[Talk-bd] Discussion: Issues with name localization for Bangladesh

Fazle Rabbi fazlerabbi37 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 7 12:42:37 UTC 2019

Greetings, everyone,

I am Fazle Rabbi from OpenStreetMap Bangladesh Foundation (OSMBDF), the
representative of OpenStreetMap Bangladesh community. I'm also a member of
the core team of the community, commonly known as "BHOOT" to the global OSM

For some time, there has been a lot of discussion and debates on how – or
rather, if – we should localize names for Bangladesh (Bengali). Recently,
we have seen a lot of changes from a few contributors who changed the
`name` tag from English (Roman) to Bengali. We agree with the policy that
names should be localized, but which tag we should use is up for
discussion. We, the community of Bangladesh, have been following a style
for more than 4 years now to map Bangladesh with English (Roman) for `name`
tag and Bengali for `name:bn` tag.

The community have come to this conclusion after many trials and errors and
thoughtful consideration that `name` tag should be had the name in English
(Roman). But we made a mistake. We did all the discussion internally as all
the initial contributors used to sit together in a small room. What we
should have done is discuss it in a more appropriate manner where anyone –
past, present, future contributors – would be able to raise their voices.
We would like to apologize for our mistake and take steps to fix that
problem by starting a discussion here to make a string tagging guideline
for Bangladesh.

The OSM community in Bangladesh is one of the strongest communities in the
world, and community members have gathered under the wing of OSMBDF, the
legally registered entity in Bangladesh, and waiting for the local chapter
recognition from OSMF. The members of our community are mainly connected
via a Facebook group. Though this mailing list was set up at a very initial
stage, it was not very active. Recently, on the State of the Map Asia 2019
held in Bangladesh, we decided to make the mailing list more active and the
core communication channel. We would like all of our community members to
engage in the mailing for this kind of discussions rather than using the
Facebook group.

The OSM community and, as a part of that larger community, we, the members
of OSM Bangladesh community, strongly believe that the main site at
openstreetmap.org is a geo-spatial data repository which is used by many
other apps, websites and service providers, but not as a map. I would like
to draw your attention to two sentences in the [About Page of

- "OpenStreetMap powers map data on thousands of websites, mobile apps, and
hardware devices"
- "OpenStreetMap is built by a community of mappers that contribute and
maintain data about roads, trails, cafés, railway stations, and much more,
all over the world."

It is a data repository, not a map. The reasons we have agreed upon using
English name in `name` tag are:

- The rendering problem with Bengali makes a horrible UX experience. The
rendering style used by OSM main site is openstreetmap-carto that had a
problem with rendering Bengali. The problem is fixed recently which is a
great news. While it is convenient to use from a desktop or laptop at home,
unfortunately, it is impossible to use on the go. Most of the people use
mobile apps to navigate on the road, but the large array of the most-used
mobile applications like OsmAnd, Maps.Me, Magic Earth that still can't
render the Bengali characters make it unable to use for the users. The
Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) made a map for disaster response that
is available in OSM main site as an additional layer, which also can't
render Bengali. And that makes it a challenge in times of disaster
response. Screenshot for reference:

- Aid agencies like UN, MSF, Red Crescent have run many projects to map
large portions of the country and given those data to OSM, which makes them
big contributors and users of the OSM data. But this data becomes useless
if all `name` tags are replaced with Bengali. As per, it came to us, WFP
recently faced the issue while they tried out using the dataset in one of
their projects.

OSM is an open community where everything gets done by discussing, and we
have tried to follow that convention. When we noticed the `name` tag
problem, we requested the editor to change it by putting the Bengali value
in `name:bn` tag. We are very disheartened to see when they changed OSM
Wiki to justify theirs without community consent or even discussion, which
is not appreciated in an open community. Moreover, the English names were
deleted altogether, which is problematic, because there is no fall-back
policy for applications that can render `name:en` tags.

When we asked them about the rendering problem of the `name` tag in the
changeset comments, they replied that it is not their concern and the
developer of those apps should be asked to fix it. A very valid point! But
a large number of users are foreign people, so we can't just ask them to
learn Bengali all on a sudden, can we? Imagine that to see the map of
Denmark you have to learn Danish. Not so convenient, is it? To maintain a
more transient conversion we requested to use English in changeset comments
which was ignored altogether. We are strongly recommending that the
language of the communication should be in English for better transparency.

Today we are inviting you all to take part here in this discussion in
shaping the tagging policy of Bangladesh. We also have a close
communication about this issue with OSMF data working group and will also
follow up with them about it.

On State of the Map Asia 2019 (SotM Asia 2019), the Bangladesh community
has made a decision that, in the true spirit of openness, everything
related to OSM in Bangladesh should be discussed in this mailing list.
Anything without prior discussion in the mailing list would be treated as
vandalism and strict actions would follow.

We will request you all to invite other contributes and stakeholders to
subscribe to the mailing list and, for instant messaging, join our Telegram
group <https://t.me/OpenStreetMapBD>.

Thank you!


Fazle Rabbi
On behalf of,
OpenStreetMap Bangladesh Foundation (OSMBDF)
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