Guest post: Mapping Lubumbashi with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

On Saturday 3rd of May, the ODI hosted another event by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. We are an organisation which uses OpenStreetMap to produce map data for disaster response and for the developing world.

At this event we were working closely with the humanitarian aid organisation "Medicins Sans Frontieres" (Doctors Without Borders), who presented us with a challenge: Improve the map of Lubumbashi, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where MSF medical teams are actively giving life-saving aid and tackling disease outbreaks.

With a mix of experienced OpenStreetMap contributors, and people new to the process, we spread out onto various ODI desks and got stuck into editing OpenStreetMap.

London HOT Congo Mapathon

Read more about this process on the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team blog

An open data map of the world

Although we had a short-term goal to help MSF with their work, we are in the process of building something much bigger - an open data map of the world.

In some parts of the developing world this can mean creating the first maps ever. Local people are not used to the concept of maps. By making them freely available we can expect to see them introduced and used more and more.

Commercial map providers are also working on developing map coverage of the continent of Africa. In this new market they are seeking the same kind of closed data monopolies they enjoy in the developed world. This typically involves a free (zero cost) view of the map, but not releasing their grip on the underlying data. If map data is about to become woven into the fabric of every day life in Africa too, shouldn't we do better? Shouldn't we start them on strong open data footing?

H.O.T. is promoting the use OpenStreetMap (a UK-born not-for-profit project) as a platform for creating and sharing maps, not only as convenient way to make a freely available view of the map, but also to ensure that the best maps of the developing world are open data maps!

Thanks to the ODI for providing a venue for our event at the weekend, and for sponsoring the pizzas! Get involved in the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and if you'd like to join in other London OpenStreetMap events, follow @OSMLondon on twitter.

Harry Wood is a developer at, an ODI startup company, Harry is also on the board of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.