What if we could map one billion people currently missing from the world’s maps?

June 18 2020 - Today, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) was announced as one of this year’s grantees of The Audacious Project at TED, launching a massive mobilization of one million volunteers to map an area home to one billion people in some of the most vulnerable places in the world. 

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It’s hard to believe that more than one billion people live in places that are not on the map. Many of these unmapped places are at high risk of disasters, or are home to people experiencing multidimensional poverty. “If you look those places up online, you’ll see nothing but a blank,” says Rebecca Firth, HOT’s Director of Partnerships and Community, “Those blank spaces aren’t just a huge statement of disrespect to our fellow human beings, they’re an injustice that causes very direct, very real, very avoidable human suffering.” 

The reason for these blank spaces? Until recently, mapping the most vulnerable places in our world hasn’t been a priority for for-profit companies, whose business models are typically driven by advertising and data sales. This means the poorest communities are left out. Without maps, it is extremely difficult to dispatch humanitarian workers effectively, plan a vaccination campaign, or trace the spread of diseases, leaving vulnerable places without access to humanitarian aid and basic services.

The Audacious Project will support one million volunteers in 94 countries to build a map of the world that includes the most vulnerable places for the very first time. “This funding will allow us to develop a free, open, common understanding of our world that will serve as the very foundation for global humanitarian and development decision making on a whole new scale,” explains Tyler Radford, HOT’s Executive Director, “It will mean that lack of a decent map upon which to base life-altering humanitarian decisions is no longer a factor in human suffering.” 

Over the past decade HOT has enabled the contributions of  over 200,000 volunteers with user-friendly mapping tools.  These volunteers have collaboratively mapped an area home to more than 150 million people, providing crucial data for humanitarian response to nearly 100 disasters and crises. In addition, some of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, United Nations (UN) agencies, as well as governments, already use HOT’s maps to increase their impact. “This track record is reason enough to support, but we were compelled by HOT’s bold yet achievable vision to ensure that places that are home to one billion people—the places around the world where the risk of disaster and the reality of multidimensional poverty are at their strongest—will finally be represented,”  said Anna Verghese, Executive Director of The Audacious Project at TED. 

All maps created by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team community are available publicly on OpenStreetMap.org. With this open, up-to-date, free, and digital public good, information will be readily available to make better and faster decisions. As this data is open, the possibilities of impact are limitless. 

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About HOT

HOT is an international team dedicated to humanitarian action and community development through open mapping. We work together to provide map data that revolutionizes disaster management, reduces risks, and contributes to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Contact:

Ms. Gihan Hassanein
Senior Communications Manager
gihan.hassanein@hotosm.org 

Go to the profile of Gihan Hassanein

Gihan Hassanein

Senior Communications Manager, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

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