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News — 21 March, 2023

Data Quality Intern Applies Skills in the Turkey and Syria Earthquake Response

"My experience in the HOT Data Quality Internship program allowed me to contribute more effectively to the activation."

On 6th February 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey near the Syrian border. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, in collaboration with Yer Cizenler, the OpenStreetMap (OSM) community, and several other local organizations and international NGOs, launched an activation that has endeavored to collect geospatial data for the humanitarian response. An online community of mapping volunteers has on the front line of data collection. As of 16 March 2023, over 8,700 volunteers have contributed to the collection and validation of geospatial data since the day the earthquake struck.

One of the individuals at the frontline of validation was Eray Öztürk. Eray, born and raised in Turkey, wanted to meaningfully contribute to the local response to the earthquake in his country. In 2022, Eray had taken part in HOT’s Data Quality Internship (DQI). He shared with us how his experience in the DQI helped him contribute to producing data for the earthquake response.

How has your experience been?

Eray: Turkey is located in a seismically active region on the Anatolian plate and along many fault lines. As a result, the country is prone to earthquakes, and numerous devastating earthquakes have occurred throughout its history.

But the earthquake that happened on the 6th of February was truly destructive. After the earthquake, everyone tried to help. There were thousands of volunteers trying to help those in the earthquake area. Volunteers participated in the mapathons for days. In this way, many of the HOT Tasking Manager tasks were mapped. Studies and open data were shared with national and international institutions. Despite these successes, it is an experience that I wish had not happened.

How has it been working with HOT and Yer Cizenler and other local OSM communities?

Eray: Yer Çizenler is a mapping association that collaborates with HOT, and Yer Çizenler and OSM Turkey actively communicate with each other. Therefore, quick decisions could be made and implemented after the earthquake, and we could fix unexpected issues by constantly supporting each other. These associations and communities continue to have strong relations.

What has it felt like to be on the front line of an activation?

Eray: Being on the front line of the activation during the earthquake required quick action. Yer Çizenler invited me to an emergency meeting where we quickly divided tasks among members and volunteers. Thanks to our national and international coordination and the involvement of institutions like HOT, we were able to develop fast decision-making and implementation mechanisms.

My experience in the HOT Data Quality Internship program allowed me to contribute more effectively to the activation. I had some knowledge of the processes involved, which helped me understand the tasks and responsibilities better. I was able to use my skills in validation and data quality aspects to support the mapping efforts during the activation.

Overall, it was a challenging and rewarding experience to be on the front line of an activation. Our work on the earthquakes can be viewed on the OpenStreetMap wiki.

How did the HOT Data Quality Internship help your involvement in the activation?

Eray: HOT’s Data Quality Internship program was a very important program for me. I learned a lot from the training, met many people, and changed my perspective on data. I learned the significance of utilizing open data to benefit the wider community. I gained a lot of skills in validation and data quality. I was able to put those skills into practice in the Turkey activation.

Furthermore, during the mapathons, I had the opportunity to provide training to beginner mappers and help them with their challenges using the skills and techniques I acquired during my internship. I would like to thank all the instructors of Data Quality Internship for their contributions and the mappers contributing to mapping Turkey and Syria.

Specifically, which trainings and lessons learned from the internship have helped you on your journey?

Eray: Although I found most of the trainings to be helpful, I would like to emphasize that the JOSM, Validation, and RapId trainings were particularly advantageous. These specific trainings proved to be most valuable in my involvement with the Turkey activation.