Monday, 6 May 2013

VGI in Humanitarian Help - by Lena Reitschuster

On the 12th of January 2012 the earth was shaking in Haiti with a magnitude of 7.0. Haiti’s capital lied in ruins. Thousands of people were homeless in seconds and about 300.000 people died.

The world was shocked and a lot of people wanted to support and to help the Haitians with dealing with this terrible catastrophe. Many who could not actually go there and help, donated money. But the worldwide OpenStreetMap community found a different way to contribute. With satellite images provided for free they started tracing roads and buildings from far away to create an online map of Port au Prince. This way they supported rescue strategies and still support the cleaning-up operations in creating a free map that is free for everyone and every organization to use.
A major role in this remote mapping played the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). They tried to coordinate the remote mapping and held trainings shortly after the earthquake so that people could use the pre disaster map in various ways.

But what is HOT? The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team was founded in 2009 and consists today of 44 members with elected broad members who form the core HOT team. They started off with post disaster mapping using OpenStreetMap as a tool for creating an online map of the disaster affected region to support “especially in places where base map data is often scarce, out of date, or rapidly changing” (HOT Homepage - http://hot.openstreetmap.org/). They see themselves as a link between the traditional Humanitarian Responders and the OpenStreetMap Community.

And what is OpenStreetMap? 
“…the project that creates and distributes free geographic data for the world" (OSM Wiki).


        OpenStreetMap was founded by Steve Coast in 2007. He was frustrated by the restrictions the officials have for maps in the UK. And so he started off creating OpenStreetMap as a free and open map for everyone.
        Since then the software, various editing tools, apps and the collection of the geographic data was completely done by volunteers. With gatherings called “Mapping Parties” people were trained to map their neighbourhoods and cities. From there people started mapping all around the world and contributed not only data but plenty of ideas of how to use this free map.

        For further interest please look at some of these websites:
         -          HOT: http://hot.openstreetmap.org/
         -          OSM Wiki: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Main_Page
         -          HOT maintained page about how to map on OpenStreetMap: http://learnosm.org/en/


8 comments:

  1. Werner Clödy7 May 2013 at 15:34

    One question is whether Volunteered Geographic Information comprehends enough data (administrative borders and so on), which are required for successful humanitarian assistance. I think that VGI alone is not sufficient for achieving the objects of humanitarian aid.

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  2. I think an important question is if such communities/organizations can achieve constant help for any emergency. If they can't offer their work constantly it would be hard for other humanitarian organizations to count on them. Humanitarian organizations need reliable partners for every emergency. Would be interesting how good VGI for humanitarian aid worked for other disasters, some comparison with Haiti.

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    2. In the blogpost "Who are volunteers?" from Robin Peters the question about the motivation of volunteers came up. What kind of measures do the traditional humaitarian agencies take to motivate/ keep their V & TCs?

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    3. It is interesting that Svend-J used the word "earned". This means obviously that the official organizations decide what is important or which structures fit their work. Will that continue or will V&TC become such a strong part, that they start to biult up standards?

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