Recently I was introduced to the Missing Maps Project when my boss Robin sent me an article featuring our colleague, Ivan Gayton who works with Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
I implore you to read the article, but I’ll give you a short version here in case you don’t have the time. Ivan goes into detail telling the story of a nun who contacted him in 2010 during the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. She described to him the outbreak of Cholera and how prominent the death had become in her village. MSF sent out aid workers to help, and they proceeded to use the only maps available (very poor ones) to try to find the nun and her village. Eventually they were able to track her down, but not without considerable difficulty, something made even more frustrating when operating in a time-sensitive environment. More calls started to flood MSF with requests for aid and assistance, and knowing which calls were the most in need could have saved resources and in turn, saved more lives.
The biggest issue was not knowing the basic area.
Being unable to identify where sick people are coming from.
If you get 100 patients who come into the only clinic in the area, and they all have the same symptoms, and come from the same place, there’s a good chance that more people in that area are sick too. What a basic map with patients on it can tell you is urgency. It lets you know how best to use the resources available to you. The way aid organizations spend funds in times of desperation is crucial to a proper response. Unbelievably there are areas of the world that remain unmapped. Areas that are most likely a lot more sensitive in the face of say a natural disaster, or a terrible disease than the developed world. When I say unmapped, I’m talking about roads, rivers, lakes, buildings, and other features – basically all the things you would see on Google Maps if Google had mapped out places like Rwanda.
The first law of geography according to Waldo Tobler is “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” This guiding principle of Geography sheds light on the usefulness of the Missing Maps project. This project is organized by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), in concert with Doctors Without Borders, and the Redcross.
Through organized mapping parties, groups of people trace over top of satellite images of buildings, rivers, roads, lakes, and other geographic features. This “tracing” (also known as digitizing), is easy to learn, can be done from your browser, and contributes to a lasting, free map of the world (openstreetmap). You’ll start to understand that the technology we utilise and take advantage of on a daily basis, isn’t available to everyone. By donating your time, you can increase the efficiency of the money that others donate.
If you would like to participate, please sign up here for the November 7th 2014 event being held at BCIT Burnaby from 6:00PM – 8:30PM
More information available at the sign up link, or contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos from the November Missing Maps Event at BCIT: