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!

On Getting Ejected from Jordan

Preamble: I wrote the following after 1.5 years ago after getting kicked out of Jordan for trying to map it. We retreated to Palestine, where I was fairly certain it would work, but ended up going amazingly. Enough time has passed that all the entities in this story no longer care, people are even flying balloons in the center of Amman, so here it is for posterity.


“There’s nothing here which will do any good for the people of Jordan.”

That’s when we knew things probably weren’t going forward.

I should have expected things would go wildly wrong at the Royal Jordanian Geographic Center, when tentatively approach by desperated-eyed, young French geographers on loan from the Institut Géographique National, the French national mapping agency. “What are you doing here? We don’t often see visitors from the Occident.” Or when I received the call 15 minutes before departing San Francisco, “The RJGC has a few issues with our project”.

In the executive meeting room, the deputy director was joined by three colonels in full uniform, all looking grim and one carrying print outs of The RJGC, like many national mapping agencies in history, is both a civilian and military agency. It was made abundantly clear that there had been a major breach of protocol, that we should have consulted with the RJGC sooner about our project. And it was made clear again. And again, this time louder. And then in Arabic. Maybe a few times more.

Jordan is a monarchy. There is tremendous respect for the the King and the Royal Family, who are intimately involved in all aspects of life in Jordan. No doubt, their wise rule has led Jordan to become an island of peace and stability within a region of turmoil and violence. The Switzerland of the Middle East. Jordan has openly accepted refugees from Palestine and Iraq. The people on the whole are very welcoming and friendly.

However, authority does have a general tendency to overstep its utility. We were told in absolute terms, the RJGC is the only entity in Jordan with the authority to make maps. Any other government, civilian or military agency requiring maps must acquire them through the RJGC. So you can see how that might not be compatible with a bunch of hippies carrying GPS units. What we were doing was declared illegal.

“One of the goals of your project is to map military installations!” Colonel Omar had printed out the OSM map key. OSM does map military installations. It maps everything and anything. But to think that we represent any kind of security threat, and have greater access than anyone with access to the web is paranoia in the highest degree. Paleotards live! We were nearly accused of being Israeli spies.

“Do you think you can just walk down the Champes Elyssee and make a map?”
“Would the Israeli’s let you map?”

Further the idea that we might have something to offer, in education, ideas, international connections, and technology, was ridiculed. The RJGC runs a college which trains all geographers and surveryors in Jordan, an exclusive expertise. Though many of those young well trained geographers were being hired away by the Gulf states, a threatening brain drain. “It’s impossible for you to map al-Mafrak in two days”. It’s a small town of <100k, and we would have 12 participants. We'd collect data to the usual level of OSM detail .. not the outline of bay windows .. but to the level useful for communication and unexpected uses forgotten by those in control of geodata. It felt like 2005. "You expect to map all of Jordan to 1:500 in months. The RJGC has a proud 50 year history." Nevermind that 95% of Jordan is desert. To demonstrate their advanced techniques, we were taken on the tour after the meeting. The "tour" consisted of a 25 minute video demonstrating the RJGC's use of ESRI products, with a length section of flight simulator set to triumphant music and painfully bad cheap video wipes. And that's the extent of the tour. I have no doubt that the RJGC is a sophisticated organization, but such a demonstration did nothing to convince me that we have nothing to offer them. When it become clear that we weren't mapping al-Mafrak, I tried changing tact. I offered training in our techniques to RJGC staff and students, as well as instruction in open source GIS and web based mapping. The whole Where 2.0. The response .. "I was trained in France! What's your experience in geography?" When I replied I was a web developer, they scoffed. Truly, what can you do at such a ridiculous display. Colonels in full regalia trying desperately to assert authority and upshow some dude from California who has only come to help. I also suggested that if we weren't mapping, then our goal of public domain data was still valid, and that perhaps the RJGC could release some data. "Haven't you heard of globalmapping? We already donate to that. Anyway, if anyone needs a map in Jordan, they can ask us." This is in a capital city that does not even have a bus route map. "If you really want free maps, we'll give you some". On leaving, we were each presented with a thick packet of paper tourist maps of Jordan. We showed these later to some locals. Maps full of mistakes and problems and painful cartography. Well there was only one thing do after this. Went for a beer at the only local pub, "The Hangover", bursting full of young women from former Soviet republics. And now it's mapped.

