The daily commute to work or the way to our next appointment is relatively easy to find in Germany by using apps available on our mobile phones. Those apps are using digital maps that can show exactly where the nearest café or bus stop is.
In the countries where the German Red Cross operates internationally this is often not the case. In those countries, for example, entire cities can be missing on maps. This makes it difficult to plan any relief effort in the event of a disaster if you don’t know reliably how large a city is that might be affected. Roads are also often missing on maps in many regions which makes it difficult to plan how best to get to a scene of an emergency, or how to get people to the nearest health facility.
The lack of good and complete maps was the reason why Missing Maps was founded in 2014. The goal of the project is to map those areas using the open-source platform OpenStreetMap. The German Red Cross has been a member of Missing Maps since 2019 and thus is able to make important contributions by depicting particularly vulnerable population groups on online maps so that they can receive assistance when required.
Take part in the next Mapathon!
If you are interested to find out more, just sign up to one of our next Mapathons. We can also organise a private Mapathon for your company, school or society. If you’ve got any questions just get in touch with Katharina Lorenz: katharina.lorenz(at)drk.de.
Next appointment: Online Mapathon, June 24th, 7-10 pm.
What is Missing Maps?
Missing Maps is a partnership of various different organisations. It was founded by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Medecins Sans Frontieres, the American Red Cross and the British Red Cross. Currently it counts more than 15 member organisations, ranging from NGOs to educational institutions to civil-society groups.
The goal of Missing Maps is to map currently unmapped areas in developing countries and crises areas. The mapping is done with the help of the OpenStreetMap platform, which makes any collected information freely available for anyone to use. This in turn enables local and international aid organisations to implement their programs in a more efficient manner.
Since 2014, nearly 100,000 Missing Maps volunteers have already mapped over 45 million buildings and more than 1 million kilometres of road.
How does Missing Maps work?
Missing Maps consists of three steps
Step 1: Mapathons
In the first step so-called Mapathons are held. These Mapathons can take place anywhere in the world, either in the project country but also in Germany. During those events, volunteers come together to map objects using high-resolution satellite or aerial imagery. The objects to be mapped can vary from project to project, but most often include buildings and roads.
The mapping is conducted using a browser-based tool, which immediately adds the data to OpenStreetMap. The mapping area is divided into smaller tasks, to make the mapping more manageable, which are then edited by the volunteers. Once the objects in a task have been captured completely, a so-called validation is conducted by an experienced volunteer. During this process the quality of the work is assessed. This helps to detect any issues immediately which need to be corrected, e.g. overlapping or missing buildings.
Step 2: Collection of contextual information by community volunteers
In the second step local details are collected. This is done in cooperation with local volunteers from the respective Red Cross and Red Crescent Society. The volunteers add context-specific information, such as building use or street names to the base map created in step one.
Depending on circumstances in country this information can be collected by marking up printed maps, with the data being digitised when the volunteers return to the office, or by using tablets/smart phones which allow for an immediate digital collection.
Step 3: Use of newly collected information by humanitarian organizations
In the third step, the information from the “remote” mapping and the local mapping is merged and made available digitally in OpenStreetMap. Local and international organisations can now use this information to e.g. plan disaster preparedness activities.
Mapathon: Take part now and help!
The German Red Cross has been involved in the Missing Maps project since 2016. It regularly organises Mapathons in Berlin to which our Red Cross volunteers but also other interested parties are invited. During the Mapathons we are mapping areas that are relevant for GRC’s disaster risk reduction projects, including our Forecast-based Financing projects. In the future, we also plan to involve German Red Cross state and branch societies more closely in the implementation of Mapathons, to give volunteers in Germany a chance to gain insight and actively support GRC’s international projects.
Take part in the next Mapathon! If you are interested to find out more, just sign up to one of our next Mapathons. We can also organise a private Mapathon for your company, school or society. If you’ve got any questions just get in touch with Katharina Lorenz: katharina.lorenz(at)drk.de.
German Red Cross and the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinormation Technology
German Red Cross has been working with the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology (HeiGIT gGmbH) since 2017. The partnership aims at developing solutions in the field of GIS technologies for the implementation of humanitarian activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, while at the same time returning operational requirements, needs and results to the HeiGIT team.
The objective of HeiGIT gGmbH is to improve knowledge and technology transfer from fundamental research in geoinformatics to practical applications. A special focus is on user-generated geodata, such as OpenStreetMap. HeiGIT is also a member of Missing Maps and has supported the initiative for years through research, analyses and the development of tools and applications. For more information about HeiGIT, please visit the HeiGIT website.
The cooperation between German Red Cross and HeiGIT is supported by the Klaus Tschira Foundation since 2019. This resulted in the creation of a dedicated position for geoinformatics within the team International Cooperation at the German Red Cross.