Frequently Asked Questions

No special skills are needed to help. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can contribute. There is a three-step process to get started:

  1. Get an OpenStreetMap login
  2. Learn and practice mapping (tracing and labeling)
  3. Map/digitize (trace and label) a specific area in the HOT Task Manager

Note: You will not be able to map from mobile device.

Members of the professional online mapping community review samples of map edits for quality assurance. When a mapper completes a tile, it turns orange. Then, an experienced mapper, typically from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team, reviews a sample of those edits to validate the work. Validated tiles display as green. If edits are not acceptable, then the reviewer resets the tile to grey and returns it to the tasking manager to be worked on again. Additionally, with the large number of volunteer mappers contributing data, the information is often self-checked by the online mapping community itself.

OpenStreetMap and Ushahidi work together. Ushahidi is an open source project which allows users to crowdsource information for mobile distribution. Such platforms cannot function without base map data. Geographic data provides the bridge between citizen reporting and action.

Microsoft allows OpenStreetMap to use some of its Bings Maps Satellite imagery.

All of Mapbox Satellite data is fully traceable in OpenStreetMap.

Many other online map providers do not put data in the public domain. Essentially, if you work within some tools, you are creating data that the provider owns. These providers also typically impose restrictions on the usage of the created maps and most importantly, the data that was used to create the maps.

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team is incorporated as a U.S. based 501c(3) non-profit organization that coordinates volunteer mappers and on the ground mapping efforts through OpenStreetMap. The efforts of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) first had a significant impact supporting on the ground efforts after an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. Its mission is to apply the principles of open source and open data sharing towards humanitarian response and economic development.

A map is a visual depiction of geographic data. There is a difference between map data and the map itself. Being able to share the data with a community provides them with a foundation of geographic information to identify problems and communicate in common terms with each other. They can come together to respond to a broad range of economic development, environmental and crisis management needs.

Many efforts in the global mapping movement are supported by satellite imagery released by the U.S. State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit through their project, Imagery to the Crowd (IttC). OpenStreetMap takes it, stores it, and breaks it down into small sections for volunteers to trace and label (called digitizing or mapping). IttC partners with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and has launched many successful projects including in Gulu, Uganda; Kathmandu, Nepal and Tacloban, Philippines.

Many people assume that detailed, accessible geographic data is available – when often it is not. It can be expensive or simply does not exist. As a volunteer, your efforts build a foundation of data and make it freely available to the public.

MapGive utilizes satellite imagery when supporting OpenStreetMap mapping projects for humanitarian and development needs. High resolution imagery is key to mapping remotely in OpenStreetMap so that OSM users, like yourself, can see a clear picture of what's on the ground when you are editing in OpenStreetMap. To learn more about how to use satellite imagery to trace edits into OpenStreetMap, check out our how-to videos on our Learn to Map page.

As you may have noticed, there is already imagery available throughout OpenStreetMap. Since November 2010, Bing has allowed OpenStreetMap editors to trace from their aerial imagery for the purpose of contributing content to OpenStreetMap. For many mapping projects, the available imagery is often sufficient. Sometimes the area of interest is located in a gap where there is no good-quality imagery coverage. At other times, the available imagery may be outdated and newer imagery is needed to respond to a current event. This is when MapGive can help.

Inspired by the success of the OSM mapping effort after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU), a division within the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues at the U.S. Department of State, sought a way to support the creation of OpenStreetMap data through the provision of processed imagery services based on USG-licensed high-resolution satellite imagery. Imagery to the Crowd resulted from technical and policy discussions that were held with numerous partners over several months.

As a proof of concept, in May 2012 the HIU conducted the Horn of Africa Mapping Experiment and posted imagery for the ten refugee camps in the the Dollo Ado (Ethiopia) and Dadaab (Kenya) complexes. In 48 hours mappers from around the world traced the imagery and produced highly detailed map data of the camps. Later that same year Josh Campbell of the HIU gave an Ignite Talk at ICCM 2012 officially launching IttC.