Humanitarian OSM Team: Haiti Strategy and Proposal

Who, what, where, and how are all open questions. Why is simple … OpenStreetMap has demonstrated incredible value in Haiti and we need to make sure we are prepared for the long run there, and for future disasters. A couple weeks ago, Nicolas and I started digesting the Haiti response, and years of thoughts and discussions in OSM, into something like a plan.

The aim of this evolving document is to start to gather and prioritize major themes of needs and activities, for HOT organizationally, in documentation and processes, in technical developments, in relationships. As we are building the vehicle while already hurtling down the road, parts of this are already in play, parts are falling through the gaps, and overall coordination is a need.

Your review and comments on any facet of this are most welcome. Ideas to make this happen especially!

How to improve our work in Haiti? MapMaker and OSM thoughts too.

This is a question I’m considering a lot … filtered through the brief rushes of reading the amazing crisismappers list, diving into OSM on the wiki and IRC channel … Are we doing everything we possibly can in serving the responders? Can we coordinate our mapping work better? And once aid starts flowing and the immediate response turns to long term recovery and reconstruction, how will our process and community change, when more and more data to synchronize will be coming from the ground in Haiti? How do we operate better in the next disaster? Big questions, and glad that many folks are already compiling ideas. Please add ideas and needs there.

One immediate point that has been raised in private discussion, and now publicly, are the separate efforts of OSM and Google MapMaker in Haiti, separated by incompatible licenses. As Sean Wohltman points out, a crisis like this is hardly the time for discussions on licenses and community models, and whatever can be done for the best benefit to the crisis response should be done. All I can simply say with restraint is that I disagree with the assumption of Google’s position that the OSM license prevents community use of this data … rather it only prevents Google participating in that community, by their own choice. That shouldn’t stop OSM from considering doing everything possible.

There is likely much to be gained by everyone working in the commons. Muki Hakley has performed an analysis of OSM and MapMaker coverage in Haiti, and it shows complementary coverage. The analysis makes no assumption of correctness, time frame, size of community/number of sources, and only considers geometries not names and tags, but still shows that each have built up in different regions. The problem of how to potentially use these two together needs quite a lot of work.

Sean Gorman suggests a time and geography limited CC-0 license on geodata, in order to move things forward. I’m not taking a personal view on this possibility, actually undecided, though I would at least suggest attribution would be a courtesy, and impose no considered constraint. Instead, I would suggest the OSM community consider this matter, and if there’s a general consensus it would be valuable, perhaps by determined vote, then build a quick process of getting time and geography limited dual-licensing approval from the couple hundred active Haiti contributors so far. There would also need to be a way to get such approval from new Haiti editors.

Important I think to consider is the time and effort involved in discussing this, and the process of dual licensing, vs the potential benefit. This question shouldn’t distract us from the very real effort of mapping and producing amazing data products.

What do you think?

Haiti OpenStreetMap Response

The have been at least 400 OpenStreetMap editing sessions in Haiti since the quake hit. Mostly tracing Yahoo imagery, and gleaning information from old CIA maps. We also just received permission to use GeoEye imagery acquired post-event … that will allow us to tag collapsed buildings. Many relief groups are deploying now, many checking in with the CrisisMappers list (the main locus of the wider humanitarian tech community), and they are making inquiries into OSM data and requests for particular features. Dozens of mappers and developers are lending a hand, coordinating on the OSM Haiti WikiProject and IRC and the OSM talk list … standing up services, including 5 minute extracts in Shapefile and Garmin formats, and maps with hill-shading. Just the start to relief and reconstruction effort we hope to contribute to.

Two images to show how we’ve progressed … the first OSM Port au Prince just now, the second OSM before the earthquake.



I’ll be on twitter with updates … though I’m due to fly tonight to Ireland.

Some notes on Map Kibera mapping

Just yesterday, I imported the Map Kibera data into OpenStreetMap. I thought I’d take the opportunity to review how the data collection went in this entirely unique process, allude to a few of the mind-changing map features of Kibera that I’ve yet to fully comprehend, and provide some guidelines for further data clean up. I’ve been spending spare time over the last few weeks in Chicago working on the data, but realize this needs the help and energy of the entire community. If you’re interested to help, please get in touch.

In short, a pretty map geeky post! Divided into ways and nodes. This may excite you, or not 😉


Ways in Kibera encompass roads, paths, streams, sewer lines (sometimes hard to tell the difference between those two), village boundaries, the railroad line, walls, permanent buildings (there are many, yes), open grounds/playing fields, and markets. So far. An incredibly dense, informal area, there is a challenge to the uninitiated to simply decide what constitutes a public road in Kibera. As it turns out, Kibera has a complex structure well known to its residents. Collecting these ways required a combination of GPS surveying, which worked reasonably well even in a dense area of corrugated iron roofs, and satellite imagery, notes written on Walking Papers and in conversation. Both introduce their own accuracies and inaccuracies, so there’s also an element of artistry involved, as usual with cartography.

Tally of mapping day 2

These were initially traced by [User:Harry Wood|Harry Wood], from purchased DigitalGlobe satellite imagery collected in February 2009. Harry did a phenomenal job locating paths in this new terrain, which for the most part were later verified by GPS tracks. During and after the surveying phase, myself and other mappers traced from GPS tracklogs uploaded to the Map Kibera site, and from higher resolution GeoEye satellite imagery collected in July 2009 arranged by Lars Bromley of the [ AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights program]. The GeoEye imagery was higher resolution (50cm, vs 60 cm for DG), brighter with a better color balance, but didn’t match the rectification of the February imagery, or of the GPS tracks. What followed was a series of tweaks and feedback between a very patient Lars and myself of re-rectifying the imagery; we finally got something which matched the GPS tracks more or less, and both learned that satellite imagery has shades of accuracy, subject to shakes in orbit, different angles of acquisition and lighting, that mean any correction in one direction results in a mistake in another region.

Besides the July imagery, the AAAS very generously donated purchase of another 5 satellite images from over the past three years in Kibera. We are very eager to explore the possibilities of automated and manual change detection and story telling using this resource; Kibera, like slums everywhere, changes rapidly, due to improvements by residents, resettlement by the government, acquisition and construction on private plots (mostly churches), and conflict on small and large scale. Imagery will help inform our understanding of these dynamics. For the moement, we have simply posted the layers to [], and you are free to browse and select a slice of time. Particularly interesting are the Toi Market area, completely destroyed in the post-election violence and re-built in a new planned model, and the east side of Soweto East, the site of the first relocations and road construction. From these images is possible to date the Google imagery over Nairobi as pre-2006. For mappers, there are still a few permanent structures and walls that could use more tracing .. get in touch, and I can give you the JOSM or Potlatch settings for using the imagery.

Nearly all traced paths in OSM had GPS tracks associated, but not all, and in very dense areas, some artistic judgment was required to trace where a narrow path might really be going (these can of course be improved as more data is collected by other mappers). Road classification is still a challenge. In the formal villages, Olympic, Karanja, and Ayani, the roads are wide enough for vehicles, unpaved or in bad enough repair to qualify as unpaved, and very clearly evident in satellite and GPS, so highway=unclassfied or highway=residential. In the rest of Kibera, the situation is more interesting; for a place with no official centralized planning, there has definitely evolved a hierarchy of roads, branching fractal patterns intimately influenced by Kibera’s rugged topography. Some are wider, full of commerce, and obvious “main” roads; these have been tagged as highway=track. There are narrower paths, that are still very “public”, with significant commerce and foot traffic. These have been tagged as highway=footway. Also tagged as highway=footway are public paths through primarily residential areas. There are also even more narrow paths, nothing more than spaces between buildings, but still public; and paths that are practically private, through private plots. These all need differentiation, possibly though use of abutters=residential/commercial and private=yes tags. Complicating matters, the railway is the main thoroughfare of the area, so should be also indicated as a pedestrian area, and many of the creeks/sewers sometimes serve similar functions.

