Making a Difference with Maps
At the Geography Club’s second Mapping Party, volunteers made hundreds of edits to OpenStreetMap. Our efforts contribute to the larger Missing Maps campaign, which is supported by organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Missing Maps’ main objective is to “map the most vulnerable places in the developing world, in order that international and local NGOs and individuals can use the maps and data to better respond to crises affecting the areas.” All of the data created by volunteers is free and open to be used by anyone through OpenStreetMap.org, which not only helps in administering aid and improving disaster preparedness, but can even stimulate developing economies which may improve the standard of living. This is made possible by Missing Maps’ commitment to ensure local access to this data and the technology needed to utilize it.
Missing Maps was founded because the American and British Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders realized that map data are vital for delivering humanitarian aid. The mapping process generally goes as follows: (1) vulnerable areas are identified, (2) NGOs submit mapping projects to an online project manager system and remote volunteers fulfill these mapping needs, (3) volunteers on the ground verify the map data with help from locals, and (4) the finalized data is utilized by humanitarian organizations. We, the volunteers at mapping events, are step 2 in this process.
Remote mapping volunteers need no prior experience with mapping, just a laptop that can power a web browser (there is no software, everything is run online). The goal of our Humanitarian Mapping Party events are to create a relaxed and friendly environment to get more people involved in remote mapping, and to provide on the spot help and training to remove the barrier of “I don’t know how to map”. Fortunately, the system we use to map is very easy to use (see: tasks.hotosm.org/contribute), and once new volunteers get started, they can easily continue to map on their own.
The Geography Club is also excited to announce official affiliation with the YouthMappers, which is a network of university organizations including more than 200 campuses and 48 countries worldwide. As a YouthMappers chapter, Geography Club members now have access to this international community and will be exclusively eligible to apply for future calls for participation for special support such as leadership opportunities, female mappers activities, and even student research fellowships.