HOT's Commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, and How You Can Help

Posted by:
Tyler Radford
Date posted:
Jun, 29 2016

When I speak with HOT staff and volunteers in our community, I often ask what they've heard about the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short. Sometimes, people have heard of the term, or know that the term is somehow related to the United Nations. I often chat about the types of mapping projects they're working on. In the past month, the answers have been incredibly varied: HOT staff are mapping safe bicycle routes and access to sanitation (public toilets) in Tanzania; banks, ATMs, and mobile money agent locations in Uganda, and are about to start mapping critical disaster "lifeline" infrastructure in two of the biggest cities in Indonesia. In addition, HOT volunteer leaders are working on dozens more projects throughout the world across sectors: education, environment, health, transportation, water and sanitation. These projects are all taking place in challenging contexts: megacities in developing countries, refugee camps, and unplanned urban and rural housing settlements.

So what does this have to do with the SDGs? The Sustainable Development Goals, by the way, are a set of 17 goals agreed upon by UN Member States in late 2015. These are not goals for the UN alone, but rather targets to which we can all contribute in order to make our world a better place. You'll see that the goals are quite lofty, and we have only 15 years to achieve them. Goal 1 is "No Poverty", Goal 3 "Good Health and Well Being", Goal 8 "Decent Work and Economic Growth". Not easy targets to achieve, but HOT has always been ambitious. In fact, HOT's charitable purpose has extended beyond humanitarian relief since our founding. Our Articles of Incorporation (amended in 2011) include:

1) to promote, support and advocate the creation, maintenance, use, distribution and availability of free, geographically­ referenced data and geospatial information (“geodata”): a) to facilitate and provide humanitarian aid in the United States and throughout the world; and b) to permit faster and more efficient means to relieve poverty and foster economic development, to ameliorate the plight of the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the disabled..."

Open data, and in particular, open geospatial data, has the potential to contribute directly to achieving these goals. As THE best source of open map data in many regions and countries, OpenStreetMap, and the ecosystem around it, has a key role to play. OSM volunteers are generating better data on the places they live and work. With better data, leaders have the chance to make more informed decisions, leading to more equitable outcomes. Because many HOT staff, interns, and community volunteers are from the very countries facing challenges described in the goals, our team has a unique ability to contribute. And it's not only about the great maps and map data we produce, it's about the people and process behind it. Mapping bicycle routes in Dar es Salaam can lead to better urban transportation planning (Goal 11), but it also provides real-world work experience and unique internship opportunities that can lead to higher employment (Goal 8). Importantly, OpenStreetMap data can also help us assess the status of the goals, by filling data gaps to measure progress against the SDG's 169 targets and 230 indicators. Because of all these reasons, HOT has made a special commitment to the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. And we're not the only ones (see the 150+ others). Here's our commitment:

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) commits to enabling more people living in the most vulnerable and least developed countries to map the places they live; collecting micro-level geospatial data together with residents, intentionally including both genders in the process, and making the resulting data openly and freely available through OpenStreetMap to the maximum extent possible. Through this process, HOT commits to providing training and generating data sets that will directly contribute to several of the goals, enable data-driven decision making, and allow real-time monitoring and evaluation of SDG progress.




  1. Think about your work in relation to the SDGs. What is your OSM group doing or what data are you collecting that might help achieve or measure progress against one of the goals?
  2. Let us know by adding your comments here:
  3. When you mention @hotosm in a tweet, include the #globalgoals or #SDGs hashtag to let us know
  4. Participate in the 2016 HOT Summit! It's all about your work and the SDGs: