MapSwipe is a form of second-level crowdsourcing, developed in collaboration with the Missing Maps project. It was released in 2016 by a team of eight, all with humanitarian backgrounds. The app is available for free on both the Google Play Store and the Apple Store. On the app, the user can contribute to different projects. Every project has the same goal of putting rural areas on the map. What would have taken decades for a single person now only takes months due to the app’s popularity. Mapswipe allows various organizations to quickly and efficiently reach those in need. It helps put the world’s most vulnerable people on the map.
To do this, users swipe through images of different regions and colour them in with a tap. The easily accessible tutorial tells users what these colours mean. Green is for towns, rivers, and roads, yellow for unknown features, and red for blurry images. This simple system allows users to have fun while mapping rural areas. It makes the process much more enjoyable than if the app had a simple “Yes or No” option.
Médecins Sans Frontières
One such region, is Am Timan, Chadm where Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is undertaking a mass vaccination campaign against measles. This allows the MSF to understand if they have successfully treated enough children to prevent a measles outbreak.
There are many implications of making this app an open-source project, both good and bad. One positive impact is aptly described by their website; “With every swipe and tap, you help put families on the map”. It allows humanitarian organizations to see where people are living which allows them to help in times of crisis. However, one downside of this open-access app, is that marking tiles wrongly can lead to unreliable data. This could easily change people’s lives for the worse.
Mapswipe is a good example of the benefits open source projects can have on people’s lives. Rather than wasting time on social media, everyday people can use this surprisingly addictive app. They can help make huge differences to the world’s most vulnerable people.
Humanitarian Open Street Map Tasking
HOTOSM is another open-source project that enables everyday people to use and contribute to OpenStreetMap. HOT develops free apps and tools, managed by an international team dedicated to humanitarian action and community development. To date, they have successfully mapped almost 40 million buildings and 1 million kilometres of road. HOT’s work contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. It improves areas such as transportation, public health, and refugee response. This helps organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the United Nations, and the Red Cross. It provides training, equipment, and knowledge to people in need, as HOT’s maps identify areas severely damaged by natural disasters.
They provide quick and easy-to-follow tutorials, showing users how to correctly identify roads and buildings through 3-minute videos. All of this work is through OpenStreetMap where users can choose their preferred editors. Their website also provides information on how to validate already mapped areas. This confirms that the mapping is done correctly and doesn’t have any technical mistakes.
One of the most urgent projects of the last few weeks, is Number 5874, cyclone Idai in Mozambique. This is due to one of the worst humanitarian crises in Mozambique’s history. The cyclone hit in March 2019, leaving 1000 dead and causing $1 billion worth of damage to Africa’s east coast. The project is to digitize roads and waters around Tica, Mozambique. While completing tiles on HOT’s OpenStreetMap is more difficult and time-consuming than Mapswipe, it’s still undoubtedly for a worthy cause. Validating the maps is also just as important, in order to provide accurate information during Mozambique’s time of need.
Once again, there are many advantages and disadvantages of allowing everyday people to map this area. Its greatest advantage is that it is free to use. A non-profit community developed it with people’s best interests in their hearts. Unfortunately, that also means that it can be more complicated to use and people may take advantage.
In the future, tools such as HOTOSM will be used to create maps and interactive imagery. Whereas devices such as Google Maps are used for commercial purposes, Mapswipe and OpenStreetMap label areas from a purely humanitarian perspective. Open access may have its drawbacks, but its benefits and unlimited possibilities greatly make up for these. Allowing medical organizations to reach those in need is crucial and will remain just as important in the future.
OpenStreetMap Mapping and Mapillary POV Capture
To explore these mapping tools further, I decided to explore my own local area using OpenStreetMap and Mapillary. I found OpenStreetMap much simpler to use. It has a cleaner interface and interactive tutorials and managed to correct many deficiencies found in my neighbourhood. Mapillary, on the other hand, was much more difficult to operate and had fewer capabilities. It’s a street-level imagery platform that takes photographic inputs from users and connects the images. This creates an immersive street view. However, due to the need for information from everyday users, rural areas have very few images available.
Whereas OpenStreetMap allows users to mark roads and buildings, it’s up to Mapillary users to decide for themselves what they’re looking at. Unfortunately, this makes it far less interactive. OpenStreetMap also provides many layers that users can strip away. For example, if they wish to only see cycling trails. Mapillary layers are harder to use and don’t make a lot of sense to beginners. It’s simple user interface issues such as these that make OpenStreetMap much more attractive to beginner mappers.