Monthly Archives: January 2023

Starting 2023 on the OSMF Board

In January, the new OSMF board met to discuss the work each of us wants to drive forward in 2023. What emerged was an initial, work in progress agenda for the year, with a good distribution of focus areas. Below are a few sentences directly from each of us on what we are thinking and how and where we want to contribute in 2023.

We welcome your input and participation. Contact us directly or, if you are an OSMF Member, join our monthly Board meeting. We will continue to develop and refine our ideas, including in a half day screen to screen session, soon.


Fundraising is my top priority, to support our core staff and infrastructure in a sustainable way. We will have dedicated fundraising campaigns across diversified sources including community small donors, public and private grants, and corporate sector engagement. Secondly, I will focus on making OSMF a great place to work, continuing to implement the necessary processes and structures, and supporting them to be successful. Finally, as secretary, I want to give the OSMF a professional, responsive communication tone. The more I think about it, the more I believe that excellent communication is the key to so much – across fundraising, reputation building, and community growth.


I’d like to focus this year on making the daily operations of OSMF run more smoothly, so that the board has more time in the future to focus on strategic matters. This includes yearly planning and budget, smoothly running communications to and from the board and a financial plan where the majority of our operational cost is covered through regular income. I also hope to get some wisdom from our working groups to understand how we can help each other to spread the work more efficiently, and on more shoulders.


  • moving our corporate registration to EU
  • improving communication
  • facilitate process improvements for OSM tagging, like liquid democracy
  • financial planning and budgeting
  • increasing the diversity of fundraising sources
  • with Grant, increase infrastructure reliability


For my first year on the OSMF Board, I would like to focus on:

  • Building more local chapters
  • Diversifying OSMF membership, including membership of OSMF Working Groups
  • Ensuring financial sustainability and effective fundraising (an aspect I need to learn more/develop personally)


For me, fundraising is the most important thing to do right now. We need money for both long-awaited improvements and daily operations, and our traditional sources of income from individual and corporate members do not even cover our daily operations. At the same time, the Overture announcement has made clear that some data consumers are willing to spend money on reliable map data. So one building block is to adjust the corporate membership levels.

Another aspect is to raise money for improvement projects and, even, completely new projects. History has shown that it is more feasible to secure income for concrete ideas than for an abstract fund. As the board works on behalf of the community, I will bring project ideas into discussion and listen for existing project ideas from the community that are concrete enough for cost estimations so that we have a list of project ideas ready to excite potential donors. I do not expect that every project will be funded, but I do want to see every potential funding opportunity finding an impactful project that it can be invested in.


Now, a month in, I’m getting some traction on my election promises.

I want to help OSMF build up the mapping community and support and encourage existing community leaders. My special effort will be in Africa.

I’m keen to prioritise the OSMF diversity and inclusion programme. I have some ideas, but this must be done as a collective effort.

For tech, I’d like to support OSMF documenting its computer operations, updating and improving the software, look at data structures, promoting vector map tiles and keeping the hardware up to date and reliable.

I’m also making an effort to support the administration in a professional way, with a focus on strategic planning, budgeting, fundraising, and communications.


For starters, it is necessary to keep basic things running – this applies to the OSM community, servers and critical software. Hopefully only routine activities will be needed here.

I am working on a human-readable budget summary – needed for OSMF board work, better transparency and for people interested in what the OSMF is actually doing – especially those who might potentially donate.

GDPR handling is stuck in limbo – and it is the responsibility of the OSMF board to organise the handling of this annoying task.

Lastly, I want to take action on enforcing attribution requirements.

Get to know the new OSMF Board

In December 2022, four new members were elected to the OpenStreetMap Foundation Board, complimenting the three members already serving. The new members are Arnalie Vicario, Craig Allan, Mateusz Konieczny and Sarah Hoffmann and they join Guillaume Rischard, Mikel Maron and Roland Olbricht.

With regard to the OSMF’s diversity ambitions, this collective of Board members is exciting for two reasons… Firstly, because this is only the second time the OSMF Board has had multiple female members and, secondly, because this is the most geographically diverse board we have seen with representation from across four continents.

So, let’s meet the 2023 Board…

Arnalie Vicario (Philippines)

Arnalie is from the Philippines, and maps under the username arnalielsewhere. She advocates for open data and is passionate about building inclusive spaces in the open mapping and open geo community. She was a GIS Specialist for seven years until she shifted to (online) community engagement in 2020. She works as Online Community Engagement Lead at the Humanitarian Openstreetmap Team (HOT), and as a full time mother.

