I have been mapping the little village Tchankada of my friend Cyprien in Benin lately. It’s not much work, but it was exciting enough for them to have their village mapped for the first time, it caused a wild story night.
Shortly after this, I contacted another person that mapped in this region, because having a local person helping can be useful for others as well. His main concern was to know the street names of the many streets around there.
There aren’t any.
My friend’s house is known by the family name inside the village, and the bigger municipality receives their mail at a post box in Cotonou. When he studied, and I mailed something to him, I used the post box of his university, and that arrived well.
For a long time, I was completely unaware about where my friend lived. Any description fell short. It’s also really hard to explain lat/long to local people, and the lat long I did receive was way off. Until my friend started to use my quickly hacked together app https://whenwhere.cf, which is basically a proof of concept for OLC for offline usage without maps. It worked brilliantly! I found his place on the map and he walked to some other places as well to add them to the map. He used it before in Cotonou to find the place back where he was before.
There is an issue on the OSM website github to get support for these codes, which are completely free as in free software, including patent protection through the APL, without need for attribution, directly into this very website. Because the system was designed by Google Zürich, concerns were raised about adding proprietary stuff. This is not only provably false, but the system is also so very simple that I could implement proof of concept support for these codes as a bookmarklet (they can be found on https://github.com/lapingvino/olc-tools). Also, in Cabo Verde, the postal services already officially uses OLC. And Google added support to Google Maps so people can navigate to them like any normal address. My little proof of concept mentioned before should be enough to show that this is no secret proprietary Google Magic.
I think it’s really important to get support for OLC to many, many more tools, not only because many people are not only without maps, but also without any usable address, but also because many people are running to What3words to solve this problem instead. This IS a proprietary system that would leave many people suddenly without an address again if in any case this company falls down. I don’t want to see that happen to anyone…
Please tell me your thoughts about the problems of not having street and house numbers, and about supporting an open solution for this officially in OSM.