Nobody knows an area better than the locals. That’s the idea behind OpenStreetMap, a crowd-sourced web map built through the contributions of users much like Wikipedia. And in far-flung places like the Marshall Islands, where the big internet company web maps are often incomplete, OpenStreetMap offers a chance for citizens to collaboratively develop quality maps for their own use, as well as to help visitors.
US Embassy Science Fellow Jon Becker and RMI EPA’s Tuvuki Ketedromo will give a presentation on OpenStreetMap at the US Embassy in Majuro at 4 pm, Wed., Dec. 17. The intent is to give a brief overview of OpenStreetMap and its benefits, as well as to demonstrate how to make contributions. Interested members of the public are invited to attend, and should register at 247-4011 as conference room space is limited. Please bring an ID and arrive early as it takes a few minutes to go through the security screening at the Embassy.
OpenStreetMap was launched in 2004, and after a slow start, its extent, use and popularity have rapidly grown. Since 2012 the number of registered contributors worldwide doubled from 500,000 to over 1,000,000.
There are various ways to access and contribute to OpenStreetMap, including OpenStreetMap.org. Users who wish to contribute to the map, can simply log in to the site, zoom to an area of interest, create a map feature (depicted with a point, line or area shape) and then enter the name and categorize the feature (e.g. school, library, restaurant, etc.). Applications are also available for GPS or smart phone users to contribute through data collection in the field.
And while it is free to add company information to Google Maps, Google does charge companies for certain uses of its maps, whereas OpenStreetMap is freely available for contribution and use online or downloadable. This has led to some companies such as Craigslist, Foursquare and even Apple in some areas to begin using OpenStreetMap as their basemap.
Also, OpenStreetMap includes options for adding more types of features beyond just what would be seen in a traditional street map. Special interest groups have formed to map features on topics such as marine navigation, food security, drinking water and environmental issues, to name a few.