Three weeks of GPS tracks in Kibera

The village boundaries were initially roughly drawn from a [ map commissioned by Carolina for Kibera 7 years ago]. These were tweaked by mappers physically walking village boundaries when possible. Often these boundaries follow streams/sewers, or particular roads, and everyone is aware of precisely where they lie.


Points of interest were the primary survey and editing activity of the Map Kibera mappers. They marked waypoints on the Garmin eTrex Legend HCx GPS, and made marks and notes on Walking Papers. They very quickly got hang of this, though there were particular subtleties, and sometimes not so subtleties, which we are still working to master.

One error that crept up occasionally were waypoints placed in an location different from where the mapper was standing. This occurs when the joystick on the GPS was moved, and quickly depressed, which the units interprets as intentionally placing a point in a different spot; vs holding the button down for 2 seconds to mark the present location. I have to say, that joystick is too clever, a persistent usability problem that has a steep body learning curve, especially for people who haven’t grown up with game controllers. Most of these errors were picked up immediately and resurveyed later; they were obviously misplaced, either in absurd locations or mappers in the wrong village, but certainly there is possibility that a few slipped through.

Each mapper definitely had their own style. In the intense density of Kibera, selecting which features are “important” is a judgment call and a matter of interest. There’s a baseline of water and sanitation features, clinics, religious and community buildings, etc. Some folks found m-pesa points important to collect, others not. Some folks picked every water collection point or water tank, even if private. Both of these things still need consistent, new tagging. Features like posho mills, battery charging stations .. entirely non-existent on any other maps. Is a movie theater in Kibera a movie theater, when it consists of a small dark room, a TV, and a DVD playing pirated movies? How to tag a witch doctor’s clinic, which these days are called “herbalists”? Most of the details on all these new features are simply in the NOTE or even name tag, all POI need some review.

Caution is needed. Even a name may not be a name. The use of a structure changes more rapidly than the availability of money to repaint a sign. So the sign might show a beauty parlor, but it’s currently used as a tailor, and everyone knows that and calls it by it’s “spoken name”. How can the map reflect both what residents already know, and what an outsider might need to know to navigate.

Some villages have much higher density of collection … as some places do have higher density of commerce, while others may be primarily residential, due to their placement peripherally to Kibera. Some are quite small, like Soweto West, so possible to comprehensively collect all. Others large places, like Makina, required additional surveyors in addition to the primary mapper, and it shows — occasionally I saw duplicate features. Capitalization never seemed to sink in with everyone … they just don’t use computers enough to care. Also, there was little care for which side of the “road” a feature sat on … something we can also improve with error checking days.

The density of features is really going to require moving to abutters and ways for many commercial areas. For web interfaces, we’ll need to separate things out into thematic, toggle-able layers. For print, we’re going to do a series of maps, atlas style, each focus on a different theme, with more narrative and photos.


Chickens, goats, dogs, movie theaters, hardware stores, pubs, kerosene, charging stations, butchers, trees, sewers, rocks, mud

mapkibera twitter

Holidays, in Snow and in Kibera

The snow has been falling steadily outside in Chicago, bringing the pleasures of snow shoveling: a little Sisyphean circulation in an overfed and over-rested body. That body has too gladly fell into near hibernation on our holiday return from Kenya. I can’t help thinking of Kenyans here, this unimaginable climate, people who even turn down iced drinks on hot days in fear of catching cold. Their relationship with holiday foods is a lot more healthy and real than what’s happened here, unless you’re a vegetarian like me (again nearly inconceivable back in Kenya).

For me, the icey temperature and the holidays have forced us to do absolutely nothing, after two of the most intense, rewarding, difficult, successful, frustrating months ever. I’ve been so tired I’ve totally missed the pleasure of reverse culture shock; it’s been just like a dream. There’s hardly been time for reflection and writing. Erica somehow managed to record her experiences and thoughts, the dedication of a professional. I hope I can recapture this incredible time in retrospect. Time to rejuvenate in 2010. We feel the strong pull to get back there, and we’re landing in Nairobi towards the end of the month.


Two weeks ago we left Nairobi. And we had to squeeze in one more conference before leaving, TedXKibera #2, very much the best meeting of the entire trip. Every presentation and conversation was lit with such excitement and optimism … of doing some genuinely innovative and impactful and astonishing.

