This is the third and final post in a 3-part series discussing a partnership I initiated between Tulane University, the American Red Cross, and OpenStreetMaps, in which students in my undergraduate IDEV4100: ICT4D course participated in real-world mapping for OpenStreetMaps using satellite imagery, to support development and disaster preparedness initiatives being conducted by the American Red Cross in coordination with local host Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.

Outcomes Beyond the Base Maps

For Robert Banick, GIS analyst at the American Red Cross, through our emails and conversations, I know that at times fitting our class sessions into his schedule could be challenging, though we tried to be as flexible as possible, his travel schedule was often demanding. This also meant that his ability to Skype with our class could be challenging, particularly when he was in the field with one of his partner countries, such as when he was working in Chile or Nepal, and we were faced with spotty Internet access and connectivity issues on his end, which compounded some of the troubleshooting issues we were having with software, when one of our technical advisors became less accessible… though it did make for some teachable moments! Another complication was that I could never be certain too far in advance what the exact number of students enrolled would be, which made it difficult to tell how many students we could have working on a particular map, in turn complicating his decision-making somewhat. In addition, I couldn’t guarantee an extended amount of time for the students to spend on the project, because of the other scheduled assignments and to ensure respect for student time, I tried to make sure they knew what kind of time commitment was expected from them in advance. Robert was therefore managing a formula of X number of students times Y amount of time = Z volume of work, while fitting into one of the current needs of his partner Red Cross or Red Crescent National Societies.

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Figure I: Close-Up View of North Jakarta in OSM, February 2015

It is most evident that the students’ work continues to be built upon in Indonesia, when you look at the state of the maps in Jakarta and Depok now, nearly two years later. The maps there have continued to be updated by local volunteers in subsequent stages of the project, with street names and the addition of symbols indicating types of buildings such as mosques and hospitals. (see Figure I) Based on my conversations with him since then, most of the maps our students generated have been used, though unfortunately some have yet to be utilized (I suspect those that haven’t been utilized yet were those in Nepal, based on the limited progress the students made on those maps before they were pulled onto the Haiti project). But according to Robert, “that’s to be expected with a novel pilot approach like this.” Continue reading