[OSGeo-Discuss] Nepal earthquakes - wake up call for action to support building geocapacity globally

Suchith Anand Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk
Thu May 14 12:25:17 PDT 2015


It is really sad to see  two earthquakes (in less than a fortnight) hitting Nepal . I thank all colleagues who have been contributing to the Humanitarian Open Street Map's http://hotosm.org/  relief efforts for this. The Humanitarian Open Street Map Team applies the principles of open source and open data sharing for humanitarian response and economic development. These efforts are greatly helping relief efforts in Nepal  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32603870

I am especially grateful for the work and relief efforts being done by our colleagues in Open Source Geospatial Lab at Kathmandu University  in these challenging circumstances and may God help them to help others in need. 


Two earthquakes in just over a fortnight in Nepal is a time for all of us to think on how we all can contribute to better capacity building in national/regional/local levels globally to help with not only relief efforts but also be better prepared for  combating natural disasters from earthquakes to flooding to landslides . Especially there is very limited capacity in geospatial technologies  in developing countries as many of the developing countries do not even have local capacity  or ability to buy expensive properitory GIS software tools needed. That is why is it very important that there is local capacity build in all countries using free and open technologies and principles. So making geospatial education opportunities assessible to all is key long term aim that we all should work together.

Preparedness is key for managing these kind of disasters and capacity building at  national, regional and local level is important and we need to more engage with United Nations community for this. In 2012 and 2014 we have organised hands on  workshop "Open Source GIS & WebMapping for UN staff" in Vienna, Austria . It was organized on behalf of the Commission on Open Source Geospatial Technologies of the International Cartographic Association (ICA). Barend Kobben  (University of Twente) was the course organisor for this.

http://kartoweb.itc.nl/kobben/SOMAP-OSGEO-workshop/  (2014 Workshop )
http://kartoweb.itc.nl/kobben/SOMAP-OSGEO-workshop/report2012.html  (2012 Workshop )

So i suggest as a community we plan the following actions:

1. We will need to expand these Open GIS and Open Data training programs for UN staff globally. We should  build upon ideas from   International Map Year (IMY) http://internationalmapyear.org activities led by the International Cartographic Association (ICA) and supported by the United Nations  with the aim to provide opportunities to  making and using maps and geographic information to actually focus on this aspect of capacity building also. It is important the capacity building is there at the local level to make this effective. 

2.  Planning ideas of getting students doing GIS programs in universities worldwide to contribute to the Missing Maps projects of Humanitarian Open Street Map Team  http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Missing_Maps_Project  to help map the most vulnerable places in the developing world, in order that international and local NGOs, and individuals can use the maps and data to better respond to crises affecting the areas. It can be a hands on exercise (one session minimum) as part of the GIS curriculum. 

I got so many emails from lot of faculty worldwide who contributed to the Nepal mapping efforts. A lecturer in Southern Methodist University, USA (Jessie Zarazaga) emailed "Thank you  for sharing the opportunity to participate. It pushed me into action, and we held a very successful Map-In on Friday at the school of engineering.My students were proud to be able to do even something small to help.And next time they will be even better positioned to play their part." 

Thank you Jessie Zarazaga for your mail . Your mail has inspired me to think of actions for the long term and to ensure that we will be able to train and develop  a new generation of cartographers and geographic information scientists with the skills needed to take action globally.

All colleagues and volunteers who have contributed for the Humanitarian Open Street Map Team's efforts are our "Geo for All" Heros. 

Best wishes,


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