of the OSM community ready to help. In quieter times, the list helps HOT to prepare resources and improve its response.

Note that talk/dev are still good for mobilizing the wide community to a HOT activation, but details of the response can for the most part safely move into this list once we get critical mass of subscribers.

Please join if you are interested in helping HOT, or need HOT services. Thanks!