OpenStreetMap Moves Beyond The Streets, Starts Mapping Amazonia

from the boldly-going dept

OpenStreetMap is fast-emerging as one of the key open projects -- so much so, that proprietary rivals in the world of digital maps are evidently getting worried. Just as the LAMP stack -- GNU/Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl/PHP/Python -- provided a robust and free foundation for a whole generation of websites a decade and a half ago, so OpenStreetMap is becoming more widely adopted as part of the mobile web, and as geodata grows in importance for a new generation of software applications aimed at users on the move.

Although OpenStreetMap provides better coverage than well-funded commercial rivals in many parts of the world, with important knock-on consequences, there are still some regions where its maps are largely empty. Take Amazonia, for example. OpenStreetMap shows the main rivers, a few towns, and that's about it. Nothing if not ambitious, OpenStreetMap has just announced a new project -- Mapazonia -- which aims to bring its maps here up to the standard of other regions:
The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine different nations and there are a lot of environmental institutions and governments that need better geospatial data to do their work in that region. Furthermore it's always good to have quality data in case of a natural disaster or other humanitarian issues. In Brazil there aren't many editors in this northern region, so there are a lot of towns without any data and some roads to trace.
As that notes, once completed Mapazonia will be an important tool for environmental organizations -- for example, those seeking to monitor and reduce Amazonian deforestation -- and for humanitarian bodies to use in the event of disasters there. It's a great example of OpenStreetMap stepping in to fill gaps left by commercial offerings that have no interest in mapping vast areas with few people and little business activity. It emphasizes once more that open projects are not just valuable because they are open, but also because their different priorities lead them to tackle problems ignored by those whose primary motivation is profit.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 Dec 2014 @ 2:22am

    Awesome! So when I find myself lost in the Amazon wild I just have to pop my phone and check for directions (providing the monkeys don't steal it at some point). /derp

    Awesome initiative. There's very little motivation for commercial mapping in remote regions and I've felt that in my skin during my job trips to the ends of my state so this work is very, very welcome. I'm adding it to my donations pool :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2014 @ 10:40am

    I'm going to download OpenStreetMap and give it a try. I might even map out my neighborhood. After reading Glyn's ComputerWorld article about OSM. I like how the mapping data people submit remains in the public domain so anyone can access and improve upon the mapping data.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 30 Dec 2014 @ 1:06pm

      Re:

      I've been using OSM for a good while now, and I have found it (at least in the areas I go to) to be really excellent. In many cases better than commercial offerings (including Google maps). While I'm happy to supply corrections to it, I have yet to find something that needs correcting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PRMan, 30 Dec 2014 @ 10:46am

    OpenStreetMap

    OpenStreetMap (or at least the Android version OSMAnd) is missing most address data, making it nearly impossible to use. I used it in New Zealand by using Google Maps on Wifi to get the coordinates before using OSMAnd while driving (it was completely offline, so my Sprint phone could use it).

    This worked, but was a massive hassle. And still, even in the US there are almost no addresses. I think they have other things to work on than the Amazon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 30 Dec 2014 @ 1:08pm

      Re: OpenStreetMap

      On Android, try NavFree. It uses OSM and it handles street addresses just fine (although it's a little picky about the format of the addresses).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2014 @ 8:44pm

      Re: OpenStreetMap

      Yes, lack of complete addressing is a struggle. If you're in an urban area, searching by cross-streets (an option in OsmAnd) will get you close enough.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 30 Dec 2014 @ 10:49am

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Patrick Durusau (profile), 31 Dec 2014 @ 7:18am

    Non-profits will benefit? Can you say for-profits will benefit?

    I'm not sure where Glyn gets:


    As that notes, once completed Mapazonia will be an important tool for environmental organizations -- for example, those seeking to monitor and reduce Amazonian deforestation -- and for humanitarian bodies to use in the event of disasters there. It's a great example of OpenStreetMap stepping in to fill gaps left by commercial offerings that have no interest in mapping vast areas with few people and little business activity. It emphasizes once more that open projects are not just valuable because they are open, but also because their different priorities lead them to tackle problems ignored by those whose primary motivation is profit.


    Accurate maps are the basis for more access to the Amazon, not less. By comparison, why do you think the Afghanistan warlords fought so hard against better and more roads in Afghanistan? If you guess it would make it easier for a mechanized enemy to control the areas in question, take a gold star! Right in one.

    Political corruption is enabling deforestation of the Amazon now, yes? So how is having better maps of the Amazon going to reduce political corruption? Simple enough question. If better maps are not going to reduce political corruption, which we have agreed enables deforestation, isn't better mapping going to facilitate more deforestation?

    I don't doubt the good intentions of OpenStreetMap or its participants but in their rush to do good, they are over estimating the forces of evil seeking to damage the Amazon. Recall that deforestation wasn't an issue until the arrival of modern transportation and technology. That battle was lost long ago. Why lose another battle by making exploitation of the Amazon by oil, mining, timber and other robbers of natural resources easier?

    Disruption of the links in the chain that enable deforestation and exploitation of the Amazon would be a far better use of time and resources than depending upon some day using moral suasion to defend it.

    Peril to the Amazon increases with every new data point in OSM.

    Patrick

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      joost, 31 Dec 2014 @ 1:38pm

      Re: Non-profits will benefit? Can you say for-profits will benefit?

      You might be right, but I don't think so. Mostly because abuse thrives in the dark, and visibility makes it harder to do illegal things. For example, it's harder to claim no-one will we bothered by logging if you show them an empty map then when you show a map with all the indigenous communities living there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Patrick Durusau (profile), 31 Dec 2014 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Non-profits will benefit? Can you say for-profits will benefit?

    "...abuse thrives in secret...?" Do you really think so? The Amazon rain forest is being cut down now. Can you show where visibility has prevented either legal or illegal logging from happening?

    When the demand for minerals and wood goes up, do you think the presence of indigenous communities is going to matter? Settlers in North American depopulated an entire continent. Very visibly. Oh, it was an outrage that they now sincerely regret, but no one has offered to give the land back.

    The importance of the rain forest for the global ecology is only being guessed at now. I would stop all exploitation until its role is better understood. We know where the wood ships from. Stopping those ports would quickly end all logging.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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