rupertmaesglas's Diary

Recent diary entries

I’ve been invited to go to Jordan to consult on a new OSM project involving Jordan’s Royal Scientific Society, the local Youthmappers chapter in Amman, and the Princess Sumaya University, coordinated/commissioned by the UNESCO research chair, Science Communicator Iain Stewart.

The location is Asraq (think Lawrence of Arabia, and ancient Petra; the area sometimes called the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’. Over the centuries, the area has been settled and travelled by many people - from silk-road traders to Moses’s biblical journey, incoming 11th century Druze, to modern syrian refugees.

The wetlands have different cultural significance and inspire/necessitate different cultural practices for many ethnicities, and the now desert has gone through climatic and human-influenced changes which exemplify one of Jordan - and the planet’s - biggest challenges: water supply.

As with so many Disaster Risk environemnts, the problem is compound in nature: climate change has turned once fertile wetlands into desert, whilst Jordan’s excellent record of refugee hosting has meant massive population growth. Result: decreased supply and increased demand for water supply.

I’m looking forward to working with diverse local voices to understand how OpenStreetMap might present some solutions, and am expecting a fascinating mix attitude, behaviour and shared-interest around Water Resource mapping and with Community Asset mapping.

Informed by Public Health (NHS) Wales community mapping (COVID Resilience and Food Deserts), this pilot hopes to look at both logistical resource allocation and cultural behaviours around those resources, whilst allowing the community to have an ‘auto-ethnographic’ hand in practical, participatory solutions. Hopefully, the better public understanding of these under-represented resource-poor communities made vulnerable by the changing world might reveal digital answers to some age-old practical challenges. Any supporters/interested OSM-ers are very encouraged to get involved by getting in touch. My current challenge is editing in English, not Arabic. Watch this space!

Location: Al Azraq, Azraq Sub-District, Zarqa Qasabah, Zarqa, Jordan

Well, after a lot of field activity, introducing OpenStreetMap to Ugandan rural, humanitarian and govenmental communities in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and through conference presentations, Namibia and Tanzania, I finally decided to write a chapter about ‘Motorcycle Mapping’ - a concept and practice developed by Ivan Gayton (and myself) in West Africa, and scaled into Uganda under my watch as Country Manager.

The book in which this chapter appears was expected to attract a relatively niche market, until COVID happened globally, and a newly-found interest in Data Ethics was born out of various scandals around government treatment of COVID data in the UK.

Free downloads of the book are available:, and an abstract for my chapter can be found here:

For nearly a year, the government outbreak effort extensively overlooked humanitarian knowledge and experience on how to manage COVID data in the UK, but it seems they are consulting Epidemiologists now (including MSF).

During the last few months, COVID figures have been making headlines in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, and OpenStreetMap now has an opportunity and support to map the South Wales Valleys. I feel fortunate to have lived and worked in the Valleys in the 1990s, and am excited to be part of this venture. At time of writing, there is every chance that Merthyr Tydfil will see african refugees working in its streets and alleys, helping its community to map their own vulnerability metrics.

Location: Penydarren, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough, Wales, United Kingdom

Missing Maps is currently engaged in motorcycle mapping of the entire border regions between Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Here is an excerpt from my trip report from the first recruiting and training mission to Sierra Leone. Trip Report - Phase One




Training of Field Team Leaders in preparation for recruiting Volunnteer enumerators and performing Sierra Leone Mapping Project

Aims and Objectives:

As MSF consultant, deployed for the training of pre-recruited Field Team Leaders for the Missing Maps Border Project this training was designed to prepare FTLs for Volunteer Recruitment, to initiate the survey project, and to establish possible links and contacts by which to implement the phase two return visit. Prior to the trip, an important part of the project became the establishment of definitions of admin levels which could bring data-sets usefully in-line with those gathered in the Liberia and Guinea. Using FTL feedback,necessary adjustments were made in the field in order to leave a workable community survey prototype survey form as a guide for recruiting and training.

