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

Eugene Alvin Villar seav80 at gmail.com
Wed Apr 11 16:59:04 BST 2012

Here's a nice and very encouraging report from Jean-Guilhem about his
attendance at a recent GIS conference in Switzerland.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jean-Guilhem Cailton
Date: Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Subject: [OSM-talk] Feedback from the Red Cross, UN people, and Esri:
YOU (OSM) are GREAT!!!
To: hot at openstreetmap.org
Cc: OSM-talk <talk at openstreetmap.org>


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,

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 crowd".
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:
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
- the general move towards "the cloud", with the ability to share
hundreds of thousands of maps online, even for those without their own
- 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 IOM. 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,


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