Our friends from the Kibera Film School presented, their positive attitude, technical mastery, and connection to the wider world, an inspiration in the toughest moments of mapping in November. Organic farms are harvesting right in Kibera, built on the site of old dumping grounds, building local food security … the kind of land reuse and consumption issues challenging the status quo everywhere. PeePoople are introducing innovation to water and sanitation, a flying toilet that actually breaks down waste to safe fertilizer, and considering work on green roofs to harvest rain water and reduce heat in metal roofed homes … in addition to other group’s incredible work in sanitation, like the biolatrines. The excellent venue for TedXKibera, Mchanganyiko Women Self-Help Group, was itself built on a former dumping site, and entirely driven by women empowering themselves.

All these things need mapping … the organic farms are already on the map, and the map can be used to locate more. The stories of Togetherness Supreme, the locations where it was shot, those can be mapped for promotion and for advising on locations with Hot Sun clients. Sanitation facilities, of course are mapped … some mappers even complaining that toilets are littering the map (a good thing!). The Map Kibera group, they fully represented at TedX, and have been meeting in our absence to plan how to institutionalize the work we’ve started.

Working in Kibera is important to innovation everywhere. Working in Africa is important to innovation. Necessities are driving incredible creativity, a creativity the rest of the world needs to pay attention to for tomorrow’s challenges in urban and rural living … sanitation, food, water, and how to peacefully live together. Even the design challenges tomorrow’s technologies, augmented reality, have everything to learn from how space is negotiated in off the grid, on the edge places. Kibera is innovation.

That’s why I’m very excited about the TedXKibera Fellowship program, announced last month … there are so many enthusiastic people, that only need advice and connections and pathways. Before I get back, I’ll practice clearing paths on the snowy Chicago sidewalks.

Comparing OSM and Google Services in Kenya and the Developing World

After reading Erik’s post on Google driving directions in Kenya, my thoughts wandered to how services built on OpenStreetMap data compared in Nairobi and Kenya. The main difference I can see is that with OSM services, when something is deployed anywhere, it’s usually immediately available globally, so we aren’t left waiting for opaque corporate processes to gift us with new features.


I’ve compared MapMaker and OSM coverage before, and found them to be nearly equivalent in areas with high resolution satellite imagery. Yahoo has less satellite coverage generally, over a smaller area of Nairobi, so that is where you see the highest concentration of OSM data. Outside Nairobi, OSM relies mostly on the FAO Africover import, with select places surveyed in more detail .. I think mainly vacation spots :). This is quickly being supplemented as Map Kibera folks are borrowing GPS for their travels up countries in the festive season.

Both Google and Yahoo imagery are over four years out of date. Anyone familiar with Nairobi’s rapid recent building spree can see it clearly from comparison with satellite imagery with known timestamps. This means that provider’s satellite imagery alone is not sufficient to map here .. you need both up to date imagery, and in situ surveying. That’s where GPS and Walking Papers show their strength in data collection.


OSM has a very active developer community focused on routing. The products aren’t quite a slick as Google’s offerings, but just as powerful, mostly based on pgRouting. CloudMade’s routing is based on adding pins to the map, rather than search, but otherwise do a comparable job to Google’s routing choices.


Like Google, CloudMade routing lacks traffic data in Nairobi. I do know that there are folks in Nairobi working on deploying traffic sensor systems. And folks working on matatu routes. Now t>he key thing is how we will see their data in maps. They could negotiate with Google to have their data included, and I can only wish them luck and a prayer for something like a good deal. But there is no need to wait for Google bureaucracy to start helping improve Nairobi traffic. They could simply build their own routing application with open source data and tools, that integrates their traffic sensor network.


Erik seems to be having fun playing with his iPhone in Nairobi 🙂 (I stick to my solar powered, mPesa enabled phone here). Not many folks have iPhones in Kenya yet .. though you can find Chinese knockoffs on streetside mobile kiosks downtown. There’s no iPhone OSM routing yet. Still, there are a couple apps which offer really key features for Nairobi, and I hope Erik finds a chance to give these apps thorough testing here too.