She has been an OpenStreetMap contributor since 2016, the same year she joined and became part of the OSM community in the Philippines. In 2018, she met her partner at the State of the Map – Milan conference, and reconvened GeoLadies Philippines, an advocacy group for community diversity, collaborative participation, and affirmative spaces especially for women, and under-represented communities in OpenStreetMap. She is a supporter and ally of various communities and networks such as Geochicas, Women+ in Geo, Open Heroines, and more.

You can learn more about her views about community in OpenStreeMap and humanitarian open mapping in the Geomob Podcast Interview – Arnalie Vicario: Building inclusive spaces in OSM as well as through her OSM Diaries.

Craig Allan (South Africa)

Craig comes from a local government background where, as a spatial planner, he received formal training in aerial photo interpretation, photogrammetry and land surveying. He has used commercial GIS systems since the 80’s, starting on the simple but very effective Atlas GIS by Strategic Mapping Inc. and later moving on to the infuriating but effective ARC/INFO by ESRI. Now, he’s a QGIS fan and has used it to support philanthropic work in Rangpur Division, Bangladesh.

Craig concentrates on mapping in Africa under the username, cRaIgalLAn. He appreciates that putting a village on the map may enable residents to be recognised and to receive development support and humanitarian aid. Craig is also very interested in conservation and climate change, so does a lot of mapping of threatened forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in several places in Kenya, including the Mara reserve and forests and wetlands inland of Lamu town. He also maps in north Chad because he’s interested in both rock arches and the East Saharan montane xeric woodland which somehow survives on high mountains in the Sahara.

In his later working life, he did less geography and demographics and more management, including strategic planning, risk management, performance management, budgeting and administrative tasks. These skills and experiences have their uses for building and managing organisations and he now deploys them in the interest of the OSM Foundation and the broader OSM community.

Guillaume Rischard (Luxembourg)

Guillaume Rischard is from Luxembourg and maps as Stereo, which is easier to pronounce (he also that username on the wiki). When he discovered OpenStreetMap in 2008, there were only a few main roads displayed around him. He didn’t take the project seriously. In 2011, he ran into it again, and saw that the map had become a lot more detailed. He spotted a missing name, and when he saw it displayed on the map when he refreshed right after saving it, he was hooked. When he uploads a changeset, he still likes to open that place in his browser while it still hasn’t rendered, open the same URL in a new tab a few seconds later, then switch between the tabs.

He works as a freelance data consultant, and was the technical lead and helped drive strategy on the Luxembourg Open Data Portal, where one success was getting the addresses, orthoimagery and official map data of Luxembourg released.

The most significant thing he’s written recently is probably the Membership Working Group report on the 100 suspicious signups. Guillaume and his co-author Steve Friedl were honoured to receive the OpenStreetMap award for influential writing for it at the State of the Map conference in Heidelberg.

He is a member of the Data Working Group and Membership Working Group, and occasionally contributes to the OSM Weekly.

Mateusz Konieczny (Poland)

Mateusz maps and edits the wiki under his own name. He focuses his mapping on local surveying but has also made some bot edits and remote edits. He has also contributed to StreetComplete and other OSM-related tools, such as iD presets and JOSM. He focuses significant time on contributing to the OpenStreetMap Wiki, especially on documenting tagging schemes and reviewing uploaded files to make sure they have the correct copyright information.

Mateusz would like to contribute to greater transparency, attribution and GDPR compliance whilst on the board.

Mikel Maron (USA)

Mikel Maron is a programmer and geographer working for impactful community and humanitarian uses of open source and open data. He started with OSM in 2005. He was elected to the OSMF Board in 2015, and previously served from 2007-2012. He currently works at The Earth Genome, leading digital products. Previously, he led the Community team at Mapbox. He is co-founder of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, of GroundTruth Initiative, and of the Map Kibera project. He’s travelled widely, organizing mapping projects in India, Palestine, Egypt, Swaziland, and elsewhere.

He maps under mikelmaron and contributes to the wiki under Mikel.

Roland Olbricht (Germany)

Roland Olbricht came to OSM in 2008. Since 2011 he has maintained and operated the Overpass API independent of his day job. Before Covid, he participated in multiple local meet-ups in Germany. He contributes to the OSM wiki under the username, Roland.olbricht.

In his professional life, Roland makes software for public transit as a software developer for the company MENTZ GmbH.

Sarah Hoffmann (Germany)

Sarah Hoffmann has been contributing to OpenStreetMap since 2008 under the username of lonvia (she also contributes to the wiki under the same name).

She started out as a simple mapper, collecting a lot of data while hiking in the Swiss Alps. Over the years she became more and more involved in software development for OSM. She is maintainer for Nominatim, osm2pgsql, and a couple of other projects. She is part of the OSMF sysadmin team where she is responsible for the Nominatim servers and has helped out in the programme committee of State of the Map over the last couple of years.

In 2020 she finally gave up pretending that OSM is just a hobby. Nowadays she works as a freelancer doing development and consulting for OSM software in general and Nominatim in particular. She lives in Dresden, Germany.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project, is financially supported by membership fees and donations, and organises the annual, international State of the Map conference. Our volunteer Working Groups and small core staff work to support the OpenStreetMap project. Join the OpenStreetMap Foundation for just £15 a year or for free if you are an active OpenStreetMap contributor.

Reminder: Call for Feedback on the Data Model

Data Model Study

The Engineering Working Group of the OpenStreetMap Foundation commissioned a study in the beginning of 2022 on how to improve the existing data model. Jochen Topf has delivered the results of this study, including recommendations on how to make the OpenStreetMap data model more computationally efficient and more accessible.

Two key suggestions have been made:

  • introducing an area datatype for representing polygons
  • getting rid of untagged nodes

Community Consultation

In order to decide the next steps in this process we want to have more discussions with the community of developers as the proposed changes impact OpenStreetMap software which directly or indirectly depends on the data model.

Potential benefits

Less Mess for Areas

Some mappers may be surprised to hear that OSM does not already have an Area data type. After all, the iD editor prominently features buttons for drawing points, lines and areas. Once mapped, these areas usually appear on the map as expected. The OSM wiki documents whether a tag is typically used on areas, and even Overpass Turbo lets you use areas in your query.

Behind the scenes, however, these areas are represented as ways or relations. Each tool working with OSM data uses its own set of rules to guess whether a particular way represents a line or an area. Making areas a proper part of the OSM data model would lead to a consistent interpretation across applications, enable the API to prevent broken areas from being uploaded, and may eventually lead to support for partial downloads of very large areas.

Keeping OSM Processing Accessible

Currently, ways are made up of references to nodes, and we rely on these references to determine how ways connect to each other. Resolving the coordinates to these node references is a costly process within the OpenStreetMap toolchain as it takes hours to days, even on capable hardware.

In the future, we might model ways as a simple list of coordinates – depending on the exact implementation we end up with. This would offer large performance benefits, but getting rid of untagged nodes would be a significant change.

At first glance, performance improvements may not seem particularly exciting. But how easy it is to work with our data directly impacts how useful OpenStreetMap is to the world at large. As Jochen observes: “The goal is to keep OSM as that great resource that can be used not only by multi-billion-dollar companies but by the student who wants to create a map of the world on their notebook or the activist with their donated second-hand computer.”

Better OSM History

Many mappers are disappointed when they realise how few things the history tab of the website can actually show. There are many tools, like OSMCha and Achavi, that offer much more, but still require a certain degree of proficiency to use them.

You might ask why, and the answer is very technical – the location of a single version of a way is, in many cases, not defined. It is the reason that change tracking remained an expert discipline with relatively newbie-unfriendly tools. By changing the data model we will move away from that barrier, and subsequently we can expect substantially better tools, but not before we get proper coordinates and versions for ways.

Minutely Vector Tiles Generation

While there are quite a number of matured vector tile generators nowadays, a couple of problems are still open.

  • One is which features shall go into the vector tiles for
  • The other is how to reconcile minutely updates with vector tiles for performance at an acceptable level.

That task gets an order of magnitude easier if you can not only truly parallelise the generation of tiles, but also elide the first expensive step to figure out to which tile a changed way belongs.

We might be able to find someone who encapsulates the raw computing power necessary to do this. But even if so, this is a highly nondesirable degree of dependence on that partner.

So yes, vector tiles for are in principle possible without this data model change, but at a so much higher cost that only specialized hardware will be able to keep up with minutely changes.

Have Your Say about the Future

Some kind of change is inevitable. The growth of the OSM database is outpacing speed improvements in hardware, and the ID-based model means that the whole process cannot be parallelized with full speedup. Keeping up with changes was easily possible in the past, but needs needs more and more tricks now. There is a point in the future where also specialized hardware will suffice to keep up with minutely changes.

However, there are many possible approaches to meeting this challenge. Now is the opportunity for the developer community to share your opinion about the way forward.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project, is financially supported by membership fees and donations, and organises the annual, international State of the Map conference. Our volunteer Working Groups and small core staff work to support the OpenStreetMap project. Join the OpenStreetMap Foundation for just £15 a year or for free if you are an active OpenStreetMap contributor.