[HOT] Feedback from the Red Cross, UN people, and Esri: YOU (OSM) are GREAT!!!

Mikel Maron mikel_maron at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 11 20:38:18 BST 2012

thanks for the wonderful summary of the conference JGC, sounds like a great success ... can we get this up on the HOT blog?
* Mikel Maron * +14152835207 @mikel s:mikelmaron

> From: Jean-Guilhem Cailton <jgc at arkemie.com>
>To: hot at openstreetmap.org 
>Cc: OSM-talk <talk at openstreetmap.org> 
>Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 4:47 PM
>Subject: [HOT] Feedback from the Red Cross, UN people, and Esri: YOU (OSM) are GREAT!!!
>Last week, I was at the conference "GIS for the United Nations and
      the International Community", a conference organized by UNITAR's
      Operational Satellite Application Programme (UNOSAT) and Esri,
      April 3-5, 2012, at the World Meteorological Organization, in
      Geneva, Switzerland. 
>The main message I'd like to get back to each and everyone of you,
      from the almost unanimous feedback I received and witnessed while
      I was there, is that OpenStreetMap is rather well known and very
      much appreciated among the people who attended the conference. It
      is difficult to carry across the kind of recognition and
      gratefulness that I felt for the work of OSM volunteers, and no
      expression can be exaggerated to convey it. I am not saying that
      Ban Ki-moon knows about OSM as much as he probably knows about
      Google, for instance, but at least the UN people connected in some
      (possibly remote) way to GIS know about it, and some are really
      well aware of the strengths (and also of course of the weaknesses)
      of OSM. 
>Even in the panel that I attended in the first panel session,
      "Geographic Information in Postcrisis - Transition to Stability
      and Redevelopment", where OSM was not explicitly on the agenda, it
      came up in the knowledgeable and lively discussion that followed,
      with some strong opinions expressed about the "commercial"
      character of the licence (from the point of view of this mostly
      humanitarian audience), and the restrictions it implies, a topic
      that deserves more development and to which I'll come back later
      in another post. 
>The next day, I was a panelist in "Open Data and the Crowd:
      Collaborating for Action", a panel moderated by Ryan Lanclos,
      Esri, where I had been invited at the last minute to represent
      H.O.T. It was a really very interesting panel, with Lars Bromley,
      UNITAR/UNOSAT, Jihad Abdalla, Emergency Officer at UNICEF/EMOPS,
      Andrej Verity, UNOCHA, and Frédéric Zanetta, IFRC. UNOSAT had made
      their own experiments about crowd-sourcing, and were well aware of
      its difficulties. I presented OSM in general, and in particular
      the remote mobilization for Haiti (with an extract of Tim
      Berners-Lee video at TED 2010) followed by field projects there,
      with the example of the STM_020 project in Saint Marc, Haiti,
      where I had just spent a month (I'll also come back to this
      later). I think, judging from later interventions, that I managed
      to get across the message that OSM is first of all a community
      (rather than a "crowd"). A similar point was also later expressed
      from the audience, with someone saying that organizations should
      "engage" with the "crowd", not "use" it. In his conclusion, Andrej
      Verity encouraged the audience "not to be afraid" to engage "the
>After this panel, my personal feeling was an exhilarating one that
      apparently everyone, from the panel and the interventions from the
      audience, had a desire to move forward, iteratively improving
      cooperation processes, and solving problems as they might arise. 
>In the next panel that I attended, of particular interest was the
      presentation by René Saameli, of the ICRC, of the mapping of
      Walikale, DR Congo, to support the Red Cross water supply project
      there, jointly by remote OSM volunteers, who digitized the
      satellite image acquired by the Red Cross, by local Red Cross
      representative and correspondents, who collected field
      information, like names of streets and suburbs or points of
      interest, on Walking Papers (with no need for GPS units - which
      would be too costly if this process is to be repeated on a large
      scale), and remote OSM volunteers again, who entered WP info into
      the database, to produce a complete and accurate map of the town.
      Analyzes, such as population repartition estimation based on
      digitized buildings, could then also be conducted. The ICRC was so
      pleased by this project, as well as previous joint work with OSM
      (like for mapping Osh in Kirghiztan during the 2010 troubles
      there) that he declared that they are preparing a Memorandum of
      Understanding with HOT, and envision the possibility to have
      volunteers who would be both "Red Cross" and "HOT", as the Red
      Cross and OSM are both mainly volunteers movements. Big credit
      goes to Frédéric Bonifas for building this trust relationship over
      the years. 
>Here is an interview about this collaborative mapping: http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/interview/2012/mapping-interview-2012-04-05.htm
>Getting closer to the Red Cross and its millions of volunteers
      worldwide, for those interested, could be a way to bridge the
      missing link between the potential of OSM tools and the (mostly
      unmapped and unconnected) local communities of the developing
      world, where they could be really useful to make a difference. 
>And this could also be a popularity boost for OSM, by making lay
      people aware of the link between maps and humanitarian action. 
>Like René said off the record, it could be a reply from
      "humanitarians with boots on the ground" to the World Bank/Google
      agreement that made some noise earlier this year. 
>The closing session offered summaries of the panels that had taken
      place in parallel. A summary of the summaries was: "Free the
      data!" (instead of keeping it in silos where it is difficult for
      others to access and use). 
>One of the visions that Jack Dangermond, founder and president of
      Esri, shared, is that over more than 40 years in the field of GIS,
      he had witnessed a few revolutionary technological changes: remote
      sensing, GPS, and now, crowd-sourcing.
>The main points of Esri's presentations that might be of interest
      here are: 
>- the recently released version 2.0 of ArcGIS editor for OSM (https://esriosmeditor.codeplex.com/), 
>- the general move towards "the cloud", with the ability to share
      hundreds of thousands of maps online, even for those without their
      own server, 
>- the possibility to easily create (point) map layers from
      spreadsheets (containing geo-coordinates columns) ("as easy as
      drag and drop"), 
>- data collection tools on mobile devices (directly derived from
      data models). 
>They also recalled that they have a program to supply software
      licenses to nonprofit organizations, which could apply to HOT (at
>HXL (Humanitarian eXchange Language) is a draft standard,
      initiated by OCHA, designed to address the problem that
      "information sharing is becoming the bottleneck to efficient aid". 
>This conference allowed me to meet people from the Red Cross,
      MapAction, UN-OCHA, USAID/OTI, ACTED,... and GIS and information
      officers from South Sudan and Pakistan. By the way, who would like
      to help organize a mapping party in Islamabad? 
>I also had the pleasure to meet Stéphane Henriod, who is
      interested in natural disasters data and in contributing to OSM in
      Tajikistan, as you may have seen on the HOT list, and Robert
      Colombo, who was "the guy in the audience always asking many good,
      thought provoking, questions" (and had activated SBTF, GisCorps
      and HOT to collect health facilities info for Libya, from his
      position at WHO in Tunis). And it was, as always, a pleasure to be
      able to chat with Fred Moine, who must now be back in Haiti for
      Thanks to Mikel for introducing me to the panel moderator, and to
      Nicolas for introducing me to his contacts who were likely to be
      at the conference.
>But maybe the best surprise for me was an "African citizen" (who
      works in the UN) who came to me after my presentation to tell me
      that he thought that OSM could be a development and
      democratization tool that African youths, who have for instance
      contributed to the recent democratic change in Senegal, could use
      to organize themselves and to manage their own communities. This
      matched perfectly the vision that we had in Haiti with Nicolas...
      So let's make it happen! 
>Best wishes, 
>HOT mailing list
>HOT at openstreetmap.org
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