Building resiliency maps for Indonesia

Mappers in Semarang. Via Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Indonesia.

Landslides. Motorcycle accidents. Mistaken for terrorists. These are some of the challenges faced by a team of local mappers in Indonesia working on disaster preparedness projects in three cities.

These speed bumps only make Harry Mahardhika chuckle. A training officer at Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Indonesia, he still managed to hand over atlases to government officials in Jakarta, Surabaya and Semarang. The printed maps show what he calls “lifeline infrastructure” —  shelters, reservoirs, banks, hospitals, fire stations and the like. His team also provides workshops to officials on best practices for verifying map data plus training manuals and documentation on mapmaking.

Geography marks Indonesia for special attention. The world’s largest island country perches above the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. The consequences can be devastating: the death toll from the most recent earthquake and tsunami on Sulawesi island climbed past 2,000.

That makes this kind of resiliency mapping project even more important. “Governments need community and the community also needs government,” Mahardhika says. These mapping efforts were backed by USAID, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Indonesia National Disaster Management Agency. The toolkit included OpenStreetMap, Open Data Kit and OpenMapKit.

Pushing paper

In October 2016, Mahardhika and team spent three months mapping Surabaya, one of the oldest port cities in Southeast Asia with a core population of three million. The setup served as a template for mapping the other two cities. The first step? Pinpoint the right government officials and obtain permits. If you don’t, “you will be seen as bad people or terrorists if you are mapping an area without permission.” Having a permit didn’t necessarily stop questions from skeptical locals.  When push came to shove, mappers were flanked by local workers from a disaster agency to quell fears and back up bona fides.

Gimme shelter

Deciding just what counts as lifeline infrastructure depends on the city. For example, in Jakarta, small places of worship were left off the survey because they usually don’t serve as emergency shelters but these same type of mosques were mapped in Semarang where they offer vital protection. “It’s important for us to know before mapping,” he says. And one more reason why building a community of local mappers is important.
“Locals have really important knowledge of the city, if we just sent people out who like mapping and OSM they’d spend most of the time lost.”  Mappers, some recruited from local universities, needed only basic computer and internet know-how. A mapathon was also held to boost skills.

It takes two

In the two smaller cities, teams were made up of two mapping supervisors, four quality assurance people and 16 on data entry. That number bumped up to one extra QA person and a total of 20 on data entry duty in Jakarta. In the field teams of two worked best. The ideal pairing? A more experienced mapper paired with a newbie, often a person with more granular local knowledge. Mappers can cover a lot of ground in pairs and, should quibbles arise, can be worked out quickly. “We don’t want drama in this project,” he adds.

Jakarta before and after the mapping project via

Motor city

The mapping journey covers a lot of ground. Motorcycles are a necessity in places like Jakarta where traffic can eat up to 90 minutes to cover three miles. Teams set out first with permits, plus survey maps and satellite images to meet with village representatives. These meetings also serve to update and verify boundaries on a district or neighborhood level, Mahardhika says. Once these are set, the team hits the road again to map the critical and priority points in the area.

The data collected feeds into OpenStreetMap with customized presets on the JOSM editor and uploaded to the server. Then it’s pored over to check both topology and tags before review by a supervisor. Once verified, the supervisor exports the data and a printed version, the atlas, is given back to local government. Using the data collected, the team also presented officials with two thematic maps: evacuation routes for Jakarta and hazards in Semarang.

The results? In five months mapping Jakarta, over 1.5 million buildings and 24,965 ‘lifeline’ points were mapped. In Semarang over the course of four months 482,740 buildings and 11,048 points of interest were added and in Surabaya in three months some 643,933 buildings and 4,417 points of interest were added. The HOT team also jumped in during the most recent earthquake to map the hardest-hit areas in Sulawesi. Up next, the HOT Indonesia team will continue partnering with Facebook to fill out the country’s road network.

Catch his full 30-minute presentation at the recent State of the Map Detroit conference here.


A quickie map of San Francisco’s earthquake prone skyscrapers

See full screen

See full screen – search for San Francisco if you see a world map.

The New York Times recently ran a story about San Francisco high rises – mostly downtown and South of Market – with steel frames that harbor particular risk in a quake of magnitude seven or higher. About 40 of these skyscrapers, erected before a 1994 building code outlawed a flawed welding technique, were cited in an April USGS report.

