Mapping Haiti

The Haiti Earthquake has shaken the world with its staggering enormity and absolutely devastating effects. The news has made for grim reading over the past few days.

Amongst all the generosity from nations and peoples across the world (a UK appeal is being run by the Disasters Emergency Committee and is being promoted by Twitter, Facebook, TV ads, et al), a bunch of people are trying to directly help the aid effort by improving and updating maps of the area. How does this happen? Mostly by tracing new satellite photography and from collating existing datasets together.

Map of Port-au-Prince in Haiti

Where is this happening? Well, sadly, in two separate places. On OpenStreetMap, the editable open-source map, existing community members are using their expertise and tools to update the map (including marking buildings and bridges as collapsed), with collaboration and co-ordination happening on the project page.

Google are also encouraging people to edit their Google Map of the area using their Map Maker tool and the same updated satellite photography (which comes from GeoEye). They are promoting this activity through their crisis response page, which is prominently advertised on their homepage.

I've no idea which site will attract the most collaborators, or which will result in the best maps. The duplication of effort does seem a little wasteful though, especially in such a time of great need, and it highlights the problems of map data in-operability and licensing issues.

See also:

Update: A nice blog post on OpenGeoData reveals how OSM has been the 'default' map for some aid teams out in Haiti.

Further update: This story was also covered in the Guardian: "Meet the Wikipedia of the mapping world".