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News — 21 June, 2010

Haiti mission 3 - Week 1 in Port-au-Prince

As Week 1, Mission 3 wraps up in Port-au-Prince the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team performed a review class on Sunday for anyone previously trained in another session. We saw individuals from our Shelter Cluster training on Wednesday, community mobilizers from Saturdays training as well as others from previous missions. There was a field review of data collection techniques, more editing in Java OpenStreetMap Editor (JOSM), installing of the HOT OSM Kit on individuals' computers and troubleshooting of various issues.

One of the harder aspects of the training has been troubleshooting. When the class takes places on HOT laptops with the eTrex Legends that HOT usually uses there are relatively few problems. Once other equipment is involved though it can be difficult to determine the source of the problem. Various actors in Haiti have purchased or received donations of a variety of GPS units. Some are very sophisticated when set-up correctly with a good IT infrastructure and support system, but difficult to use if you give them to someone directly unconfigured in the box. What has been great about the eTrex series is it pretty much just works. The interface can sometimes be difficult to learn though for example the place to delete all of your waypoints is not intuitive. You go to "Find" in the menu and then hit the menu button to delete all the waypoints. When you don't use the eTrex for a couple weeks there is usually some fumbling to perform this deletion.

Editing in Java OpenStreetMap Editor (JOSM) is not without its own difficulties as well. When problems arise on someone else's computer and you are unsure how they arrived at those specific issues it is difficult to resolve. Overtime with more experience as to where pitfalls may occur this is becoming easier. We'll see what more experience is gained next when H.O.T. goes on the road to Jacmel, Léogâne and Gonaïves.

To prepare the logistics for this trip in-country and to spare the participants from the heavy rain which was threatening Port Au Prince all agreed to put an end to day and the crowd vanishes in town bearing the colours of the valiant Brazil who defeated the Elephants but did not succeeded in interrupting the training the way it was expected. The team gathered for some hours in the IOM tent to prepare training materials and equipments for the trip planning both training and packaging functional OSM hardware kits to leave in the hands of individuals forming the local OSM communities in the long term empowerment strategy pursued by HOT.

A car ride to a night working session in a restaurant up-hill with Sabina from Ushaidi Haiti project and Dudu her friend and developer of the Noula platform the Ushaidi project will be using in Haiti brought the final touch to this day. Key discussions rolled on how to best articulate OSM and Ushaidi efforts in Haiti so that an agile geo-enabled reporting framework adherent of data models used by the responding community throught the Humanitarian Data Model could be built and empower all willing individuals and communities in "normal" times and in the event of a disaster. Dudu gave the team a generous ride back to the Camp Charlie where all enjoyed a couple of hours prior starting the travel.

Kate and Nicolas for HOT