On Sunday, October 19th, the Spatial Analysis Lab hosted an Open Street Map (OSM) Mapathon to support the efforts of Doctors Without Borders, WHO and other aid organizations in their fight to contain the spread of the Ebola virus. This effort was coordinated by the SAL's own Noah Ahles. The event brought together UVM staff and students along with community volunteers. We digitized geographic features in Sierra Leone (roads, schools, residential areas, potential helicopter landing sites, etc.) creating a digital dataset that can be downloaded and accessed by aid workers on the ground minutes after the edits are completed.
Digital data is essential to understanding the situation in West Africa and to planning an effective response. Most of the time, areas in need of humanitarian aid do not have the geospatial data required to facilitate a proper aid response. OSM substantially increases the efficiency of humanitarian aid by providing up-to-date geographic and anthropogenic digital data within an area of interest. Furthermore, OSM is being used to calculate statistics (e.g. population estimates) and contextual data (e.g. potential routes of spread).
One of the most powerful aspects of OSM is that no experience is required in GIS or mapping; anyone can join in and contribute. Moreover, no software is required; all of the editing is done on a web browser and can be done with a laptop, mouse and internet connection. Fourteen people attended our mapathon, many of whom had never used any mapping programs before, and together we digitized over 22,000 features.
|Students and community members working with Open Street Map in the Aiken Center, UVM|
To put our efforts into perspective, volunteers from all over the world have come together to map Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Since March, more than 9 million objects have been edited by 1,700 volunteers. This is a continuing effort and every edit goes a long way. The following images are areas that have been mapped recently through OSM.
Port Loko, Sierra Leone before and after OSM’s recent activation
Freetown, Sierra Leone, before and after OSM’s recent updates
Here are some great resources/tutorials if you would like to join the effort:
If you have questions or would like to join future OSM mapathons please contact Noah - email@example.comThank you Alysia from Trader Joe’s, Leonardo’s Pizza and Jim from Brennan’s for supporting this event. Also, thank you Bill Morris for all his help.