Day 1 (Wednesday, 4th May)

Red Cross Introductions (Abridged due to time constraints) Hand-over to Rupert Presentation: Missing Maps Introduction (the global picture) Descriptions and locations using and evaluating map-reading skills (‘Where am I from?’) Introductions to Smart Phones, Presentation two and Introduction to ODK Introduction to OSMAND and tracking Study Of Maps, Home Address and Admin Levels, and FTL Introduction to their ‘Territory’ Subsequent Discussion of Area Coverage for each FTL, and Personal Field Survey Boundaries to be completed as homework Discussion of Missing Sections in Survey and Listings, to be completed as homework

Day 2 (Thursday, 5th May)

Group Presentation of Survey areas, and work plan concept. ODK forms, and initial data-collection of Red Cross Moto, Locations and Guesthouse forms Demonstration of form after modification, and tweaking Recruiting Volunteers, Refresher on ODK – Group Work, evaluation, and commentary Connectivity, Uploading and Servers Demonstration with Edison ODK Aggregate Local Community visits – into ‘Slum’ Area (counter-productive to some extent because of orchestration of community meeting, but valuable nevertheless) Ad-hoc surveys taken on return from ‘Slum’ Surveys – much more useful as an exercise. Round-up and Close

Day 3 (Friday, 6th May)

Review forms and techniques Head out to rural area (This was too far away, and took up valuable classroom time. We finally did our first survey at 1230hrs, having called candidates for 0730hrs!) Demo Interview with Community Head Split off into groups around community Re-convene, evaluation, good feedback on ‘close-down/termination of interview’ work-arounds. Road/Travel barrier survey on return (Photo Option Used) Travel Back, and Debrief More Practise Sessions and Q&A about field Prep Red Cross Briefing on Branch Officer/Local Protocols Random Tutorials (e.g. Phone Tethering, Wireless Hotspots, Tech Hardware Interface) Course Feedback End


Course feedback was very good, which was satisfying. The prep-time allowed me by the delays proved to have been well-used, and I was extremely encouraged by the week’s progress. I have high hopes for the FTLs, who are already demonstrating initiative, creativity, dedication and commitment. The WhatsApp group I have set up is well-used, and serves as a Log of Activity, as well as a meeting point across cultures and job-roles. Overall, it was soon realised that ability and capacity amongst FTLs was probably better that those recruited in both Guinea and Liberia. FTL selection was probably easy, as it was clearly done on the basis of Red Cross members who had been in Community Outreach (Mobilisation) and Logging (Data-Collection) during the Ebola Outbreak period. FTLs had used Android-based apps before for the implementation of the ‘Safe and Dignified Burial’ Program, and were familiar with ODK-style interface, due to some familiarity with ‘Magpie’.

Motivation and project ownership were seen as important for the development of good practice, and I attempted to engage the candidates in some advanced activities such as Data Submission, Device Optimisation, and Form-Building Admin/Div discussion.

As a result of this, I am confident that the current prototype form deals with admin levels effectively, as I was able to adjust and trial the questions with the FTLs during field trainings, adjusting in the evenings. I saw this as a great achievement of our training week, a week which was punctuated with stark reminders of what the FTLs and their communities had been through in their battle against the terrifying Ebola disaster.

Technical Report:

The Public holiday issue was worked-around. Generator: Sometimes and issue, as always, in class. MSF overnight charging and internet was an issue. (Generator in MSF House off between 0000hrs and 0600hrs.) Projectors were used in tandem – one for presentation, the other for phone demonstration. The method of linking it with my Sony Experia Z1 was very very useful for teaching. I benefitted from my own personal investment of two Experias. (we couldn’t figure out the Blu Phone interface, but only because we were rushing) I bought some cheap USB 12v - 5v chargers from the ‘Pound Shop’ in London, which I gave to the FTLs in their packs to trial on the motorbike batteries. I am awaiting feedback. Each FTL was given a pack of stationery, a set of maps (waterproof ink on plain paper, for annotation-capacity), and a waterproof Map-Tube. I also gave them each a backup USB with all classroom and form versions on, after careful consideration of their technical abilities. I will use their responsible use of these to evaluate further delegations of equipment, tools and skills during phase two.


In conjunction with agreed initial Red Cross terms of reference, I am recommending that we maintain our initial plan to reconvene with our Field Team Leaders on 30th May for a de-briefing day or two.

Subject to adjustments from the Hub and/or American Red Cross, we then meet with all of the volunteers gathered, and enter the selection process of shortlisting and Field Training during the week leading up to Friday June 3rd.

It was agreed that volunteers recruited by the FTLs would number approximately twice the number needed (i.e. sixty). These volunteers will need to be brought to the capital, housed, and those not selected compensated and returned. The remaining selected will then need to be housed and provided-for for the rest of the week.

On Saturday 4th June, all those participating will need to be transported back to trainings in regional areas, in which MSF trainers Pete Masters, Nick Allen, and Rupert Allan will provide field-support across the districts, individually based in Kenema and Kambia MSF facilities. It should be noted that extra support will almost certainly need to be given to the Bombali District, where it feels as if we are short-staffed. FTLs Mohamed and Sulaiman are attempting to combine coverage of this area between themselves. It may be that requests are made for extra volunteers.

