On November 21, 2021. I completed three intense and joyful days of virtual attendance to the State of Map Africa Conference 2021. First and foremost, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the organisers for thinking outside the box and planning this successful event despite the world being stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to all of the organisers, volunteers, presenters, and attendees for making the event a success.

Three days for the whole virtual conference was plenty in terms of internet data; my deepest gratitude goes to the conference organisers and sponsors for awarding me and other scholarship recipients to attend. For many of us, the data scholarship was a game-changer, as internet costs are still extremely costly and unaffordable in many African countries.

Apart from bringing together GIS experts from around the world, the conference served as an important learning opportunity for all of us with an interest in GIS who, despite not being experts, have found careers using GIS and OSM tools, which we use daily to solve the most pressing social problems, particularly humanitarians issues.

This year’s conference was unique in that it included a wide range of topics and industries from which presentations were given, allowing for cross-pollination among participants from a learning perspective to collaboratively solve human problems. Furthermore, the conference was extremely beneficial to new mappers like me, as I learned about and was taught how to utilise other OSM tools that are effective in mapping through various presentations. Claire’s demonstration of Street Complete, Map Roulett, and OSMOSE was like exposing a new baby to the sun for the first time! I just finished filling Waoo!

The Ghana Mapathon Sessions, presented by OSM Ghana, were another standout event for me during the conference. The inventiveness behind the session piqued my curiosity since the organisers and hostesses created numerous rooms based on mappers’ mother tongue languages! What do you think? I followed the mapathon, which was led by a speaker who spoke “Swahili Language,” a language spoken by 150 million people around the world. Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Comoros Islands are the major Swahili-speaking countries. Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi, and Somalia all have small communities.

Throughout the sensitivities for all three days, there was a consistent obstacle that was cited by the majority of the mappers, which was the difficulty in obtaining devices such as smartphones and laptops to do the mapping. Bandira AddisMap’s session was mostly viewed as a response to the aforementioned problem. This business adds to the value of OSM data. In the OSM community, these guys are really game-changers.

Last but not least, I’d want to share with the OSM community Patricia Solist’s words from the conference closing remarks: “We should define our world by mapping it,” and to be able to archive this, we have a very noble responsibility to develop additional mappers who will continue to define our world.

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