OffMaps is local caching of maps on your iPhone, which means you can store all of Nairobi locally with no need to spend buckets of airtime repeatedly downloading maps.

MapZen POI Editor is collection of OpenStreetMap points of interest on your iPhone. It’s probably the most user friendly way to contribute to OSM. Now I don’t think it’s entirely fair to Google that Erik critiques the misplacement of his father’s office on Upper Hill. The whole idea with collaborative cartography is that the map can be improved by anyone. However, with OSM or MapMaker, you usually need to keep notes on mistakes you see in your business (I have several of these filled with corrections). MapZen allows this to happen right there in situ, as you see the errors on the street you can immediately correct them.

The Point

Now I wouldn’t mind buying drinks for Google employees. Now, most of the folks hired by Google to fill in data on MapMaker aren’t working there any more, so they may appreciate the drink more than ever (just kidding guys!).

Yes, I did say “hired by Google”. Though they claim to be working within a community, the overwhelming contributor is Google themselves. What percentage is internal or external to Google, I don’t know, because they don’t release the data to calculate those sort of stats. For OSM, we can plainly see which individual contributed how much, and produce all manner of stats. Though OSM has jsut a few folks producing the majority of data, that curve is flattening out rapidly.

It’s great that Google is extending it’s services in Kenya and the developing world. Heck they even have a bus in India (we’re working a mapping matatu here ;). But the point is that with open source and open data, people everywhere don’t have to wait for Santa Google to gift them with new features .. all the tools are readily available for maps to leap frog in the developing world even more than the mobile phone.

MapAction uses OpenStreetMap for Philippines Response

MapAction has deployed to the Philippines to support the United Nations response to the Tropical Storm Ondoy disaster in the Philippines. They’re producing many map products, distributed through ReliefWeb and are using OpenStreetMap data collected by the incredible and resilient OpenStreetMap Philippines community.

I hope this makes a small difference to the work there, to help everyone there affected by the disaster.

This is a big result of several years work by the OpenStreetMap community to make open data comprehensive and usable enough for places where it’s needed most .. the places most vulnerable, and also least mapped. It’s taken a lot of effort to listen to the intense requirements of disaster response, and likewise, for forward thinking responders to understand the value of OSM. All “good news”, but of course the floods in Manila are just one of several sudden onset disasters the world face right now, and the unfortunate fact is that they will happen again. This positive step, to my mind, means that we’re just a little bit more prepared.

I really admire how MapAction works (and wish I had taken the chance to train with them when I lived in the UK). They quickly respond to disasters in the first crucial moments, collect data and create maps. They’re agile, but still understand well institutional needs. Mostly, their tools are ESRI oriented, but they have a desire to learn. I expect they used the Shapefile exports from Cloudmade.

This kind of use of OSM, roads for background contextual data in a PDF, is just a first step. OSM is figuring out how to make paper products, and integrate many web and mobile toolkits into deployable, off the grid, interactive applications. We’re developing techniques for authorities to approve revisions of OSM. We’re working closer with responders, in forums they’re familiar with, and soon enough the PDFs on ReliefWeb will contain the message “if you want to download or edit the data in this map, just open this url”. Disasters inevitably strike hardest on the poor, especially the improvised urban living of slums, and we’re working to map these invisible places. Check into Humanitarian OSM Team for more.

State of the Map Scholarships, Looking forward

“The SOTM was the opportunity to meet more closely all those people sharing experiences, knowledge, experience and passion for a common project. To feel the real sense of comunity. To have seen the result of working together, of uniting all our efforts.” – Jorge Batista

“The experience has convinced me that the OSM organizational model is valid. I had a meeting today with the people from OSM does not have access to the same (government) datasources as them” – Nic Roets

The scholarship program is meant to be a starting point. What comes next is yet to be seen. What’s needed to get there is now much more clear. And here is where some interesting divergences happen from our prior experiences with OSM.

GPS units are much more expensive in developing countries, due to scarcity and import duties, and sometimes just impossible to procure. We need to find a better way to distribute these units. The OSM Foundation already runs the GPS ToGo program, and distributed GPS units to several of the scholarship winners.

