• Simosol Oy

How to help people around the world by mapping

One of our developers, Jan Pišl, arranged an event called mapathon in Helsinki, Finland at the end of February. But what is mapathon and why is it important? Let’s give Jan a chance to tell more about the concept!


What is mapathon?


”Mapathon is a coordinated mapping event where people get together to work on a common task. These tasks are often focused on supporting humanitarian response where – and when – it is needed. For example, in case of a natural disaster like an earthquake or a tsunami, mapathons are often organized to map human settlements and roads so that critical areas can be identified and food, drinking water or medication can be quickly and effectively distributed”, explains Jan.


“There are many other cases where having an accurate and up-to-date map of some region is important, for example Poverty Elimination, Public Health, Refugee Response, and Gender Equality.”


The mapping itself is done on computers or laptops with the assistance of satellite imagery. No expertise or previous knowledge is needed. Anyone can map on their own, too, at any time.


The mapping itself is done on computers or laptops with the assistance of satellite imagery. No expertise or previous knowledge is needed. Anyone can map on their own, too, at any time.


How about organizing? What does it take?


”Organizing a mapathon is simple, anyone can do it. Perhaps the most challenging part is to attract people to join. Other than that, one just needs to find a suitable place with good Wi-Fi, tables, chairs, and sockets to charge laptops, and then select a topic. It is a good practice to select a task only a few days before the event because they can change quite quickly”, Jan points out.


The tasks can be found at tasks.hotosm.org where they are uploaded by experts. You can filter tasks based on priority, project they are related on, mapping difficulty, region, etc.


”You can find all information required at http://www.missingmaps.org/host/. There is also a list of people that can help with organizing mapathons or answer questions.”


The mapathon was held at the Aalto Design Factory in Otaniemi.


Where did the idea come from?


Jan tells: ”I had been attending mapathons before and I wanted to promote the idea, particularly among students at my university (Aalto University). I chose the tasks for this mapathon to support the initiative #map2endfgm (FGM stands for Female Genital Mutilation). This initiative maps rural parts of the world, often Africa, where FGM is common. Having these areas mapped helps local authorities to reach girls at risk on time, since they are often in remote areas. During the mapathon, we focused on mapping a part of northern Tanzania. There were 19 attendees working on the maps.”


Jan and the other attendees did approximately 45 man hours of mapping at the event. These efforts will enable better and quicker reaction of non-governmental organizations and local authorities when they are informed FGM is to be performed. It also allows them to reach the local people and educate them about FGM, it's illegal status, and health hazards.


”This is why mapping is important – one can easily make an effort to help people and make the world a bit better place to live in”, Jan summarizes.

© 2020 by Simosol Oy

(+358) 44 0405859 | Riihimäki, Finland

  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White YouTube Icon
  • White Facebook Icon