Join 4,000+ technologists, decision makers and community members in Raleigh, NC

October 13 - 15


Open Government / Open Data

Save the World from Your Couch with Open-Source Mapping

Leila Alderman   

Earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks, violent regime changes, war… Humanitarian crises happen all too often and frequently happen in places far away. Of course, hopping on a plane and flying to an ebola outbreak region or a tsunami-wrecked island to help out isn’t something most of us have the time or money to do. So how can we help? One way is to provide up-to-date map information for the affected regions. This may sound complicated, but it’s actually so easy that anyone with a laptop can do it. Really, anyone!

While map information for the U.S. is pretty great, the map information for people escaping a violent militia near Lake Chad is pretty poor because nobody has needed to or been paid to map that area. As humanitarian relief efforts put boots on the ground, they need maps, but they often lack even the basics of which roads go where.

By looking at up-to-date satellite images, you can trace roads or draw boxes around the hospitals and schools in a town with a few clicks of your mouse. Adding this data to an open-source map can save lives even within an hour of the update.

In short, if you can trace lines with your mouse, you can save lives.

In this talk, attendees who have never mapped or coded before will learn

  • how humanitarian mapping projects have helped past crises;
  • the basic skills needed to add map data to OpenStreetMap;
  • how to map collaboratively using the Humanitarian OSM Tasking Manager; and
  • how to find projects that need mapping help.