The Crowdsourced Maps Guiding Puerto Rico's Recovery

WIRED | 10/13/2017 | Mimi Kirk
applecan (Posted by) Level 3
Click For Photo: https://media.wired.com/photos/59dfb9e9555b45480e5462e7/191:100/pass/globe-FA.jpg

This story originally appeared on CityLab and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Almost three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the island is in a grim state. Fewer than 15 percent of residents have power, and much of the island has no clean drinking water. Delivery of food and other necessities, especially to remote areas, has been hampered by a variety of ills, including a lack of cellular service, washed-out roads, additional rainfall, and what analysts and Puerto Ricans say is a slow and insufficient response from the US government.

Issue - Recovery - Maps—or - Lack - Maps

Another issue slowing recovery? Maps—or lack of them. While pre-Maria maps of Puerto Rico were fairly complete, their level of detail was nowhere near that of other parts of the United States. Platforms such as Google Maps are more comprehensive on the mainland than on the island, explains Juan Saldarriaga, a research scholar at the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University. This is because companies like Google often create maps for financial reasons, selling them to advertisers or as navigation devices, so areas that have less economic activity are given less attention.

This lack of detail impedes recovery efforts: Without basic information on the location of buildings, for instance, rescue workers don’t know how many people were living in an area before the hurricane struck—and thus how much aid is needed.

Crowdsourced - Mapping - Saldarriaga - Mapathon - Columbia

Crowdsourced mapping can help. Saldarriaga recently organized a “mapathon” at Columbia, in which volunteers examined satellite imagery of Puerto Rico and added missing buildings, roads, bridges, and other landmarks in the open-source platform OpenStreetMap. While some universities and other groups are hosting similar events, anyone with an internet connection and computer can participate.

Saldarriaga and his co-organizers collaborated with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, a nonprofit that works to create crowdsourced maps for aid and development work. Volunteers like Saldarriaga largely drive...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
44 other people are viewing this story
Wake Up To Breaking News!
Sign In or Register to comment.