Starting a HOT Activation in Central African Republic

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Date posted:
Apr, 10 2013

Bangui, the capital city of Central African Republic, has been taken over on March 24 by the Seleka rebels, three months after their coming from the northern part of the country. As the situation in the capital is quite tragic since, as it was already for many cities and towns, it is time now to start an official HOT Activation to respond to this crisis. In the following lines, I make a short update on OSM in the country, and the needs to be fulfilled.

A bit of OSM context in CAR, with EUROSHA

The EUROSHA volunteers were deployed in Bangui since October and did a great job there. Despite technical constraints like regular electric shortages during the working hours and Internet down from time to time, Assania, Federica, Filip, Jorieke, Lenka, Morgane and Serge mapped a lot Bangui and other localities (depending on the available Bing imagery) from almost scratch, drawing thousands of buildings and many roads and streets. They also use Sahana Eden to get information about all the hospitals in Bangui, from the representatives of these health facilities they met. And they also intensely advocated on behalf of OpenStreetMap to multiple stakeholders: local and international NGOs, UN organizations, Academics, and Governmental Authorities. They even contacted departments from Bangui’s town hall, who I would not have imagined to be so much interested by OSM. When I joined the volunteers early December, we started training together various stakeholders, some of them already skilled mappers, and we were discussing with UNICEF about data import and potential field mapping in remote areas. This was very promising and thrilling when I left two weeks later, but unfortunately the political events just started at that time. A few days later, the volunteers had to leave the country for security reasons. You can have an overview of the volunteers’ presence through their blog posts on the EUROSHA website.

HOT Preparation

From Early January, when the rebels crossed the country from North to South and arrived close to Bangui, we started a pre-activation or preparation, involving a remote mapping of the most affected cities throughout the country, identified by the humanitarian stakeholders still present, with whom the EUROSHA volunteers and HOT kept in touch. Most of the tasks have been almost completed on their residential part. We also requested skilled OSM contributors to review and validate the current data, and interesting discussions happened.
More recently, when the rebels entered Bangui and part of the population population fled in DRC, we created a new TM job for the city of Zongo on the other side of Ubangui River, that has been completed quite quickly.
In the meantime, the work around the data imports moved forward, from two sources, UNICEF (health centers, schools, and watsan objects - all surveyed in the field) and World Resources Institute (landuse, road network, localities, etc. - a mix of remote mapping based on LandSat and field surveys).

HOT Activation and ongoing tasks

I just updated the OSM wiki page for CAR that shows the mapping goals as of today. They can be summarized this way.

Mapping cities and towns and make them easy to download

Finishing both Bangui and secondary affected towns is one aim. Northern parts of Bangui are still missing, while the residential areas of the first listed priority towns are almost done, except for Bambari, only covered by Orbview-3 imagery - not easy to map. This list will be updated based on the priorities expressed by the humanitarian stakeholders and also from the news provided by the Network of Journalists for Human Rights in Central African Republic that supports an Ushahidi based Crisis map for CAR. I just contacted them so that they use OSM as a background and exchange views with us, if they want.
As for Bangui, I will start to create HOT Exports jobs for every town, so that any organization interested by the data can download it easily. The whole OSM data in CAR can already be added in a Garmin device and should be available soon from the OSMAnd offline datastore.

Providing a first, complete, routable, road network

Considering it is very easy to host routable OSM data in GPS devices, it would be a pity not to provide a useful road dataset to the humanitarian community. A lot of main highways are still missing, as shows this comparison between the OSM data and Logcluster - WFP SDI’s.
We can go further and add secondary roads in the areas covered by high res Bing imagery.
Regarding the tagging, the one we used originally has changed for the Mali crisis that is becoming a standard for tagging the road networks in Africa. It helps a lot to set road tagging considering the localities network, considered at medium scale, and thus therefore facilitates the creation a consolidated network of main roads (primary, secondary, tertiary, unclassified), while it still allows tagging local roads, street or paths, based on their very own features.

Imports of field surveyed, humanitarian data features

I posted yesterday a mail on the HOT list, asking for a review of the process we present for the UNICEF data. Anyone interested to share his opinion and experience is welcomed. Once imported, this data will be proposed as downloadable thematic files.

Of course, last but not least, always useful, quality control fans can contribute through KeepRight or Osmose.