Author Archives: Mikel

Surveying OpenStreetMap in Africa

I’ve had a few inquiries into OSM in Africa recently, put together this brief survey of the action there. If I missed anything, post in the comments.

OpenStreetMap is growing rapidly across all of Africa. Mapping is spreading through local mappers, mappers on vacation, foreign nationals, and remote mapping using satellite imagery. A recent comparison judged that OSM had the most comprehensive coverage of Africa among web mapping services, especially in cities.

Wiki Projects

There are active African wiki projects in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo-Kinshasa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia .. and other places no doubt.

Particularly interesting is a project to map the entire Nile.

UN

Bo Robert Pederson of UNICEF has been informally mapping Accra and Nairobi to comprehensive levels, and will be investigating bringing OSM more directly into UNICEF’s activities. There’s strong interest in East Africa in OSM as a component of the East Africa Spatial Data infrastructure.

In cooperation with the UNJLC, Neil Penman and other volunteers from IBM importing UN data sets for Southern Sudan into OSM. We continue to explore opportunies for collaboration there.

Conferences and Mapping Parties

In September 2008, the FOSS4G conference was held in Cape Town. Open Geographic Data and OpenStreetMap emerged
as main themes of the conference. Very successful mapping parties were held in conjunction, including mapping in townships.

Local mappers in Cape Town recently negotiated the release of all street data held by the Cape Town metropolitan region,
to supplement the already stellar OSM coverage there. This link is a quick rendering of the newly freed data.

In July 2008, Wikimania (the Wikipedia conference) was held at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. OSM was presented to great reception. A mapping party was held in Cairo, and over the last six months Egypt’s maps have grown extremely
rapidly.

2009

Already a strong start to 2009, with new initiatives to promote and use OpenStreetMap in Africa.

DC Based technology consultants Development Seed have active humanitarian mapping projects using OSM in Zimbabwe, Somalia, and the DRC; And they are seeking interns to help with the effort.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation will be distributing donated GPS units to mappers in developing countries.

Not yet formally announced, the codenamed “Mappers Without Borders” project will be providing OSM mapping assistance to humanitarian response and development projects, particularly in Africa. (As a still informal entity, we’ve recently been active in mapping the Gaza Strip.)

Volunteers needed now. OSM for Myanmar disaster relief.

Are you familiar with setting up Mapnik and TileCache, and other components of the OSM stack? Do you want to volunteer time to help support disaster relief in Myanmar?

We’re urgently looking for one or two developers with time, right now, to help set up OpenStreetMap infrastructure in Myanmar.

Due to network constraints, to start they require tile rendering locally. They’ll be collecting data for OSM too, to provide very up to date maps of impacted areas. OSM will be integrated with Sahana. This system could very well be crucial in the relief and recovery efforts, and a great benefit to the people of Myanmar.

Brett Henderson has been working hard setting things up. But we can definitely use more help here. If you are interested to volunteer your technical skills, get in touch with me at “mikel at osmfoundation dot org”.

OpenStreetMap is a Google Summer of Code Project!

We’ve been selected to mentor students this year. We have about six potential mentors so far, and now we need some students. If you are a student, or teach students, or know either teachers or students, and think they’d be good match for OpenStreetMap in the Summer of Code, encourage them to look through our projects, get in touch with us, and apply next week.

Many many thanks go to Spaetz for putting together our application.

Free Map India: A Series of Workshops in February 2008

This month, Schuyler Erle and myself will hold a series of multi-day workshops in several India cities. Researchers, students, programmers, activists and members of the community are invited to participate, learn, and take stewardship of their city. These will be very practical, hands-on days, covering the entire toolset of OpenStreetMap and empowering participants to lead the growth of free and open mapping in India. We will map India!

This kicked off by just idly chatting about bringing together Mumbai Free Map and OpenStreetMap. Schuyler had worked with CRIT over the past couple years to bring extensive geographic data of Mumbai online, and spread the word of open source geo. Why not share with OSM? Well that quickly spiraled into an idea for a continent wide month long trip. And it would have remained just an idea, if not for the amazing organizing that has taken place in just a few months. We’re now geared up to visit six cities — Pune, Mumbai, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkotta — and educate, and learn, and discuss, and MAP! If anyone reading is based in these cities, or has connections there, and are interested in participating, please do get in touch.

We’ve been organizing on the FreeMap wiki, and will also be bringing the OSM India wiki page up to date. You can find full details on the workshops there. There’s a Google Calendar for the OSM India events and dates in the OSM Current Events calendar as well.

So I will be blogging, obsessively if there’s time, on Brain Off, posting photos to flickr with tag freemapindia2008, making animations and other artifacts, and of course, maps.

Thanks everyone who has helped bring this to reality — I can’t quite believe this is actually happening. Fantastic!

Pure OpenStreetMap Nestoria

Nestoria, has long been a friend to OpenStreetMap. They were the first commercial usage of OpenStreetMap, using the Isle of Wight data.

Now they have launched a pure OpenStreetMap version of Nestoria. Anywhere you search for property, in the UK or Spain, this version uses OpenStreetMap. They’re still using Google on their main site, but we’ll see how long that lasts ;).

A year and a half ago, only the Isle of Wight was complete enough to use with Nestoria. Today OpenStreetMap is good enough for an entire site. Impressive progress.

And there’s another way to use OSM Nestoria. Browse around and find a place to live without good OpenStreetMap coverage .. and you’ll have some mapping to look forward to after your move!

OpenStreetMap Baghdad

OpenStreetMap Baghdad is happenning. This is incredible and exciting. And we need your help. Please read on.

OpenStreetMap is an free and open collaborative map of the entire world. We gather GPS tracks and draw maps over them, in an editable wiki style database. And recently we added aerial imagery to our toolbox, thanks to Yahoo!, so dense urban areas and remote locations can be mapped just by tracing streets in the web browser.

This means that OpenStreetMap has the most comprehensive map of Baghdad among any of the web mapping services.

Yahoo has great coverage over Baghdad, and we’ve been tracing. But since we’re physically just about everywhere else in the world but Baghdad, we don’t know the names of the streets or the neighborhoods, and especially what’s changed and still changing during these years of conflict.

So we’re reaching out to find people who could help .. people in Iraq now or have been in Iraq. Data sources, like any old maps or geographic names databases that are permissible to use would be very useful. Or crucially at this point, people who might know people who might know these people and sources. Maybe that’s you.

Our core belief is that open and accessible geodata helps people. The BBC reported on Iraqis using Google Earth to safely travel and avoid violence.

We are well aware of the huge challenges here, culturally and technically. There’s been discussion on how to handle the multiple names of streets .. the old names under Saddam, new names under different factions, and the government. OpenStreetMap can handle all endonyms .. names should exist by use not prescription. And that’s just scratching the surface of the issues. But right now is the right time for proving the open collaborative model for geodata, in the places that need it the most, and OpenStreetMap is ready to take it on.

So any help is welcome .. forward an email, blog post, CNN .. anywhere closer to people that can make OpenStreetMap Baghdad take off. And any comments or discussions, positive or negative, are welcome too.