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  • Dennis Irorere, YouthMappers Regional Ambassador

#ThrowbackThursday: SOTMUS 2019

It has been a few months since the State of the Map US 2019 and this blog is already starting to feel old. Part of the delay is due to my being busy with other things (fulfilling the partial requirement for a bachelor’s degree in Meteorology), another part is due to the fact that I haven’t been able to find my words.

I was opportune to be one of the scholars at the State of the Map US which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the United States of America from September 6th to 8th, 2019. The conference joins the OpenStreetMap community at State of the Map US in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I connected with other mappers, businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits, all collaborating around the free and editable map of the world. The core aim is to share your vision for the project, learn how to work with OpenStreetMap data, and hack on the latest mapping improvements. To me, it was a unique moment. Seeing the people who came from every corner of the globe to share mapping experiences in person.

Enroute Accra to Minneapolis

On my way to the State of the Map US 2019, I had a 9 hour layover at the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana. I felt it would be a great experience to see Accra and meet with the amazing leaders of some of the YouthMappers chapters in Ghana. I had the opportunity to meet Kwame Odame and Bert Manieson who are both leaders of the YouthMappers global network. They have championed workshops, seminars and mentored their community to become a better YouthMappers representative. A remarkable experience for me, I must confess. Maybe, because I have been a huge fan of theirs for some time now and having the opportunity to meet them in person was amazing.

The venue (McNamara Alumni Center)

Overall it was a pleasant experience for me. We had the most luck with the weather so the choice of time of year was not too bad. Although, I was informed by friends that immediately after the 8th of September the temperature dropped and it became really cold. The venue itself was pretty well suited for the conference, in my own opinion. All the main rooms for the talks were very close together and quickly reachable.

The Conference size

Though I have no number and statistics so far for the conference visitors it might be largest within the United States. I don’t know much about the original plans for the number of tickets and if it was totally sold out or not. But, what I saw was a well and thoughtfully planned event. Maybe, because I haven’t been to any other State of the Map conferences. So, this experience definitely set up the benchmark of evaluating other State of the Map conferences that I will be attending in the future. At the first day of the event, the number of people who showed up was amazing as mostly all the seats were taken and a few were standing to listen to the keynote speaker talk. Thanks to the good weather and the possibility to go outside the venue to see the city and the conference social event itself was fine.

I would have really liked to look at the number of visitors at the conference from the different parts of the world. But so far, unfortunately, no such information has been made publicly available. My impression was that there was obviously a significantly larger fraction of visitors from the United States of America. Well, it’s a State of the Map US regional conference what do you expect? I saw people who traveled from various regions of the USA to Minneapolis for the conference.

With the scholarship scheme, that is $500 + ticket + Hotel reservations. It was a good motivation for scholars outside of the USA to attend. Although, the $500 is obviously not enough to purchase a roundtrip travel ticket for scholars from Africa or Latin America. But, it’s good fair if the scholars were to find matching funding to support with the scholarship. This scholarship was able to make the conference much more diversified as it encourages international participants to learn and share their experiences.

YouthMappers at State of the Map US (SOTMUS)

YouthMappers members did steal the show at some point. Affiliates of YouthMappers at the event were Chad Blevins from the Geocenter department at USAID, Richard Hilton GIS Technologist at George Washington University(GWU), Renee Wah and Cyrus Caughey, both members of the YouthMappers chapter at the University of Chicago, the Tobler Society, which was founded with the cooperation of the center for spatial data science. The society seeks to bring together students’ curiosity about spatial data science and expand the incorporation of spatial thinking into different branches of research, as well as harnessing that knowledge for social good. Hanging out with these people, was amazing as they made my experience at the conference a memorable one.

The sum of my experience at the State of the Map US 2019 was exciting and it was even more amazing sharing those moments alongside YouthMappers representatives. Maybe, because I just felt we are a team and we are working together from all parts of the world to build maps and mappers.

YouthMappers is everywhere, at least in most places (city, countries). When you next travel to a country for a conference, vacation or even work-related travels, reach out to the community and try to have a drink with one of our representatives. They somehow make you feel welcome to their country and most of the time they try to make you feel comfortable even at the their expense. Indeed, YouthMappers is a great opportunity for youth across the world and I am a testimony to it. I am a YouthMapper, always will be.

Dennis Irorere is a 2018 YouthMappers Research Fellow and YouthMappers Regional Ambassador based in Nigeria. He has a passion for open data, open mapping, and technology with a specific focus on building sustainable architecture for interoperability and efficient data use toward building solutions to problems across sectors - Human, Social and Environmental. Follow him @Denironyx

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