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App Invites People to Map Their Areas for Sustainability and Resilience
December 22, 2016
The adoption rate for smartphones across the African continent has swelled to 226 million phones, and that’s expected to nearly triple by 2020. The GSMA, a British industry organization for mobile operators across the world, says much of that is in the advanced markets of Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa – but that’s changing fast in Cameroon, DR Congo and elsewhere.
With all of the data on mobile money and remittances, social media patterns, gaming and streaming services, it’s easy to understand how citizen cartography might not be atop the list of what one thinks people use all that connectivity for. But that’s not the case at the Missing Maps organization, where tech-savvy Africans can help humanitarian groups better serve communities at home and abroad.
The concept is pretty simple: Much of the world, including swaths of sub-Saharan Africa, is not yet mapped in detail by Google or other commercial services. That means that NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières have a harder time when responding to a medical or humanitarian crisis, such as the yellow fever outbreak in Kinshasa.
It’s even true of government agencies and local partners who aren’t as familiar with the remote rural regions of their countries, or even some urban neighborhoods. So Missing Maps, in collaboration with a group of NGOs, launched in 2014 a global project that recruits volunteers to help map places like Dzivarasekwa in Harare’s North District in Zimbabwe, or Ushirombo in Tanzania.
Local partners are on the ground, but much of their mapping help is done by groups from Europe to South America who – using OpenStreetMap – volunteer to create the maps for humanitarian groups.