The feeling was unparalleled, and it still is. Receiving an email notification that I had been awarded a scholarship to attend the 2018 State of the Map conference in Milan, Italy marked the beginning of the rest of my life. It would be my first for so many things, and boarding a plane merely scratches the surface. My focus was on learning and sharing my experiences, beliefs, but most of all passion about open data. It had been a rough journey, but the sheer hard work and commitment had started paying off.
Over 400 developers, cartographers, data scientists, tech evangelists, open data enthusiasts, and students from 54 countries were in attendance, all with a common interest: to create a free and editable map of the world; OpenStreetMap. I counted myself lucky to be in the presence of such bright minds.
Day one of State of the Map 2018
This year’s conference was held at the Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy including an amazing three-day treat to demos, talks, panel sessions, and workshops. The sessions were very comprehensive and covered a wide range of topics, both technical and non-technical. The well versed speakers shared on their projects, work, and organizations formed either by contributing to OpenStreetMap, or using OpenStreetMap data in their solutions. These gave me perspective and further affirming my resolve to use open data to bring about positive transformation in my local community. The live videos recorded for these sessions have been shared here.
However, for every journey we set out on, the first steps are the most crucial and they have the capacity to define the entire course. Well, this may as well be considered to be that steppingstone for me. On the second day, I was a panelist in the sustainability of OSM mapping projects workshop. This gave me the platform to share on the challenges faced as a YouthMappers chapter in Kenya, and how we are able to sustain the chapter despite the hurdles that we face. Takeaways from this session were:
I was overwhelmed to meet Natalia da Silveira Arruda, the YouthMappers chapter coordinator for the University of Antioquia in Colombia and YouthMappers Research Fellowship mentor, who highlighted that we can also achieve sustainability by applying for programs and opportunities such as the YouthMappers fellowships and HOT micro-grants. These programs support OSM communities through their local projects by offering financial and technical support as well as mentorship.
Panel session on the sustainability of OSM mapping projects with Erica Hagen (Map Kibera), Janet Chapman (Crowd2Map Tanzania), Geoffrey Kateregga (HOT Uganda), Tasauf A Baki Billah (HOT) and Chad Blevins (YouthMappers).
The day came to a close with a mapathon organized by the PoliMappers YouthMappers chapter. The members shed light on their year’s activities as well as the YouthMappers Research Fellowship project by one of their members on cross-continental mapping for fighting schistosomiasis in the Senegal river valley. We then proceeded to contribute to the task and later had the opportunity to network with Dr. Patricia Solis and Chad Blevins, co-founders YouthMappers, various YouthMappers coordinators, leaders, and members from various chapters.
Dr. Patricia Solis during the mapathon with Polimi YouthMappers
On the last day of the conference, I presented on the role of mapping in achieving sustainable development with focus on the UN 2030 Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I shared on how mapping and GIS in general are important tools in achieving the SDGs especially in developing countries and gave examples of how various organizations have done so by not only using OpenStreetMap data, but also by aligning their projects with the goals.
An interesting subject discussed during SoTM was on gender and diversity raised in two sessions during the conference. It was shared that it is important to ensure our communities are diverse and inclusive in all aspects; from leadership to participation in the various tasks. ‘It isn’t enough to simply talk about equality, one must believe in it and it isn’t enough to simply believe in it one must work on it. Let’s work on it starting now.’- Meghan Markle
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the conference organizers & volunteers for the immense support before and during the conference.
State of the Map 2018 scholars
I am so grateful to the OpenStreetMap Foundation for the opportunity afforded to me to attend this year’s conference. The conference was both exceptional and transformative in so many ways, from learning various technical skills from the conference sessions to sharing and learning from the different attendees’ experiences. These skills will be of great help in our future contributions and work at the community level.
Laura Mugeha is a student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor's in Geomatics Engineering and Geospatial Information Systems with a focus in GIS and technology. She is also a social media enthusiast and believes in tapping it's effect to help solve day to day problems. She has contributed previously to the YouthMappers Blog - Mapping Bridges the Gap.