A new report, written by GroundTruth director Erica Hagen for the World Bank’s GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery), examines sustainability challenges and strategies for the use of OpenStreetMap in developing countries.
Over the past several years, OpenStreetMap (OSM) has been used by an increasing number of aid and development organizations, like the World Bank’s Open Cities initiative, with the aim of supporting a wide variety of development and humanitarian objectives. OSM mapping has taken place in response to natural disasters (like the Haitian and Nepalese earthquakes), in order to empower slum communities (such as Kibera, in Nairobi), to help mitigate or prevent disease outbreaks (Ebola, and Malaria), or simply to promote the use of open map data among government officials and others already using GIS (for example in Kinshasa, DRC).
However, mapping efforts have frequently run into challenges as mappers and data users try to navigate issues of open data and technology to keep data and maps current and impactful. It can be difficult to keep trained volunteer mappers engaged, build and fund mapping organizations, engage governments productively, develop local management capacity, create successful mapping businesses around OSM, to name just a few.
This research explores the many facets of OSM in development and its “sustainability”. It examines the definition of sustainability, reviews existing literature about sustainability in ICT4D, and identifies four dimensions of “sustained benefit” which can help us to understand factors that will influence longer-term success. The paper identifies seven different kinds of actors which typically work with OSM in developing economies, and their particular challenges, illustrated by several case study examples.
The report then suggests a way forward for funders, practitioners, and others to move toward greater benefits for all given the constraints of OSM globally, the ethical considerations of digital open mapping, and the challenges of open source and open data projects generally as technology matures.
Sustainability in OpenStreetMap: Building a more stable ecosystem in OSM for Development and Humanitarianism
A white paper prepared for the Open Data for Resilience Initiative, GFDRR Labs, World Bank.