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News — 20 May, 2024

Examining the Potential and State of the OSM Community in Haiti

Explore the potential and current state of the OpenStreetMap (OSM) Community in Haiti through this 2024 report. It highlights the evolution of OSM communities in Haiti and the significant challenges they face. Recommendations for sustainability emphasize the need for strong partnerships and annual conferences to support humanitarian action and crisis response using open geospatial data.

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The 2024 completion of a study of the state of the OpenStreetMap (OSM) Community in Haiti produced the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOT) funded Report on Humanitarian Actors and Stakeholders with an Interest In Open Geospatial Data, completed by Wendy DELVA. From Haiti, he has worked as a Mapper and OSM Contributor since 2013. Wendy has significantly contributed to the evolution of OSM communities in Haiti, serving in various roles such as Coordinator of COSMHANNE (OpenStreetMap Haiti North and North East Community), training coordinator, trainer, and project editor. Throughout his journey, he has collaborated with institutions such as HOT, the American Red Cross, Chemonics, and others.

This blog shares some of the findings of this report which includes recommendations on how OSM in Haiti could seek to survive despite its many past and current challenges.

OSM Haiti: a merciless struggle for survival

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The report explores the link between the emergence of the first OSM communities in Haiti and the response to the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010. It highlights the vital role of cartography during this unprecedented crisis and follows the development of this group from young individuals trained by HOT to support effective crisis response through map data usage.

These young people, who received training in collaborative mapping, joined forces in their own areas and established three communities with the goal of promoting the use of open data. We have the OpenStreetMap Haiti Community - COSMHA, in the West (2010), the OpenStreetMap Haiti Community in Saint Marc in the Artibonite (2012), and the OpenStreetMap Haiti North and North East Community in Limonade.»

The struggle for sustainable communities

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The research involved interviewing leaders and members of the OSM community in Haiti to understand their past and current experiences within their organizations and the broader ecosystem. The report discovered that despite the dedicated efforts of community leaders and advocates, they face difficulties in securing the resources necessary to maintain continuity and the desired level of activity for a thriving OSM community.

«We began with the goal of training communities in other towns and departments across the country. We made a start, but unfortunately, due to the lack of resources, funding, or equipment, we couldn’t keep going. There’s no support, and the communities we established aren’t truly self-sufficient.« - Adler Salvador, Community Open Street Mapping of Haiti (COSMHA).

«I’d like to highlight some significant challenges frequently encountered by the OSM community in Haiti. Issues such as the shortage of material and financial resources, as well as the lack of partnerships, hinder our community from being as dynamic as we’d like. Even with strong determination, our efforts are often restricted, especially during natural disasters.» - Schneider Alcereste of Community Open Street Mapping of Haiti, Saint-Marc (COSMHA_STM).

The importance of strong partnerships

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The report highlighted the importance of forming partnerships with open source actors and stakeholders to build sustainable OSM communities. It viewed this as a mutually beneficial relationship, where stakeholders who rely on cartographic data recognize the value of continuous collaboration with OSM communities that keep such data updated. By bringing these stakeholders and open source actors together, it fosters networking and mutual understanding. Therefore, the main recommendations of the report included organizing an annual conference focused on humanitarian action, crisis response, cartographic data, and open data, featuring workshops, presentations, and training sessions to facilitate shared experiences.

«The organization of an annual conference would provide an ideal platform to disseminate information about open data mapping across Haiti, aiming to assess the impact of the Geographical Information System on sustainable development. Depending on partners’ needs and the requirements of crisis response and humanitarian work, the event could be held in different regions of the country each year.»

See full report here.