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News — 03 February, 2016

"My mapping experience" by Hillary Musundi, student at Uganda Christian University.

When I was first told about mapping, I thought it was something to do sitting indoors on your laptop. Well, it’s also a bit like that, but little did I know the adventure that awaited me. I quickly got acquainted with the whole mapping process after the training we received on the first two days (ed: 11 and 12 January). Earlier I had met Douglas Ssebaggala who had showed us how to use OpenMapKit and JOSM. I just couldn’t wait to start my journey in the world. After the training, I felt I was ready.

During our time in Mbale, we’ve met and trained over 40 motivated and talented students from UCU (Uganda Christian University) Mbale. With the help of these students and the 14 we're working with from Makerere University Kampala, we mapped the financial services, health and educational facilities in 11 districts in eastern Uganda. The story below has been written by one of our students, Hillary Musundi, about his experiences on the project:

When I was first told about mapping, I thought it was something to do sitting indoors on your laptop. Well, it’s also a bit like that, but little did I know the adventure that awaited me. I quickly got acquainted with the whole mapping process after the training we received on the first two days (ed: 11 and 12 January). Earlier I had met Douglas Ssebaggala who had showed us how to use OpenMapKit and JOSM. I just couldn’t wait to start my journey in the world. After the training, I felt I was ready.

Hillary waiting for transport, somewhere around Mbale

We started traversing Mbale and districts surrounding it. I specifically mapped around Mbale, Bududa, Bukedea and Kaliro district. As they say every adventure has its own challenges, the mapping process presented its own. The sun was always blazing hot, except for one day where the rain found us in the field – in Bududa. Because of the high temperatures, water was more than a basic necessity at that time. I can’t even imagine how many liters I took during that time. There was always a lot of dust everywhere we went since we were always using murram (ed: unpaved, but compacted) roads. When we went to map Kaliro district, we came back brown: covered in dust. We couldn’t stop laughing about it.

A swampy area to be crossed, to find more financial services

With time we got accustomed with the conditions.  Like I told you this was an adventure, we found a swamp, the road passing through it. We were supposed to cross the swamp. With great luck and care we passed through with the boda guy (ed: motorcycle driver) we were with, though we were soaking wet with water! In fact, I felt kinda good about it. The following day on our way to Kaliro again, our car got a flat tire, the driver replaced it with a spare tire in his bonnet. No sooner had we set off again than the spare tire also got a flat. In a place where there is no nearby town, we were stranded! Luckily we boarded a taxi as the driver waited for another car from Mbale. In the field, we were sometimes frustrated by the mobile money operators who were not willing to share information with us. This was at times annoying because after explaining for like five minutes to someone, he/she bluntly tells you, “Am not willing to tell you anything!”.

Above all the challenges, it was always fun to locate a place using GPS and accurately tag it. I always felt that great responsibility of being entrusted to do this, this made me ensure that accuracy was always my top target. I loved the whole mapping process; interacting with the phones, locating points and tagging them then later in the evening validating and uploading. During this time, we would share our experiences of the day.

The whole mapping process hasn’t left me the same. I am now able to face a stranger, in a completely new environment and ask for whatever I may want. This implies my confidence has been greatly boosted. As a student studying information technology, I have learnt a lot about data collection, compiling and processing it into information for the whole world to see on OpenStreetMap. I have made several new friends during this period, especially students from Makerere University, HOT supervisors, Paul and Mhairi. The person I got most acquainted to is Douglas, who was my team leader. He is a cool guy. I thank God I met all of them.

No one ever wants an adventure to end, so my friends and I were kinda sad that it had come to an end. We had become real open street mappers, we loved it! We hope they will come back; it is an experience we are never going to forget as long as we live. I am still an OpenStreetMapper, using iD editor and JOSM. Besides, who says an adventure ends? Mine still lives and goes on.

Hillary relating some of his experiences to staff and lecturers at UCU