There’s a need to map marginal areas. Conflicts and informal settlements are unfortunately much more common in developing countries. Already for many slums, OSM is the only source available, from tracing Yahoo imagery. However, the resolution of Yahoo imagery, and lack of POIs and names collected via on-the-ground surveying limit the usefulness of OSM. Most anyone who lives outside these areas is very wary of visiting in order to map, probably with good reason. So, the only way to map a slum is by giving the tools of mapping to residents of the slum. From Brazilian Favelas, to Cairo slums, to the Transistrian independent region of Moldova, there’s great opportunity to map the unmapped. JumpStart International, who sponsored the mapping of Palestine, are already looking to help in efforts to map Kibera (Nairobi’s and perhaps Africa’s largest slum), and parts of South Ossetia.

We can start to acquire satellite imagery for areas that are hard to reach, like conflict zones, or in many cities simply without good coverage in Yahoo Maps. The experience of Gaza, where we acquired high resolution aerial imagery relatively inexpensively, and combined with low tech tools like Walking Papers can remove issues around GPS units.

Developing countires require localisation more urgently. There are generally fewer English speakers, and so the website, the wiki, and the map itself need translation. Already a great amount of infrastructure is in place for localisation, but there’s more to do. Producing alternate, local tile sets is still very difficult, and arguably something that the main site should do, and we have been discussing solutions. There are also ways to engage with the very active web translation community, by building new interfaces; this is an idea I discussed with David Sasaki at SOTM, another long time online acquaintance I finally got to meet in person.

Localised renderings are crucial. Many applications are seemingly only possible if there’s free data and motivated people. Transport maps, such as the ones produced for Chennai, are a rarity in developing countries, and OSM can easily introduce some efficiencies to usually chaotic transit systems. Useful services like this will be key.

And as SOTM is likely to remain a distant event for many mappers in the world, there’s interest in organizing regional conferences that carry on that spirit.

“I was impressed by the diverse array of applications and use cases where OSM data is being employed, the potentials for all kinds of exciting future geo-enabled mobile applications, and above all the enthusiasm & energy of the OSM crowd.” – Abdelrahman

Other ideas and needs are more generally a focus of OSM. We are working on a framework to set up Local Chapters, and everyone was interested in having some legal backing to their promotional and advocacy activities. The issues are diverse and complicated, so having as many perspectives on what constitutes a membership organization in different jurisdictions is very valuable. All are looking for advice on setting up local legal entities. Considering the small size of the group, and natural affinities, there was some discussion of initially starting with a Latin America wide local chapter.

With an official presence, groups can approach potential data donors, like governments, national mapping agencies, and cadastre departments. Many businesses collect geodata, and may be willing to share or help collect data. University and education programs can make great use of OSM, so local mappers are looking to make contacts with education ministries and produce promotional materials for schools.

Promotion. In the media, in different activity groups, conferences .. promotion has always been one of the most chaotic and creative parts of OSM. And there’s a real need to distill down collective wisdom here .. how to frame a story to gain media attention, sponsor events, and promote with recreation groups. And along with greater promotion comes the need to make the process simpler; simpler editing tools and new, non-tech heavy ways to contribute, like Walking Papers and OpenStreetBugs.

And as these projects grow, we want to measure the progress. This has also been a chaotic part of OSM, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be. Just for instance, all of our stats are global, and could easily be broken down by country.

Finally, let me just say personally, this was such an excellent project. Who wouldn’t be happy making other people happy?! After a very short couple months, rapidly organizing the application process, then tickets and visas, it was just incredible to have everyone together, in person.

The only sad excpetion was Anas Maraqa from Palestine, who was denied a last minute visa with little explanation. We all missed him at SOTM, and I hope next year works out differently.

Hoping we’ll be able to do it again next year, with a little more lead time. It was very successful for all, and we’ll soon see the results.

This year is not yet over. There’s still some funding for follow up activities. We’re working to figure out what shape this will take.

Sincere thanks to the Open Society Institute for making this all possible, Hotel Residence le Coin for a welcoming home in Amsterdam, Gloria Roa for helping with arrangements, and Erica Hagen for support all around.