As humanitarian organizations flock to Nepal after the devastation of two earthquakes, one organization is making waves through the work of thousands of people from thousands of miles away. You might assume that this work is being done through monetary donations, but rather it is through donations of time and attention. OpenStreetMaps is described as a project to create a free and open map of the entire world, built entirely by volunteers surveying with GPS, digitizing aerial imagery, and collecting and liberating existing public sources of geographic data. The information in OpenStreetMap can fill in the gaps in base map data to assist in responses to disasters and crisis. As the OSM wiki page states: When there is a humanitarian crisis, such as the Nepal earthquake, OpenStreetMap (OSM) volunteers from around the world rapidly digitize satellite imagery to provide maps and data to support humanitarian organizations deployed to the affected countries. It is the largest crowd sourced mapping project on the internet and the need for it only continues to grow.

OSM gained much popularity and attention while working in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake. The goal is not only to create better and more accurate maps after disasters, but to be better prepared for future disasters and thus reduce the threats they pose. As the Humanitarian OSM Team (HOT) states, “Nobody would argue that data preparedness is better than a scramble after an event.”

Since the first earthquake occurred on April 25th, 2015, OSM reports that 4,826 citizen mappers have made 113,141 changes to the map.These OSM volunteers help to create accurate and detailed maps that include roads, villages, important landmarks, and areas most affected.  By partnering with relief organizations, HOT can use this information to assess where aid is needed most and how to most effectively deliver that aid.

Want to find out more or become an OSM volunteer? Visit the links below: