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The mission of Africa Motorcycle Mapping is to put unrepresented parts of the world’s population on a public map. A map which can be accessed from anywhere. This means that the lowest income places in the world have to be visited, in person. Without representation, people are without voice, vulnerable to Cholera or Ebola outbreaks, and invisible to crisis interventionists like Red Cross and MSF (Doctors Without Borders). Resources commonly end-up in the wrong place, or are of the wrong type. West Africa Motorcycle Mapping is a Missing Maps project which is radically turning this problem around. A Newsweek article by Lois Parshley about our work can be found here: Mapping Poverty to Save More Than a Billion Lives in the World’s Most Remote Slums

Our current project aims to map a disease-prone area of Sierra Leone, West Africa, prove the life-saving utility of the data by assisting local health care facilities to use the data, and develop a system of low-cost, accurate, locally appropriate mapping for public health use.

We are extending an emerging methodology that has come to be called “Motorcycle Mapping.” Local people, using their own smartphones loaded with a free data collection application (OpenDataKit or ODK), ride on local motorcycles to all settlements to gather location data (GPS points) place names, and the all-important administrative divisions that allow for precise identification of villages from local descriptions. Field supervisors then collate the resulting information, and with the help of volunteers worldwide, contribute it to a publicly available, free, geographical database called OpenStreetMap (OSM). This approach functions despite poor network connection, lack of power, difficult terrain, and other challenges, and is cost-effective, creating geographical data fit for effective use by medical facilities and other users.

Inaccurate and missing maps, or maps made from afar that don’t take into account the names and descriptions used by the people themselves, make people invisible, untraceable, and put them at risk. In a crisis or outbreak, this can be a matter of life and death.

This one I rode across!
This one I rode across! at Kailahun District. Photo: Ivan Gayton

We are supported by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) a partner in the Missing Maps Project, a collaboration between the American and British Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and HOT. We are collecting data for use by the Nixon Memorial Hospital in Segbwema, Sierra Leone, as well as the MSF teams there.

Field Interview 21/07/2017