Wednesday, February 23, 2011

GeoHacking and promoting Open Mapping Technologies

For two years I helped evangelize OpenStreetMap(OSM) and open mapping technologies with my friends at GeoHackers in India. The group is subject of the article 'Geohackers show the way in open mapping', it feels that all the efforts bears fruit.

When I first met Geohackers, they were bunch of guys who loved to make maps. Very soon I developed a strategy for GeoHackers, combining promotion of grassroots open mapping technology adoption with events and providing consultancy services for companies, governmental and research organizations who want to take advantage open mapping technologies.

Geohackers organized mapping parties at technical events in educational institutions like OpenStreetMap Mapping Party at NIT Calicut and mapping parties that concentrated on heritage sites in Fort Cochin and Trivandrum.

These events helped me create a blueprint that can be used for organizing such mapping parties everywhere in the world. The document How To Organize A Mapping Party was the initial draft of this process. Fine tuning the process and documenting it helped in the capacity building of open mapping enthusiasts in India. More students and young people joined and contributed to OpenStreeMap project during these mapping parties.

With my intense energy I pushed the GeoHackers group to explore new ways of using open mapping technologies. We had a break when Mapping for Social Change invited us to participate and provide help to Information activists use open mapping technologies. Maps play a pivotal role for social activists along with social media.

The Mapping For Social Change workshop gave me an insight into the problems and short coming of Open Mapping technologies. On the two hour flight back from the workshop I designed a project with Sajjad. We spent the next two nights designing and building We presented the project to show how effectively open mapping technology used at the Maps For Social Change exhibition .

‘Geohackers’ shows the way in open mapping

About two years ago, in an open map party held in Hyderabad, some geeks sowed the idea of forming an open technology mapping consultancy team. Now, the idea has grown into a full-fledged, non-profit, open technology mapping consultancy team called Geohackers. 

The team, which consists of seven active members and several contributors, gives consultancy services on open mapping for different organisations and projects, free of cost. The team is also contributing to the Open Street Map, a project to make free and open maps.

“With the belief in the ideology that information has to be free, we undertake consultancy works and training for students on cartography,” said Sajjad Anwar, a coordinator of the open map team and a student of the MES College of Engineering, Kozhikode. The contributors include several technology freelancers and techies, working in different parts of the world, he said.

Explaining that the Geohackers might be the first consultancy service on open mapping in the country, he said, “We thought about starting an open mapping consultancy team to impart the ideology of open mapping to the people, as the need of such a consultancy is high in the country.”

The team is involved in several open mapping projects such as Assistance for Maps for Making a Social Change project and Heritage project.  “The first project was sponsored by two NGOs- Centre for Internet and Society and Tactical Tech and we have conducted several workshops and training classes for the social workers on how to use open maps. The training and workshops were held in New Delhi and Ahmedabad,” he explained.

Heritage is a unique project to help tourists. People can download maps from the website for free,” he said.

At present, the mapping of heritage sites in Ahmedabad, Kozhikode, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram has been completed. “The project is aimed to cover the whole India. More heritage sites will be added to the website shortly,” he said.

For mapping purpose, we use GPS devices and free satellite images. The open mapping foundation has contributed two such devices for the purpose, he said.

You will find various blog posts related to events mentioned in the article.

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