You’re interested in maps, but how can you use that to save a life?
The Missing Maps initiative may help you turn a pleasant and social pasttime into a crucial resource that helps in disaster management.
What does Missing Maps Do?
Last night SplashMaps took part in a Mapathon. Parallel events ran in Edinburgh, London and Cambridge organised by Making Maps, a charitable movement to fill in the parts of the world map the commercial companies leave behind.
What’s the issue?
The initiative solves an issue suffered by all humanitarian organisations (Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières etc.) who need to coordinate efforts when disaster strikes.
There are no maps.
Google, Here and TomTom – the major global mappers – have no commercial interest in the beyonds of Uganda, Tanzania and Turkey. Yet these are places prone to Natural and Man-made disasters. As is increasingly the case, the only map to turn to is the crowd sourced mapping project, OpenStreetMap (OSM).
From hand drawn to high quality maps
Amazingly, in this era of big data and connectivity, when disaster strikes those first to respond and then rebuild are reliant upon hand drawn maps.
Not any more! This year Missing Maps has contributed over 70 000 buildings into the OpenStreetMap database, helping it to become the largest database of building data in the world!
Through the Mapathons this year Missing Maps have focussed events specifically to meet the needs of the Canadian Red Cross, Tanzania’s Female Genital Mutilation disaster, Malarial mapping across central Africa and relief from Hurricane Irma. Lives are being saved right now!
Start with the benign boroughs of Basingstoke
Our hosts, Iain and Steve from 1 Spatial (the Cambridge based geo business) set the scene and provided tutorials and guidance. The old hands started immediaetly and the newbies (like me) got down to practicing on benign boroughs of Baisingstoke before being let loose on disaster prone Africa.
For each building I’d create an outline…
Within minutes I’d cracked how their scheduling system would magically assign me an area to work on and open the simple OSM web editor. I was making squares around buildings with confidence. My job was to identify buildings from satellite imagery (provided by Digital Globe). For each building I’d create an outline, adjust to best fit the shape of the building and assigned a value “building”. I worked on Uganda and Turkey. In my two areas I’d created 48 new buildings in the dataset. This was a mere nothing compared with the 2000 entries made by Louise of the British Antarctic Survey (in the front row and using the more sophistocates Java OSM desk top application). Even this paled to the 17 000 data entries we’d made in those 2 short hours!
Prizes: Once in OSM you can make it a SplashMap!
SplashMaps are a great prize for MissingMaps. So we gave away £500 worth of discounts and prizes for everyone who attended. Our map creation tool allows you to print anywhere in the world onto a weather fabric or Toob. Importantly, once the data is in OpenStreetMap it will be available to print as a SplashMap! So the winners have the option of creating Toob neck warmers of the work they did that very evening!
The leader board said it all and gave us just the competitive push we needed to complete
Tom, the RSPCA’s field data collector won the SplashMaps prize for the most bulk edits (careful to use the tag #mapmas in all his entries)
Louise, from the British Antarctic Survey, won the most edits award (over 2000!)
Megumi, a Japanese Translator from London, won the prize draw
So no one left empty handed, we introduced a 10% discount code “missingmaps” It’s really rewarding to give such amazing prizes to people who give up their time to help others.
There’s an app, a website and the good old OSM editor on-line. All of these you can access whenever you want and whenever you feel charitable but don’t fancy a Telethon. Go ahead. Get involved!
And what next
Hosting one of these events takes a lot of effort and passion. Iain, Steve and team did a great job. Is there an appetite for this in a more southerly location? Could Southampton or even (our offices) Eastleigh pay host to a future event? Please give commetns below and get involved.