It’s one of those stories that could’ve used in interactive map at its core, but instead (it’s the news business, kid!) the map was a small, static graphic (see below) and the story ended with a list of the addresses.

Image courtesy NYT.

So here’s a simple map of those 39 steel moment-frame buildings. A few necessary caveats: this is the handiwork of a casual mapper trying out a new tool. I’ve been looking for a way to use OpenStreetMap to make personalized maps and spotted some earthquake maps from the Japanese OSM community with uMap, so it seemed worth a try. It was heavy going for a map made on the fly – the polygon tool was clunky and importing the list as a cleaned up .CSV wasn’t happening.

Still, a few things pop out: A few of these risky buildings are also near construction sites. In OSM, these are shown in sage green. (The light green represents parks.)

The struggle to use the uMap polygon tool is real. This is a closeup of 550 California Street, with a 19-story office building under construction nearby.

The Folsom Bay Tower will be a 39-story, 422-foot (129 m) residential skyscraper.

Park Tower at Transbay will have 43 stories, First & Mission’s Oceanwide Center features 636-foot-tall tower on Mission at First Street and a 910-foot-tall tower on the opposite corner on First Street.

And much like the reporter, shocked to discover the NYT offices are in one of these buildings, there were a few a-ha moments. A family member works in one and I’ve been inside at least a handful recently – an event at Autodesk, a movie at Embarcadero Center, a meetup, drinks with a friend staying at the Marriott, emerged from the Montgomery Street Station in front of one three or four times, etc.

It’s an unscientific sample size of one (well, two if you count the reporter) but would wager that most people who live or work in San Francisco are around, if not inside, these buildings frequently.

How to use mobile app Go Map!! to edit OpenStreetMap

Here’s a quick tutorial for the Go Map!! iPhone / iPad app (v1.5.3) created by Bryce Cogswell and available gratis in the app store.

The short video above shows how to edit in two scenarios – adding information to an entry and adding a point-of-interest. The text below is a mashup of my experience using it and the app’s help section.

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Making digital maps with pen and paper: Meet Field Papers

Field Papers is a great low-tech solution for mapping. You chose an area to map, print it, walk outside with the paper copy and mark things up, then scan or take a pic of it with the QR code and it’s added as a layer to OpenStreetMap (OSM). From there you can add your data to the largest public, editable map in the world.

It’s the handiwork of venerable design firm Stamen, who later got together with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for improvements. Because it’s an open-source project whose last major changes were made five years ago and many tutorials showed the previous interface, it seemed like a good idea to test drive it.

The quick slide show above shows how it works — even if you make rookie mistakes like leaving the clipboard in your photo, duh! — the test run taking about an hour total, from figuring out how to position the map to editing in OSM.

It’s been used around the world for large mapathons, where people don’t have smartphones or OSM knowledge — you hand them sheets, they go out mapping, then they hand in the sheets and they’re done. It can be a potential bottleneck for OSM data entry after collection, but surmountable. Potentially it’s also an advantage — you can get a lot of people out mapping but only need a few with OSM knowledge or who want to learn.

Why OpenStreetMap matters: Where did Dokdo go?

One of the rocky outcrops under dispute. Photo // CC BY NC

Battle lines have always been drawn over maps. Place names are political, cultural, temporal: from Constantinople to Istanbul and Burma to Myanmar what a place is called matters.
In the digital age, however, you have no idea who is behind the changes and why.  The companies that make the maps millions of people use every day change names following opaque processes that appear to depend on who lobbies loudest at the moment. It’s a strong argument for free, public, editable maps like OpenStreetMap where both the changes and the debate are transparent.

About a week ago, I spotted this poster petitioning Google to put Dokdo back on the map at San Francisco’s Korean American Community Center of San Francisco & Bay Area.

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Armchair mappers: Help prepare for the next humanitarian crisis

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 5.05.35 PMKathmandu before and after the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team dived in.

Just 48 hours after Nepal’s devastating earthquake, thousands of volunteers from around the world helped create maps that guided emergency response teams.

Many of these “digital humanitarians” came from OpenStreetMap, an open source mapping effort. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) in launched 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti, when the office safeguarding country’s maps pancaked in the 7.0 temblor.

_Schuyler Erle shows what happened to Haiti's mapping office post earthquake._

Schuyler Erle shows what happened to Haiti’s mapping office after the earthquake.

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