Sustainability and OSM for Development

Erica Hagen

Playlists: 'sotm2020' videos starting here / audio

We have seen an explosion of OSM mapping in the last few years around maps for development and humanitarian uses, particularly in Africa. During this time it has also become clear that sustaining this essential mapping work, and keeping maps up to date, was going to be a primary concern. Building a healthy mapping ecosystem around mapping for development will not necessarily be able to follow the same model as it has in more developed countries. In this talk, I will share the culmination of my research on sustainability with the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and their Open Cities Africa project, and some ways that we can best support mappers and grow a healthier global OSM ecosystem.

Two years ago, at SOTM in Milan, I and several colleagues held a panel discussion around sustainability challenges that were common to working with OSM in developing countries. Mappers spoke up about their struggles continuing to map, keeping maps up to date, and growing their mapper communities in places with very few resources. This research has now concluded with a white paper on the topic, and many new learnings along the way. In this talk, I’ll review the outcomes of "Sustainability in OpenStreetMap",, a publication under OpenDRI at the World Bank.

While many groups and projects are arising to do mapping throughout the world, and many for a social purpose, we found a number of challenges to keeping mapping moving forward and overcoming hurdles. These include financial, technological, social, and political challenges, each with its own kind of possible solutions. I also looked into the varieties of OSM actors that would be most likely found in contexts of OSM in development, and what challenges they each may face. These actors include governmental mappers, independent consultants, businesses and startups, nonprofit organizations of a wide variety, international NGOs, formal and informal chapters, and more. Finally, I identified some solutions and supports that are most needed to create a sustainable OSM environment in low-resource geographies. In this talk I will share about all of these findings, and we will discuss the best ways to support a strong international mapper ecosystem.