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, 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 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.

Comment from Tchankada-Cyprien on 27 May 2019 at 13:22

Thank you my friend Joop for this work which you did with me by maping my village . Firstly it seems to me hard difficult when you were talking about the process, but praticaly it easy and simply to do , i think that without OCL , we can”t do that . It will be awesome if OCL will be suported.

Cyprien Guiya (Benin/ Toviklin/Tchankada)..!

Comment from pizzaiolo on 27 May 2019 at 21:42

Support for OLC would indeed be awesome!

Comment from Warin61 on 28 May 2019 at 07:32

For mapping Cannot OCL be implemented in the render? As OCL is just a translation of Lat/long and Lat/long is already present in OSM it should not be necessary to duplicate the location information in OSM, just translate it to OCL when rendering.. For entering data This too is a translation problem .. but how many would map with OCL? Are they not using devices that already use Lat/long???

Scanning through the Gitty hub thingy … looks to me like OCL could be implemented by the interfaces .. it does not need to go into the OSM data base. So it is a matter of convincing one render to do it for the output side.

Comment from Adamant1 on 28 May 2019 at 22:57

I’m sure its a massive can of worms, but id be interested to know what holds back local governments in places without addresses from implementing them. Maybe if someone here is from one of those places they could get in involved civics and figure it out. Not I don’t think OLC is bad or anything, but to me OSM is as much a “map what’s there to know what’s missing and fix it” project as anything. Just my thoughts.

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