Rapid Mapping of 50 Communes in Madagascar

Room: Track 1

Sunday, 17:15 UTC


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  • Seth Cochran

Operation Fistula have a project in Madagascar where we are trying to end fistula for every woman in 50 communes (counties) across two regions of the country. These women are invisible. Their condition keeps them hidden from the public - many even hiding themselves, as the indignity of their injury is profound. They smell of urine or feces, so they don’t want to be seen. We are hiring a huge team of community agents on gps-powered motorbikes to go to every village in these 50 counties, and find every one of these invisible women. The problem is that the villages themselves are also invisible, so we are not sure where to go.

These villages are in the blank areas of every map, making them invisible to the outside observer. Until we see the villages, we cannot see the patients in need. We are not sure where to go to find these hidden women. Enter OSM - we have built a team of local cartographers who will use satellite images to draw the villages onto into OSM, bringing each into visibility. Once these villages are on the map, the people there can no longer be ignored. We then know where to look to find all the women with fistula. And as we visit each village, we will be able to confirm what the satellite told us - to strengthening the integrity of the village maps we build in OSM. To name the villages.

Of course, once a village is on the map, it is then connected to the global development and business community. Making these communities visible on the map is almost like connecting them to the power grid - the effects of being visible will bring resources and opportunities that one can only imagine. We need these maps for our work, but we want our work to help lift up the places where we work. To do this well, we have engaged partners - people who can help us move forward faster with their tech or labor, who can help us move forward smarter with their editing and task management experience, and ultimately who can help our efforts have the most value and impact for the most people/places.

Mapbox has helped bring in global strategic partners who continue to develop empowering innovations to help us update OSM. OSM Madagascar has helped us staff our team and is running large scale volunteer efforts in Madagascar.

We want to share an overview for how this project has worked and how other organizations can collaborate to rapidly update OSM with high quality inputs that are field verified.