SotM Africa 2019 held in Ivory Coast was my first ever SotM Africa conference. The conference lasted for three days from 21st November, 2019 to 23rd November, 2019. My journey started with a road trip that took ten hours by bus from Cape Coast in Ghana through to VITIB in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast. The journey although long, was a fun and an exciting adventure.
When I arrived, I was quick to realize the importance of being a bilingual speaker which unfortunately I am not. With my little understanding, I could pick up little words in exchanging pleasantries to make an introduction and managed when it came to food.
The first day of the conference, which was held in conjunction with Understanding Risk (UR) West and Central Africa conference in Abidjan, was a massive way to kick start the conference with more than 200 participants. It provided a view into Africa's use of OSM understanding how resilience is being built, and the massive contributions being made in OSM not just Africa but the world as a whole. A highlight of the first day for me would be the showcasing of OSM contributors through a simulation video from a number of years. This made me happy because it showed that no matter how little the contributions are into OSM, they are still significant. Link below.
I had my presentation on the first day, under the gender and local empowerment session. It provided me with the opportunity to share how through YouthMappers, a new perspective was being added to mapping in OSM. As well as, I learned about the various ways people were using OSM for local empowerment across Africa. The session ended with a much needed discussion on how to address the issue of inclusion of diversity, what worked and what did not work.
The second day, as a volunteer, my first session was an address by the founder of OpenStreetMap, Mr. Steve Coast, and a group picture session with a drone. There were so many great sessions ranging from talks on WASH, using OpenStreetMap in preparing for community epidemics by the Red Cross, using machine learning tools for mapping resilience and a group discussion by Regional Ambassadors about YouthMappers in Africa. This was a great time to meet YouthMappers across Africa, as well as, a co-founder of YouthMappers Dr. Nuala Cowan.
YouthMappers and volunteers present at the conference with Dr. Nuala Cowan
There were so many more great sessions including a mapathon where VITIB, the location of the conference, was mapped. Later in the day, the social events provided the opportunity to network with speakers, experience the Ivorian flavour of music, dance and food and practice a few French words I picked up.
Great sessions continued, on the third day. Sessions ranged from drone mapping in Africa by African Bees, and capturing street level imagery to look at waste management through Mapillary to name a few. Before being crowned with a football match between OSM Cote D'Ivoire and the Rest of the World with the home team winning. An excellent case of host and win.
Meeting YouthMappers from Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana
It was an exciting time to meet old and new friends. I learned French while I guessed wrong many times, there were some correct words which shows the aim of learning was being achieved. My first experience at SotM Africa has left me with an awesome experience and knowledge of OSM from the African perspective.