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The history of HOT US Inc governance - not to be replicated in OSMF

Posted by sev_osm on 10 December 2017 in English (English)

(EN automatic translation below)

Durant la campagne pour les élections 2017 au board de l'OSM, je suis intervenu par trois fois sur la liste de discussion OSMF :

  • ce premier courriel en anglais dans lequel je montre la faible implication de Heather Leson dans OSM depuis 2011.

  • ce deuxième courriel intitulé " Language, tone and their explanations - why I resigned from HOT US Inc", rédigé en français et traduit en anglais, pour expliquer le ton employé dans le premier via notamment ma lettre de résignation de HOT US Inc en 2016, que j'ai publié dans mon précédent billet de blog

  • ce troisième courriel intitulé "The history of HOT US Inc governance - not to be replicated in OSMF" qui contient le lien vers un document, lui aussi rédigé en français et traduit en anglais, retraçant les graves soucis de gouvernance dans le board de HOT US Inc pendant la période durant laquelle j'en étais membre (mars 2014 à janvier 2016)

During the campaign for the 2017 elections on the board of the OSM, I spoke three times on the OSMF mailing list:

  • this first email in English in which I show the weak involvement of Heather Leson in OSM since 2011.

  • this second email titled "Language, tone and their explanations - why I resigned from HOT US Inc." written in French and translated into English, to explain the tone used in the first via including my letter of resignation of HOT US Inc in 2016, which I published in my [previous blog post] (https: //

  • this third email titled "The History of HOT US Inc Governance - not to be replicated in OSMF" which contains the link to a document, also written in French and translated into English, tracing the serious governance concerns in the board of HOT US Inc during the period during which I was a member (March 2014 to January 2016)

Leaving the HOT US Corporation

Posted by sev_osm on 1 December 2017 in English (English)

Here is the letter of resignation that I had sent to the HOT US Inc members on May 5, 2016 (more context can be found in my next diary entry):


I hereby resign from as a HOT US Inc member with immediate effects.

Some recent members may not know me, but I have been active in HOT US Inc, as well as other OSM projects for more than 5 years ago now, both in remote activations, training and field work over more than 20 countries.

My main motivation is that HOT US Inc, despite its storytelling, is not a community driven project, it is a just a very classic Corporation run by a board whose aims are far from openness, truthfulness and respect of differences that should lead an OSM project involved in humanitarian and development fields. And as I do think it even represents a real danger for OpenStreetMap, I do not want to endorse and be in collusion with it. Considering how much I worked to make HOT US Inc successful in some ways, I let this organization totally sickened by what it became. I guess I am not the only one: some huge contributors have already silently stepped out for the exact same reasons.

The triumvirate that quickly emerged within the native English speakers from the 2015 board made the meetings a real pain for a non native EN speaker like me. Talking as fast as they can, which does not allow you to catch everything as you would like or quickly enough to everything that is implied by the decision to make. Not agreeing with them and sometimes opposing their views means disrespectful behaviors being frequently cut when you try to express yourself in their native language, your past contribution totally diminished, your ideas sometimes qualified as ridiculous and every time of the reproach the meetings are unpleasant because of you.

Be really aware of this: you simple members are not informed of the most crucial topics, that are decided and managed backstage. Yes working groups have been really launched in 2014 after 15 members or so cosigned a Manifesto to make things change radically. WG were one of the proposed actions items, but not only. They now do act, but on a limited frame, the one of the Corporation. Nothing that could renew it. And when something is considered as being crucial, comes the incredible point where there is a discussion within the board about how to inform the members the most minimalistic possible way to the point they will not understand what is really at stake. And generally the one and only Corporation adviser so far is requested to provide feedback and rewording on this. Easy to do: since 2014, absolutely no board discussion are opened to anyone outside the board, whatever the matter, the notes are very short to the point you cannot understand well what are all the components at stake and of course, anything that could make react the members (I do not talk about confidential personal matters, but crucial community points) is quickly labeled as confidential. It was really surprising and unpleasant for me to discover that when I have been elected in the board in 2014 that secrecy and lies were core within the board toward the membership.