Here is some video footage of Red Cross reportage on Sierra Leone’s Northern Border in Kambia District: [Kambia Border Challenges][]

What an interesting Mapathon. A real brainstorm for policy on how to deal with how Neighbourhoods which cross wards will be mapped. Rob Scott showed us how to share ‘ways/relations/boundaries’ by using Overpass Turbo to export the admin levels into JOSM. Sarah Wise and Tom Hills took up the batten, which was not easy. Rob insisted that we work out these ways of tagging ‘Parcels’ of land with shared boundaries, and it was true that although little was inputted, we now have clear strategy. Below is a summary from email correspondence:

Hey Tom and Sarah.

Hope the following fits with what Sarah has down from last night here:

I will double-check once my emails are answered, but please feed back.

Great that you’re getting time to do stuff, Tom. This is indeed the issue that we came up against, and which led to that slightly esoteric venture into Ways, Relations and Boundaries. I am adjusting the levels a bit from yesterday. Also, I think it may be good to let those who want to just tag the houses and leave the boundaries. Better for the newbies like me. I’ll ask for feedback on this, tooo, from the community.

Sometimes, the away to find and address consists in upper levels, sometimes in lower.

In these cases, indeed the whole case of Epworth, we need to ‘live with’ gaps in the Address Chain at certain levels. Sometimes occupied by qualifiers, sometimes blank, because admin levels are not consistent in the addressing system. So let them be pushed and let’s create the space. Rule of thumb is to ‘shunt’ the values up or down to line-up and leave gaps in the value fields which become empty. This would be a true rendering. I think my team-mate Kieran would concur. (I will post and hope for confirmation.) So yes, option 3. Create a new level: ‘subdistrict’.

So the address chain is: Ward=2, Neighbourhood=Makomo(to be tagged in ‘ways/relations’ as ‘Metropole’ level 0), Area=Makomo Extension (to be tagged at ‘Metropole’ Level 1), Subdistrict/Cell= for example ‘M’ - a qualifier for the part of the neighbourhood, which is present on some field papers (to be tagged Met. Level 2) Street/Hamlet (to be tagged at Met.Level 3) - for example ‘=Chinamo’, ‘Parcel’ or Block which is the Proper Name/Number/Identity of the parcel of land. If there is a name, consent has been sought and given, and this is the equivalent of a ‘community head’, to be included in the ‘name’. I will try to link you up with the trello page. Also I will try to post this on there and the HOT mailing list.

Hope this helps.


On 17/06/2015 12:56, Thomas Hills wrote: > Hi Rupert, > I hope you’re well. Sorry to pester you so soon after yesterday with questions about Missing Maps! > I don’t have anyone else’s email addresses so if you could pass this around everyone else that would be brilliant. > I’ve had a look at my field papers and there seems to be an overlap between Neighbourhood and Area. Roughly half my papers use Makomo Extension as a neighbourhood (i.e. addr:neighbourhood) and half as an area (i.e. addr:hamlet). > This wouldn’t be such a problem but it then pushes the other designations out of defined categories. > An example: > Our categories are area\neighbourhood\name. > In some papers, I have Makomo\Makomo Ext\name. (e.g. NW M6) > In others, I have Makomo Ext\neighbourhood\name. (e.g. NW M9) > So we need to determine how to work this out. I think there are three options: > 1) Makomo Ext, etc are neighbourhoods. The extra info can be put in as, e.g. “addr:neighbourhood = Makomo Extension/Chinamano.” > 2) Makomo Ext etc are areas. The extra info can be put in as, e.g. “addr:hamlet = Makomo/Makomo Ext” > 3) We create a new level (addr:subdistrict perhaps). Any ‘extensions’ go in here, and this way all info has a category. > I don’t mind which method we use - I don’t use the maps and I’m not an experiences OSMmer so I’d be reticent to give an opinion, > Cheers, > Tom

We now have a considerable proportion of the body of Epworth Field Papers, and we are hoping to start inputting as soon as possible.

We ran into some interesting issues in Epworth, to do with security, permissions and consent. We are working on the Wiki page for the job, and on which administrative levels to use. Rather than using, or ‘imposing’ external frameworks onto the randomised address system, it was important to have datasets which reflected the ‘oral/institutional’ memory of those on the ground delivering or directing help. Epworth’s way of locating people for patient tracing (HIV and other ongoing treatments) is locked and protected in the memories of our workers on the ground.

This set of data has been carefully thought-out in order only to add to, and not to compromise, the well-being and resilience of this massively under-censussed and under-represented population.

Join us on 16th to get the data into JOSM and online.

Zimbabwe Blog:

We shall be playing with GPX traces, mapillary and Water Surveys on the night, and are still looking for the venue.