OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a user created/ open source mapping tool. It allows users to map the world using satellite images as guidelines, users contribute by editing maps and validating others created content.
The purpose of this review is to outline my personal experience of OSM and to give an insight into what I contributed and learned through using OSM.
The first part of my project involved signing up for OSM. The thought of sign-ups is usually quite daunting but I was pleasantly surprised that all OSM asked from me was a username, password and email address to validate my account. I followed the link provided by my lecturer (http://tasks.hotosm.org/) which brought me to an extensive list of global humanitarian projects. Each project was unique in their purpose but they all had one common requirement, maps. I decided to choose a project dedicated to the preventing and eradication of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically Mozambique. The project was outlined as follows: This project directly supports programs under the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which was launched in 2005 with the goal to reduce malaria-related mortality by 50 percent across sub-Saharan Africa. The OpenStreetMap data created through this task will be used to plan the logistics of an Indoor Residual Spraying campaign in Milange. I was directed to read a manual before I began mapping, this outlined exactly what the project managers were looking for from contributors. They were asking specifically for the markings of roads, waterways and buildings. A simple request. I jumped straight into IDEditor and was able to quickly grasp the controls and tools through a short and straightforward tutorial. I chose my first tile and got to work drawing roads, outlining rivers and marking houses/ buildings.
An earlier contributor had marked the main road so I set to work filling in dirt tracks and buildings.
I continued working on several tiles over the course of a week adding minor roads, buildings and rivers/ streams. I reviewed others work in my spare time, also double-checking validated work to ensure there was enough content to be considered complete. On inspection of one ‘done’ tile I found there to be very little actual mapping complete, only a handful of roads had been drawn. I thought it necessary to invalidate this work and leave a comment on the matter.
Following the mapping/ validating of several tiles I decided to have a look at my own neighborhood to see if I could contribute to it in any way as I know the area quite well. The main roads and much of the landmarks had been mapped but I was able to find a number of minor roads and points of interest to mark in.
Below shows the parish of Crossbarry which is very near to where I live. A contributor has mapped the main roads in the area but had omitted the large quarry located to the north of the village. I decided to add that in and searched for the name of the quarry online.
I also used my knowledge of the local area to input a large residential park and an abandoned railway.
Overall I found the experience of OSM very enjoyable. I was able grasp the use of IDEditor with ease. The idea of multiple contributors for an area divides the work among larger numbers and therefore makes it easier on each individual involved.
I learned a great deal as the malaria epidemic in Mozambique prompted me to read further into the origins, causes and symptoms of the disease. Humanitarian workers can organise their logistics with more ease due to the combined work of OSM contributors, this can help save lives and can benefit future projects in these areas. It felt good on a personal level that I could make an impact on this project, no matter how small, from the comfort of my own home.
As OSM grows, so does the movement for crowd sources and open source information. Not only are we providing assistance to humanitarian projects but we are also making steps in the right direction towards a more open and creative internet that can incorporate and accommodate everyone.
Hopefully OSM will be able to establish a timeline where they can review the amount of content uploaded over a period of time, this will make projects such as ORBIS more accurate and faster to complete in the future. As new satellite images are imported into the OSM database, it is important that edits to older images remain accurate or the system is liable to become disorganised. Example a road is drawn for an older image, a new town emerges in the area so a new image is taken, unless the image is taken from the exact same position as the previous there will be discrepancies in the overlap between the image and the map.
Crowdsourcing information can be a very effective way of collecting large quantities of data with ease over a short period of time. The very concept of crowdsourcing is developing rapidly as internet access grows to incorporate more areas and could be a potential avenue for research. How has crowdsourcing developed as we move further into the digital age? Can the methods of crowdsourcing be thought to school goers so that we are able to join it into the world of big data, where each person is anonymously contributing to a larger, more organised system of data collection that spans the width of human knowledge through everyday actions on the internet?