Open Street Map (OSM) is an exciting community of individuals and organizations that is creating an open source map of the entire world, and making it available to anyone who wants to use it. Simply put, OSM functions for the map world almost like Wikipedia does for the encyclopedia world. Volunteers compile map data, and anyone can use it at no cost.
Last month the Open Street Map (OSM) community convened for State of the Map 2017 in Boulder Colorado, bringing together mappers from all over the US and the world. Mappers delved into a wide array of topics - Pedestrian Routing, Malaria Eradication, Emergency Response, Machine Learning - plus loads more.
Open Street Map was started in 2004, and has since grown to include geographical data on the entire globe.
Anyone that registers for a free account can add new data and edit existing data, which in turn is free and open to use. OSM not only provides global datasets, but also a plethora of open source tools and instructional tutorials, which anyone can use to read and analyze the raw geospatial information.
Because of the open platform, and the ease of use, OSM has attracted many people who were never involved in mapping before. As of September 30th 2017, 4.2 million OSM users had contributed to the map or used it for their own project. Also, many geotechnical companies have begun to solve problems globally and in their own communities using OSM.
Christopher J. Loria, Astronaut and US Marine Colonel, delivered keynote to kick off the State of the Map conference.
What is OSM Used For?
Mappers are using OSM to solve a variety of social, ecological, and economic issues, including developing geospatial models to predict the spread of human and ecological diseases. OSM is also integrating real-time data into navigation systems of autonomous vehicles.
Judging from the activity at the State of the Map conference, humanitarian causes represent the largest segment of what occupies OSM mappers. A few examples:
- Humanitarian OSM Team (HOT) responds to natural disasters like the hurricane in Puerto Rico.
- Digital Democracy helps indigenous tribes in South America protect their land from industrial encroachment
- OSM Africa rescues young girls from genital mutilation, provides public transportation information, and fights the spread of malaria (to name only a few of their initiatives.
There are many other humanitarian efforts that rely on quality map data to improve their effectiveness. OSM is the unifying resource which these mappers have grown around, and they share the collective responsibility and prosperity of creating a comprehensive and accurate global map. Seeing where the mapping takes them will be interesting and inspiring!
Want to learn how to contribute to Open Street Map? It's easy!
Map Resources will tell you how to get started in upcoming post.
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