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  • Aman KC and Federica Gaspari

A Learning Journey: An experience with HOT

Though these past few months have been quite challenging and one of the most difficult times humans have ever faced, the time has taught a valuable lesson, “There is no hindrance for the ones willing to learn”. The lesson was the outcome of our engagement as Data Quality Interns for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT).

During the past 10 weeks, we had the incredible opportunity to participate in the HOT Data Quality Internship, a programme aimed at an audience of passionate and enthusiastic OSM (OpenStreetMap) contributors. From August to October of 2020, 67 people like us from 24 different countries gathered together online in order to explore how to ensure good-quality data in OSM, learning the foundations of the validation procedure in HOT Tasking Manager and training on the use of specific tools.

The first weeks were mainly focused on mapping buildings and highways features in OSM. We worked on projects located in Jamaica and Mozambique, contributing to causes related to public health and disaster preparedness. These first activities were the results of the training on JOSM (Java OpenStreetMap) editor on both basic and advanced features, with a focus on the tools helpful for detecting quality issues on OSM data such as adding to the map complex elements and relations like multipolygons and riverbanks, using filters and selections, and solving conflicts. In the fourth week, we had a Validation with JOSM webinar by Ralph Aytoun, at the end of which we were taught how we could apply to become validators in HOT Tasking Manager. The meeting prepared us for the role of validators on new projects in South Sudan and Mozambique as well as ones from the previous weeks.

Additionally, in the next few weeks, we learned how to use web reviewing and data mining tools such as OSMCha, OSM Inspector, OSMose and OverpassTurbo. Reviewing errors and mistakes automatically detected on OSM data may seem like complex and boring work but with the gamified approach adopted by MapRoulette, we really had a lot of fun comparing our scores on the final leaderboard!

We also gained experience working on QGIS, exploring its interfaces and basic tools, classifying vector data and creating maps. In particular, using the data extracted from OSM - with HOT Export Tool, QuickOSM or Geofabrik - we created some very nice maps of our hometowns. Also, the potential of web visualization has been explored with the UMap tools used for showing OSM features useful for specific applications in an interactive and user-friendly way.

Map of Arona Piedmont (Italy). Several shops are noted with red dots, primary/tertiary/residential/service roads are all mapped, one ferry route is shown crossing the blue Lake Maggiore, several parks are shown in green, and most of the map is in gray depicting residential areas.

Map layout highlighting shops, parks and roads of Federica’s hometown created using QGIS and OSM data.

Map of Bhairahawa, Nepal. The map shows a two waterways in blue on the outskirts of the city. There are many roads in purple. Several red dots depict schools. There is one airport shown in grid lines outside the city. The residential areas are gray and take up the majority of the map.

Map layout with waterways, roads, schools and the airport of Aman’s hometown created with QGIS and OSM data.

The internship was not only a great opportunity to acquire knowledge on different dimensions of OSM, but also a common platform to meet and connect with OSM enthusiasts from around the globe. We have made a lot of friends during this period and they were all very excited to include their thoughts in the blog.

Dina Jovanovic, an active contributor of OSM Serbia and PoliMappers shares “Since the Covid crisis made us stay at home, I decided that I can do volunteering online. I'm really happy that I can contribute from my home. On the other hand, I already used a HOT Tasking Manager before, but never truly understood how I can validate data so I found a perfect opportunity to combine those two aims. I became an intermediate mapper because I had goals and focus to finish tasks and to stay in contact with the rest of the interns. I have never entered too much into understanding and learning the OSM tagging rules, so I turn back now and can say that during internship I learned a lot about tagging different types of the roads, and the differences between road types in Africa, Latin America, Europe. I already started running OSM data quality checks for Serbia, particularly for Belgrade, and I am noticing my OSM Serbia community where the mistakes could be found and how we can solve them in the next period of mapping. Also Overpass Turbo is a very useful tool to download necessary data for any project that you need and I will definitely use that in the future.”

Faqih Rohmatulloh from Indonesia regarding his experience with this programme says “Well, I always wanted to work in an NGO ever since I entered University, I kind of hoped this would be a stepping stone/first step before having a career in an NGO. The second reason is for networking, the idea of having a global internship where I will meet other mappers from around the world is very tempting. I've known OSM around two years ago when I had an internship at the National Agency for Disaster Management. Their staff told me to do mapping while in my free time which of course it was almost impossible at that time. So before I participated in the internship I didn't have much stats. But thanks to this internship I am now an intermediate mapper. Having the chance to participate in this second batch is also an achievement by itself.”

Said Othman Suleiman from SUZA YouthMappers writes about the experience, “I applied so that I could get an opportunity to learn different ways to work with geospatial data as well as to increase awareness in my GIS career, and the most important reason is to be known and get different channels and work with different people from different locations. First, through this training I have managed to promote myself into an advanced mapper role, on the other hand I have managed to acquire different skills and knowledge on different tools including QGIS, JOSM, ID editor and other. Finally, this internship shaped my GIS career and gave me a good direction on how to proceed in this path. I have already arranged different training and skills that I gained and shared with my fellow local community. For instance, in the past few weeks we gave training to SUZA students on different GIS tools and techniques.”

Tebogo Syanjibu from Botswana when thinking about the motivations that made her apply for the HOT Data Quality internship says “For me it was important to learn and contribute towards mapping in order to become an advanced mapper, being also able to validate some tasks. My greatest achievement from this programme is having learned other software to use for mapping like QGIS and JOSM in addition to iD editor that was the one I only knew about before. I believe after more training I'll be able to join the YouthMappers network, establishing a new chapter here since I haven't had any yet in Botswana.”

We are really happy and honored to be a part of the programme and thank HOT for organizing it. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Geoffrey Kateregga and Rebecca Chandiru for sharing their knowledge and helping us with our queries. The internship has surely made us aware of the future problems we may encounter and the need of humanitarian mappers for today. The time is never too late for doing something good and the students seeking the platform could sign up for OSM today and start contributing. Because every click counts!

Screenshot of Zoom meeting call with 18 diverse males and females appearing on video.

Our nice group picture from the last virtual meeting!

Author’s bio:

Aman KC is a Geomatics Engineering Graduate from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He has served as a secretary (2018-2019) and then an adviser (2019-2020) for one of the Inaugural Chapters of YouthMappers, Geomatics Engineering Students’ Association of Nepal (GESAN). He is passionate about open source technologies and remote sensing applications in the environment.

Federica Gaspari is the Social Media and Communication responsible and one of the founders of PoliMappers, the first European chapter of YouthMappers based in Politecnico di Milano (Italy). She studied Environmental and Land Planning Engineering at PoliMi, where she obtained her Master of Science in October 2020.


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