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News — 02 March, 2016

HOT Uganda profile: Douglas Ssebaggala

We have three Ugandan mapping supervisors on the HOT mapping team in Uganda: Douglas Ssebaggala, Geoffrey Kateregga and Ketty Adoch. They've all been involved with OpenStreetMap and HOT for some time, and would like to share their story and mapping history. Today, we're speaking to Douglas.

We have three Ugandan mapping supervisors on the HOT mapping team in Uganda: Douglas Ssebaggala, Geoffrey Kateregga and Ketty Adoch. They've all been involved with OpenStreetMap and HOT for some time, and would like to share their story and mapping history.

Q: Hi Douglas! Could you introduce yourself briefly?

Ssebaggala Douglas. Lived in Kampala, for most of the time, with occasional holiday travels to family in the rural parts of Uganda: gaining a clear understanding of both rural and urban life settings. I think I am one of the most passionate OSM mappers in Africa!!

Douglas instructing students at UCU Mbale

Q: How did you get in touch with OSM, and with HOT?

My choice for OpenStreetMap was between 2 parallel events organised on June 4th 2011: one by Random Hacks of Kindness RHOK at Makerere University, and another by Mountbatten in Muyenga. The latter had an option of creating user accounts on OSM prior to the event, and once this was created, I realised how interesting digital maps, the geospatial world, and the OSM community were. Maps are crucial in solving real world problems, some of which had been outlined in the millennium development goals. The vision was to use OSM and community mapping in one of the new roles that i had been elected into at the National Youth Council Elections at the village (Local Council I) level.

My first involvement with HOT was during the consolidation and organisation of OSM training materials with the Training Working Group, at a time when i created a basic manual on how to edit OSM with the Potlatch Editor in early 2012, around the same time that i subscribed to the HOT mailing list.

The second inspirational involvement with HOT was when I organised a mapping day meet-up/mapathon in Uganda during the activation for Typhoon Haiyan in the philippines. The HOT Tasking manager is one of the most amazing mapping coordination tools.

As of November last year, I’ve been working as a supervisor on Mapping Financial Services in Uganda, which is an amazing opportunity to introduce a lot of new people to HOT and OpenStreetMap, and enforce our message with local institutions and universities.

Attending a SACCO (local savings club) meeting in Uganda

Q: What was the Ugandan OpenStreetMap community like at that time? How has it evolved since?

At that time, the Ugandan OSM community was sketchy, there was no central place from where the community could be identified. It was a mixture of students, private and public organisations, other individuals, each with a differing interest in OpenStreetmap, best known to themselves.

MappingDay evolved the OSM community by setting up a properly managed social presence with a website, facebook and twitter, updates on a series of events and trainings open for the above categories of people like students, community members, and for specific private/public institutions. These were aimed at getting the OSM network together, and finding use cases of OpenStreetMap. In addition to linking up the local community with the global OSM community via mailing lists, conferences, and being the lead organiser of open data events with OSM as a key component of the sessions.

Q: What type of events and projects have you been doing that involve OSM?

I have been involved in creating, growing, and maintaining, the OSM Community, initiating Mapping Uganda by holding mapping day events for University Students, initially focusing on Undergraduate Information Technology Students from Public and private Universities throughout Uganda.

Mapping Uganda, as a newly started initiative/project, through Fruits of Thought was privileged to win two grants from the Indigo trust Foundation to hold five mapping events throughout Uganda and also to create a network of mappers in Eastern Uganda, with a focus on East Africa. It was also an inspiration to share with the OSM folks in Kenya from the Groundtruth Initiative.

Community Mapping is another interesting project that I have been involved in; with new mappers starting to create maps of their communities, my experience was no different: after creating my own community map, i was able to apply this in other communities and a training camp in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

Creating a professional usable map of Uganda from the above initiative, i was also involved in finding thematic applications of maps, and in partnership with the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development, I was part of the mapping for climate change project for policy makers in Kampala.

Q: What are some of the ideas you have to grow and expand the OSM community, either in Uganda or anywhere else?

Having a recognised OSM local chapter or a structured OSM community in place, where members have an identity, sense of belongingness, active involvement, openness, and trust can help strengthen the community.

Doing activities that are aimed at or part of solving a local, national or global problem, like some that are in the sustainable development goals, and benefiting from those activities in terms of acquiring knowledge, networking, learning, earning, and having fun while implementing the actionable items.

Getting involved in global OSM projects, events and activities like State of The Map, Mapathons, Conferences, online and offline discussions,  with different OSM communities to share, learn, and adapt from other communities.

Q: We’ve trained over 50 students in Mbale in the past weeks, and will be introducing a lot more students to OSM in Tororo, Jinja and Kampala. How do you think we motivate them to keep mapping?

Once we have a structured OSM community in place, we can have all of the trained people within the community, and motivation will most likely come from the activities being done by the community as above.