GPS Puts Rural African Town on Map
Originally posted January 4, 2010, on www.affectacuity.wordpress.com
On the map, Kibera, Niarobi is a blank spot. Not any more.
With the help of a global positioning system (GPS), many willing volunteers and a great deal of technical support from the OpenStreetMap team, Kiberia has been charted and documented for all the world to acknowledge online!
The project was spearheaded by an OpenStreetMap team in collaboration with JumpStart International, and other partners including Jubal Harpster of WhereCampAfrica, the Social Development Network, Pamoja Trust, Hands on Kenya and Carolina for Kibera, according to AllAfricaNews.com.
OpenStreetMap, a project aimed specifically at creating and providing free geographic data such as street maps, is open to any online user. The project, which now has 200,000 users and is available in 41 languages, began because many maps that are believed to be free actually have legal or technical restrictions for use, according to the company Web site. Contributors to OpenStreetMap take handheld GPS devices with them on journeys, or go out specially to record GPS tracks, according to OSM. Participants record street names, village names and other features using notebooks, digital cameras, and voice-recorders. It is the responsibility of participants to find the funding for the equipment. The maps are then uploaded on the internet and can be edited by anyone to provide additional information.
OpenStreetMap, based on the German street mapping system created by Mikel Maron, allows users to access the map and add details through a wiki, or public space to add and edit information freely.
The map will point out landmarks such as churches and mosques, schools, businesses, restaurants, the premises of organisations working in the area and government administrative offices, Marion told AllNewsAfrica. He says the project is not aimed at collecting demographic data, but rather consolidating information on public infrastructure.
GPS functionality available in smart phones such as iPhones and Blackberry phones could make it possible to do plan maps. There are even specific applications on the iPhone beyond providing basic directions from starting and ending points. All iPhones also offer: Mappity Quakes, a simple earthquake viewer, Trails, records, exports and imports tracks, and MotionX GPS, maps biking, hiking, sea and skiing trails and could be useful in planning ecotourism spots.
“With this kind of knowledge it will be possible to speak from an informed point of view regarding planning of the area in terms of infrastructure. For instance we can flag how many health centres are available, where they are and what needs to be added,” Maron explains.
For those interested in joining a work group, donating funding or participating in a creating a street mapping system in your town, visit: www.openstreetmaps.org.