[HOT] Reports about actual use of the results of HOT efforts

Blake Girardot HOT/OSM blake.girardot at hotosm.org
Mon Jul 4 02:26:51 UTC 2016

Hi Peter,

I can not really answer all your questions. There are a number of NGO
and humanitarian professionals on this list and they might be able to
answer some of them more specifically, but I can comment in general:

OpenStreetMap is the main geo dataset for humanitarian work of all
sorts for a large part of the planet. It is relied upon by many major
NGOs and UN organizations. Geospatial data is not just nice to have in
a humanitarian context, but instead either directly enables or
dramatically improves a wide variety of humanitarian related work.

Can I list every way it gets used? No. Can I make a blanket statement
that it decreases suffering and saves lives?  I am very sure it does.

Almost every project listed on the HOT Tasking Manager is there
because someone, some organization or some government entity has
directly identified a need for geospatial data because it improves or
in many cases enables their work and their work is dedicated to
improving and/or saving lives.

Our http://missingmaps.org project was founded by the American Red
Cross (Global ICT & Analytics International Services division), the
British Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières-UK - They partnered
with HOT and OSM to generate and make this data available directly for
their field work. And the Missing Maps consortium continues to grow
and add new partners because more and more NGOs recognize the value of
the data we generate to their mission.

I literally work every day of the week with NGOs, international public
health professionals and/or UN staff to coordinate the generation of
geo data because they need it. And the requests for your mapping is
doing nothing but increasing.

To be honest, I hardly every ask exactly how they are going to use it.
I trust they would not put as much effort into working with us to
generate the data as they do if it was not very important and helpful
to their work. If they tell me they need our data for their work, that
is good enough for me because I know many of the ways it can help from
past experience. But I understand people who do not have the
opportunity to work directly with these professionals every day wonder
if what they are mapping is really useful. I wish you could all hear
the thanks I hear not quite everyday, but every week for sure, from
the people you are mapping for. I try and pass it on when I can, but
reporting back in the detail you asked for on even half the mapping
and geo data projects we do would be a full time job, but I know we
need to do a better job of it.

I can provide a few very specific use cases off the top of my head. At
the moment we are trying to help Swaziland eliminate (not reduce,
eliminate) malaria from their borders, in Mozambique it is malaria
reduction and separately, reduction in child mortality, as well as
still helping in the recovery phase of the Japan and Ecuador
earthquakes, MSF projects in DRC and South Sudan, etc. You can read
the descriptions on many of the Tasking Manager projects and they will
tell you why they need the data.

It is also important to distinguish between disaster mapping and
non-disaster humanitarian mapping. Most of the above applies to
non-disaster humanitarian mapping, what we do during times of calm.

During a disaster, the OSM dataset, as I said, is the main dataset
used for most parts of the world. Reference and base map is critical
data for a variety of response activities, logistics and immediate
response planning among them. But that same dataset is used throughout
the Disaster Management Life-cycle, from response, through recovery
and rebuilding and for risk and harm reduction planning for the next

During a disaster is the only time we map and sometimes we are not
directly mapping for field work in coordination with people on the
ground. And even then, that is only about 25% of the time we do not
have contacts on the ground giving us priority areas and telling us
exactly what geo data they need.

However, we know OSM is used as base/reference map by most major NGO's
and most members of the International Disasters Charter. So your
mapping is never just nice to have, it is needed and used even if I am
not sure exactly who is using it during a crisis (but often time we do
know who is using it). We will never know every organization that uses
your mapping data, that is one of the joys of OSM, open data anyone
can use, no need to ever contact HOT or OSMF. Use of OSM data is often
built directly into the professional GIS tools used by professions,
humanitarian or otherwise, by just adding an OSM data layer.

But for example: Sri Lanka. In that case, while Robert Banick, a HOT
member, was actually located in the government Disaster Management
Center in Sri Lanka during their last flood event and giving us our
mapping priorities, here are 12 disaster assessment products produced
by the Disasters Charter member agencies around the world, and I think
literally every single one of the products uses OSM as the
reference/base layer:

In Sri Lanka that same data you and the HOT/OSM community generated
was used in a tool like http://inasafe.org/ to help figure out what
relief supplies were needed where. (Not sure they use inasafe
specifically, but they for sure had a tool like that using OSM data to
help figure out exposure numbers).

The same can typically be said for the disaster products produced by
the EU/EC Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service, to select a disaster
at random, flooding in Bavaria Germany, OSM vector data is used in
probably every product they produced (too many to check them all)

So while I can not answer all your questions, I can say for sure, if
you are hot or missing maps mapping, you are doing it for a specific
purpose and not just because it is nice to have. But additionally, I
feel any OSM mapping is valuable, no matter where it is. Siberia data
might just be nice to have today, but if there are more wildfires,
earthquakes or another Tunguska event there, for sure your mapping
will be used as part of the response and it will make at least some
small difference to the people suffering through the disaster and the
people responding, and often time it is making a significant
difference. That is why I map and volunteer on the Board for HOT.

I hope that helps some, and as I said, I know we need to do better at
providing examples, it is just a matter of limited time and resources,
for both HOT's volunteers and the folks doing the relief work.

Blake Girardot
Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team
President, HOT Board of Directors
skype: jblakegirardot
HOT Core Team Contact: info at hotosm.org

On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 9:12 AM, Peter Gervai <grinapo at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello HOT!
> I decided to bring this over from
> https://github.com/hotosm/hotosm-website/issues/65
> and
> https://github.com/hotosm/hotosm-website/issues/84#issuecomment-217356627
> (both closed, btw) since I have realised this may be of a wider interest.
> The original request was about the problem that while there are plenty of
> showcases about the _results_ of the various HOT maps there are
> almost none - or if there is they are very hard to find - about how these
> mapping results were _used_ on the field out there.
> Actual reports from the people who received the output of HOT:
> - who are they exactly, where are they from, how are they organised,
> how did they contact HOT?
> - how did they use the data or the maps, what methods, equipment?
> - what did they exactly used it for, what did they do with it?
> - what parts of the map/data was the most helpful for them, how and why?
> - what was not usable for them, what parts were not needed by them?
> - what would they liked to have which was missing?
> - if it's possible to say how much did the HOT results helped their
> efforts? was it a little help? was it the most important help in their
> work?
> - what did they dislike in the results? were there dangerously
> unreliable, misrepresented, otherwise problematic areas? were the
> "white western people" able to map what's out there or were they
> misunderstood what they saw on the imagery? I would like to know the
> problems, too.
> Maybe there are such reports, then I would be very glad if you people
> would point me to them. (I would then forward it to the webite team to
> include it on the main website, too.)
> If there are not much of those, which I suspect, I would propose a simple thing:
> HOT (community) give map and data to organisations, organisations give
> reports of actual usage to HOT (community).
> This should be the only thing we would kindly, but firmly ask for it in return.
> As I wrote in the linked ticket above: "there is a big difference
> between asking me to help creating a map somewhere just because the
> area isn't covered (like when I was mapping rivers in Siberia, vast
> lands with not a single node around, but nobody really care or use it,
> it's just for fun) or because there are actual people requiring this
> actual result to do actual work."
> Apart from that, I would like to know whether my efforts are really
> useful (apart from the "good to have" maps), there are actual people
> who ask this very question from me and expecting answers, and I only
> have general answers with lots of "really useful" and "it's helping
> the people there", but hardly any hard facts or actual description of
> what really was the effect of the HOT efforts.
> Thank you,
> Peter Gervai
> OSM Hungary
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