First example : the HOT trademark. It has been a long time HOT US Inc distorts some basic OSM components, eg with the hot mailing, basically an list that became a corporate list where people can be blacklisted just because their mails (whatever their arguments may have sense or not) could un-please partners of the NGO and not a mailing list depending on the OSMF and ruled by classic mailing rules, this being actually decided by one single person. The HOT Trademark is one big step forward. It has never been discussed or even explained to the members. An initiative of Mikel Maron backed by the majority of the board in 2014. This has not even been presented first to the OSMF, that has been informed when the process was still started. The OSMF has been really upset with it and sent a clear cease letter to the HOT Board. Nonetheless the process has been continued (!), and the majority of the 2015 board confirmed the decision of the 2014 board not to inform the HOT US Inc membership, because it could (obviously, and hopefully!) generate strong reactions. This process has been disclosed only by the OSMF itself on its list inside a thread about HOT US Inc. The people mapping with HOT US Inc tools still do not know they help creating an corporate OSM trademark. With the increase of Hotties in the OSMF board, the tactic seems now to make it adopt from the OSMF itself.

Second example: the budget gap.

If you read the report from the last Membership call you can find these words:

“Found a budget gap in 2015 found, but also note funding gaps are very common and normal, just not ideal”:

It reads as if everything was normal, under control and that the situation would be totally safe for the last and the current years. This is totally typical how HOT US Inc has been building storytellings that do not match the facts. This also does not reflect the current state of HOT US Inc.

Yes the Board had voted a negative budget for 2015, assuming expected grants that would have covered the missing money. But does this have been monitored and under control all along the year? Absolutely not.

On September 11, a big financial issue arose, when basically it has been figured out the org had only a bit of money left in its account, but was supposed to run activities for months with this.

This is not something that can be qualified as “normal”. This is basically, by far far far, the biggest issue HOT US Inc has faced from its beginning. It was totally unexpected, and of course the board was totally freak out and had an exceptional meeting during which two main things were decided:

1 Mitigate the situation as best as possible and drastic cuts have been very quickly decided within paid positions when possible and some expenses canceled. Eg no in person board meeting last year.

2 Inform clearly the membership about the situation. From my experience of how the organization has been communicating with the membership for the last two years, I emphasized that the board should not “hide” it. The triumvirate was almost offended by this word. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened.

Here is the original message that was supposed to be sent:

We are writing to update you on changes and challenges that are facing the community.

We have a significant cash flow problem that the Board and Executive Director are working hard to solve. Unfortunately, this has lead to some very difficult decisions and hard choices. HOT is releasing some of its staff to get on a better financial foundation. We are also investigating other ways to pay for administration needs to continue to support HOT.

No one involved in the process is happy with the situation, we want and expect this to be a temporary situation and look forward to carrying on our important work in 2016 and beyond. Added: we will be asking for your help to build some plans. It is our dream to have a larger HOT Summit in the coming year. While we are focused on the immediate tasks, we are also keep supporting this amazing global community.

But on October 2, the message eventually sent to the membership was the following:

We are writing to update you on changes and challenges that are facing the HOT community and organization.

NGOs often have times when there are funds to raise and plans to change. HOT is no different. We are working to improve our financial oversight and organizational development. And, we are making some changes to our policies and practices to build a more sustainable organization. Over the past 5 years, HOT has been primarily a project funded organization with no very limited unrestricted funds. This pattern and HOT’s operating costs have made it difficult to grow as quickly as we would like. We have drafted some initial plans on this front, which we hope you will help guide.

This makes quite a difference, isn't it? Significant cash flow problem […] HOT is releasing some of its staff to get on a better financial foundation VS improve our financial oversight and organizational development.

Since, the Operations budget gap has been being mitigated by drastic cuts + the fundraising, that has purposely been made to fill the gap, not for future projects and has never been presented as such. Once the Operation budget mitigation improved, figures have been eventually shared with the membership through the 2016 Operations Budget, along the story it was not ideal but normal, and supposedly everything was under control.

Is the situation safe now? Not really.

Apart the Operations budget, everyone should know that there are also grants for each donor funded tech or field project, and actually this is where the financial gap is the largest. End of September 2015, HOT US Inc should still have approximately USD152,000 for activities still to be done or to be returned for one large multiple years project, while the bank account was around only USD10K. As a former Senior Project Manager for 5 funded projects for HOT US Inc (STM020 in Haiti, EUROSHA in Central and Eastern Africa, CAP103 in Haiti, UB_ICT4D in Mongolia and Lower Shire Community Mapping in Malawi), it will remain amazing for me how such a budget swift may have occurred, representing almost 25% of the total grant. A USD33,000 planned payment by the donor on last November allowed to postpone the cash flow issue and temporarily hide the situation, but as the project will come to its end on October 31 this year, this is obviously a huge issue.

The membership has never been informed about this situation and I guessed it would not be even the case for this board elections,

This is totally unfair and harmful to distort the reality and hide such issues to the membership, because:

1 you do not build common knowledge and experience so that this kind of situation is avoided in the future. Over 2 years the people from the board can completely change and an Executive Director can leave in only two months. And the same lack of minimal financial oversight can occur again. As well, some skilled members could have helped to mitigate the situation (as suggested in the initial informing draft) but the organization lost this potential support.

2 you do not inform the future board candidates about a hard situation they will discover only once after being elected and have to deal with and solve.

3 basically the O of HOT comes from OpenStreetMap that includes Open, seems that many forget this, and completely distort the facts are certainly far from this.

Of course, being involved in such lies has been a real pain for me. Of course, I was in strong disagreement with the way these topics were handled, from the moment I figured out that what was not supposed to be hidden would actually be. But the fast speaking majority imposes its views and you are due to shut your mouth. Otherwise you are wrong, and you are basically a bad person, just because it was a majority board decision, whatever it can be harmful for the OSM project from people with little experience or concern about openness or OSM, that does not matter at all. At all.

You can imagine the dilemma for someone who campaigned very clearly about openness transparency to be involved in such practices. Retrospectively, I would like to have reacted differently, to organize immediately special meetings to make this known immediately.

I eventually reacted this way when I disclosed to someone unaware of a complaint made towards him by the Board president because of concerns made about many Hotties running for the OSMF election and having his case being processed without even being informed of this complaint, in the most amateur, Kafka style way I would never have been able to foresee. This was the motive immediately used by the triumvirate to ask for me being put off the board. I do not regret this disclosure at all, on the contrary I am proud of it: on a personal side, at last I acted as I should have done regarding my declaration when candidate, whatever it costs me; on a community side, this could show to some members how this board violently reacts when its bad behaviors are pointed out. This is just the beginning: the reinforcement of the code of conduct will provide easier possibilities to hammer some discording voices and let the “awesome” storytelling and the big business goes on. So, for whoever would like to renew or simply improve it, good luck. Other tried, and did not manage it, like myself. You will figure out a small group of people with loooong agendas actually run this organization. And they bite hard.

But hopefully HOT US Inc is not the only way to trigger OSM in the humanitarian and development fields. It has actually even quite reduced its potential over the three last years. And basically OSM is a sum of small initiatives. It does not need a mogul Corporation to be effective. Fly with your own wings.



Elections for the HOT US Board 2015: Conflict of Interest Statement

Posted by sev_osm on 21 March 2015 in English (English)

Since February 2011, I had worked as a contractor for HOT US in a series of short term assignments in Haiti and Africa as a Project Manager (I can provide the whole list if anyone interested or feel necessary). The last one before March 2014 was as Senior Field Coordinator during 6 weeks in a training and field collection project for ICT4D (Information and Communications Technologies for Development) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia between October and November 2013 + 56 hours of remote support (14 have been completed).

Between March 2014 and March 2015,

  • I have been a contractor for HOT as the Team Leader for a training and community mapping project in Lower Shire, Malawi for GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery) during 8 weeks + 120 hours of remote support. The contractual time is over now, I volunteer to follow up with the local interns that will finish their work by April
  • I worked as a freelancer on OSM and GIS projects in documentation (first version of an Opendata GIS handbook), event facilitation (OSM booth in Casablanca Summerlab) and short term (1 to 3 weeks each) training and community building projects in French Speaking Countries in Western and Central Africa (Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Mali) for OIF (International Organization of Francophonie) or OIF contractors ((Association Malienne pour l’Eveil au Développement Durable - AMEDD and Association pour le Développement de l'Informatique Libre - ADIL). Those actions have been part of the OIF support to the Projet Espace OSM Francophone (ProjetEOF) in compliance with HOT US conflict of interests (COI) policy and practises.
  • I also lectured around OSM and GIS in two French Universities (one paid, one volunteered) and one Senegalese Engineering School (volunteered)

In 2015, the HOT internship in Mongolia, that had been delayed due to the internal reorganization of the local partnering University, should eventually start in April and I may there complete the remaining 42 remaining hours as part of my contract.

If elected, as a board member, I will be acting in 2015 in compliance with HOT US conflict of interests (COI) policy and practises: informing the Board and excusing myself from the discussion and/or vote in case of COI.

Running again for the Board of the HOT US NGO in 2015

Posted by sev_osm on 11 March 2015 in English (English)

My Bio

I am a French GIS expert with 15 years of professional expertise and backgrounds in Geography, Geomatics applied to Prehistory and History, Humanitarian and Development. I have been working in GIS since 2000, respectively as a GIS Officer in Local Government/Authorities (France), as a PhD student in Archeology (France and Brazil), as a GIS Officer in United Nations Organizations (OCHA, PAHO and IOM in Haiti and WHO in Pakistan), then as a volunteer, project manager and finally Officer of the Board of the US-incorporated NGO HOT US Inc.

In Local Government, I had the opportunity to work as a project lead on census operations and census data, ordering orthophotos, running call for bids for electing webmapping application, sub-building a cadastre scale urban landuse, geocoding at building scale, chasing and georeferencing old aerial pictures, etc. I acquired an inner and thorough knowledge about how the geographic information is processed and handle by governments and local authorities at multiple scales, and I could measure the constraints and limits of non open data, limiting the possibilities of analysis and data cross-cuts. I always studied at the same time: made researches about geography of car construction, learnt remote sensing during a year and also started a complete course of prehistory, thus participated to excavations or field analysis in Syria, France and Greece. Even there, my focus is not only based on the technical analysis of archaeological remains (stone tools, pottery sherds...), but also on spatial and statistical analysis.

I was working on a PhD about an unknown civilization of first farmers in Eastern Brazil, analyzing pottery sherds, stone tools and other remains, when the earthquake hit Haiti. Then I both discovered OSM through mapping the affected areas and decided to apply for a GIS position in the humanitarian organizations deployed for the response and came eventually at the UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Information Management and GIS office through iMMAP in February. In March, I met for the first time the Hotties deployed in the country (Nicolas, Robert and Kate) and help them the best I could to organize training or to facilitate their meetings with a few stakeholders. I remained working as a consultant for two years (Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization, International Organization for Migrations) but joined HOT (that had become a NGO meanwhile) in early 2011 for mapping + community building project in Haiti, and basically I have been keeping on working within the HOT Project until now as a volunteer, as a project manager on a given projects and also as a Board member (2014).

My HOT and OSM year in 2014

In 2014, I have been have involved in various activities:

  • As a Board Officer of HOT US
  • As a Project manager for HOT US, I co-designed with Kate Chapman and coordinated the implementation HOT Community Mapping and training project in Lower Shire, Malawi during two months (August and September) working with Maning Sambale and Emir Hatarto.
  • As a member of the community of the HOT project, I have coordinated primarily the CAR activation (completing almost the mapping of this country) and secondarily the South Sudan and Malawi activations, I supported other activations (mapping and mobilizing for mapping) in support of other crisis and also facilitated the Activation WG meetings
  • Within the Projet EOF, I co-authored a technical and an organizational guides around OSM ; I am specifically proud of an open data GIS guidebook that will be hosted in FlossManuals soon
  • With Nicolas, I coordinated the Projet EOF activities and had the opportunity to deploy in many countries: in Burkina Faso (May), Morocco (October), Ivory Coast (October), Chad (November), Senegal (November), Mali (December).
  • I spoke and/or did outreach about the projects OSM, HOT and EOF in various events Conférence Humanitaire (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Quai d’Orsay), State Of the Map France (Paris), UN GIS Day (Geneva), Salon Des Solidarités (Paris), SOTM (Buenos Aires).

My Vision for the HOT Board in 2015

This is the vision that Nicolas and I have for the Board of HOT US in 2015. Work is ongoing to produce and release a collective version from individual statements that will guide our action in 2015 within the HOT Project. 2015 will de facto be a year of changes for HOT with:

  • On the one hand, the resignation of its ED and a majority of its former Board members.
  • On the other hand, the many candidacies with a diverse set of skills and varying levels of experience within the organization. It’s likely that a sound mix of people shall come out from this election.

If elected, my actions within the Board of Directors for HOT will be as follow:

My vision of what a Board member shall be doing

I’ll be using the many hats that my experience provided me with: strategy, project engineering (design/implementation), reporting, admin/business processes, outreach, networking, advising, grants writing/fundraising and the field-specific technical and organizational skills building local OSM communities developed in Haiti and Africa in the past 5 years.

My priority

My compass will be to ensure that our organization fosters its support to the growth of autonomous local OSM communities (made of individuals, groups, chapters and economic operators) and develop their ability to sustain relations amongst themselves (global-local, South-South, North-South) and with technical communities (OSM, free software and open data) as well as the humanitarian and development actors. My intention is to provide feedback from my field experience in many contexts and type of projects, including e.g. budget optimization to systematically encompass support for local emergent OSM communities.

Reinforce HOT US as a member-based organization by carrying out internally

  • Ensure that HOT is a transparent organization for its members who can attend all meetings (Board included) and access all meeting notes, communications and all the Organization documents (specifically finance, admin, projects) ; within of course the respect of privacy
  • Make of HOT an inclusive organization in terms of decision making ; specifically in project design tied to subventions, grants, or core funds
  • Make of HOT a learning organization for its members from voluntary contributions in Working Group down to project implementation which shall continue to primarily seek hotties' participation
  • Redefine relations and roles between the Board Of Directors and Operational staffs (ED and Project Managers). Ensure a shift towards a more active role for the Directors in strategy/planning/design/implementation/monitoring of operations and projects with the ED in charge of running the day to day business. Resume operations meeting (stopped in 2013) between the ED and Project Managers and introduce continued attendance by Board and WG representatives.

What the organization shall do

  • Consolidation of the Commons of the HOT Project (tools, documentation, communication, network) and design a Charter of the HOT Project to which HOT US, other regional HOT organizations and partners have to be compliant with
  • Consolidate capacities to support remotely humanitarian and development actors.
  • Expand again HOT on-the-ground presence (after its shrinking in 2014) in order to support humanitarian and development actors and grow local OSM communities. Assess and review the fundraising approach to tentatively succeed in securing core funds for the first time in 2015
  • Strengthen our neutrality/autonomy from large partner and funding organizations within the humanitarian and development fields
  • Ensure that the Organization benefit from continued advisory support through its members and Working Groups and/or in the form of ad hoc simple consultations of experts or through the form of advisory projects tailored to address a specific need of the organization

What is the HOT Project?

Historically, the HOT Project develops as follow :

  • It started first as a community made of individuals forming an informal collective from 2007 until the first field work in the 2010 Haiti response (March/May/June).
  • In Aug 2010, the HOT Project developed as a community coupled to a US-incorporated NGO, HOT US fulfilling the role of a de facto Humanitarian/Development chapter operating mostly through volunteerism and an economic operator relying for project implementation on a mix of paid and voluntary work.
  • In 2015, the HOT Project consists of a community, a chapter (HOT US) and economic operators (HOT US, TheMissingMap project and many others)

The components of the HOT project can be developed as follow:

  • A community of individuals involved through remote activations and field work far beyond the HOT US voting members and the stable core of active contributors
  • An associative component as a kind of Humanitarian/Development Chapter with HOT US, for voluntary activity around OSM in the Humanitarian and Development fields in the form of mapping, training, outreach, documentation and tools creation
  • Economic operators, including HOT US, using the business mechanisms (proposals, calls for bids) and raising funds to support the use of OSM in the Humanitarian and Development fields.

HOT US within the HOT Project

  • Organize the Decentralization/Regionalization of HOT US into autonomous HOT regional entities (both chapters and/or economic operators) able to operate worldwide. By so doing, they will comply with the HOT Project Charter (cf supra) and maintain and enrich the HOT Project Commons (cf supra) and seek coordination/cooperation synergies in running their voluntary or economic project-based activities.
  • Organize for HOT US to play the role of incubator for such a regionalization process and for the regional entities to share in return with HOT US the financial costs of maintaining the Commons of the HOT Project (through a project fees, for example like TheMissingMap project).
  • Organize the cooperation between HOT US, future emerging HOT regional entities and already existing partner entities (GroundTruth, TheMissingMaps, etc.) or projects like the Projet EOF. This will ensure that HOT US incubate/support (if needed) those entities and that mechanisms are in place for those entities to operate by the HOT Project Charter and its Commons and contribute with HOT US to those Commons
  • Organize/address the handling of conflicts of interest for Board members involved in professional uses of OSM

For a HOT Project combining a HOT Charter and HOT Commons

Posted by sev_osm on 10 May 2014 in English (English)

*Edit: big thanks to Charlotte Wolter for having kindly corrected and improved the English!

The use of OSM in humanitarian and development projects is growing, and more and more stakeholders are interested in this approach, impressed by the results it has shown since the earthquake in Haiti four years ago. OSM has, remotely, grown a significant community of volunteers who are mapping affected areas, especially with the Tasking Manager tool and with field projects led by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and several partners, stakeholders and individuals. The past criticism by some stakeholders (against openness or about potential quality issues) has toned down, and OpenStreetMap has become a key element in humanitarian relief and Disaster Risk Reduction Preparedness (as shown in the Open Data for Resilience Initiative: Field Guide). HOT has played a leading role in making this happen, creating the link between the OSM community, and humanitarian and development stakeholders. HOT has become a kind of OSM chapter for these efforts and a structure able to run successful field projects, sometimes in tough conditions. These projects have demonstrated the capabilities of OSM in these contexts.

What should be the role and strategy of HOT regarding this (exciting) situation? Should it be an internal growth? In 2013, HOT had 6 medium or big projects. So it could expect to double this in the coming years and have a few full-time staff and make HOT a small/medium size NGO. I think it is definitely important for HOT to run projects, in order to grow capacities. These include internal capacities, such as expertise and skills within the deployed OSM specialists, as well as communautary tools, like in the past for the Tasking Manager or the HOT Exports. Also important are external capacities, such as creating or supporting local communities. Also each new project enhances knowledge as lessons are learned.

Nonetheless, there are limits, if this is the primary strategy. First, any individual close to HOT activities can thus be seen as having a conflict of interest as soon as she or he engages in a paid activity where OSM is involved (training session in an event where all trainers are paid, field support to a local project, etc.) or is involved in initiatives with external organizations. “Conflict of interest” sounds like being guilty of something that should be avoided. Consequently initiatives may tend to be self-restricted by these individuals. And will this allow HOT to be the only organization using OSM on the humanitarian and development fields? No, and it is actually not even the case. There are already many organizations in this field that have run or are running their own mapping projects based on OSM, such as World Bank GFDRR, American Red Cross, MapBox, Architecture for Humanity, etc. And others will very likely do the same in the near future. OSM will be used more and more as a platform for mapping projects or as a component in projects that are not only mapping based.

Should these initiatives from individuals and external organizations be considered as endangering or competing with HOT? I don’t think so. First, I think there are donors who target those who have initiated a new methodology and/or technology. So HOT will be identified as such an initiator and will continue to make the difference for such funders. I also think that, these initiatives represent great opportunities to expand what should be the main aim of HOT, like any other community-based OSM organization: increasing the use of OSM and enriching its data.

What should then be HOT’s primary strategy? IMHO, it is to foster, advise and support any project that wants to use OSM in humanitarian or development contexts, as long as it is respectful of OSM and HOT ethics that are agreed within the whole community of OSM contributors. (Do we have any ethics that everyone agrees on?)

This calls for the definition of a HOT Project with a HOT Charter and HOT Commons that any individual or organization could concur with and even officially join and/or fund.

The HOT Charter would contain good and fair practices that should be embedded in any OSM project. Building local capacities should be one of the major concepts:

  • when the time allows, train every mapper in the whole work flow, not just field surveyors or editors, which is very common in classic field-collection projects
  • train the future trainers to make possible the rise of a local community
  • ensure the conditions (space, equipment, Internet) that will allow this community to continue the mapping are initiated during the project

The HOT Commons would provide:

  • a set of tools to create, access and analyze OSM data easily, according to the needs and ideas expressed by those using them, i.e. international and national organizations or NGOs, local communities, local authorities, etc. This exists, but could be improved
  • a set of technical guides, describing, not only how to create OSM data or products based on it (what LearnOSM covers), but also work flows and methodologies to train new mappers and organize data collection, from the lessons learned from the remote activations and the field projects
  • neutral support for external projects following the terms of the HOT Charter, such as projects started by individuals or local OSM communities that request it, in order to create local capacities, including in Crisis Preparedness and Response

This approach would be a virtuous circle:

  • the HOT Charter would ensure the mapping projects based on OSM led by other organizations would follow the fair practices identified by the community. It also would ensure that those organizations would not use OSM as a platform to raise money without building any local capacity. If they do not endorse the charter at least it will be clear for everybody that they decided not to follow fair practices. Of course, the compliance with the fair practices by those who endorse the HOT Charter would be verified by a neutral committee from the community
  • the HOT Commons could get financial support from donors interested in supporting one or all of its aims and would strengthened the creation of tools and guides for all and the support to local OSM projects

I am interested in any comment on these topics!

My HOT and OSM year in 2013

Posted by sev_osm on 14 March 2014 in English (English)

I have recently been honored to be elected within the HOT Board, but I had not presented yet my contributions to HOT and OSM during the past year, despite having been deeply involved in HOT and OSM activities all along 2013. My mistake, due to the fact I intensively contributed to a debate of ideas after and during the election, therefore did not find the time to write this feedback. Here it is. Rather than organizing it thematically, I chose to do it chronologically, because I think it reflects better how things slot together.

2013 was actually the second year I dedicated my whole professional time and large part of my free time to HOT and OSM, mixing outreach, training, crisis response and project management. Sometimes exhausting or stressing, but definitely thrilling.

In January I was continuing the management of the EUROSHA Project that had started late September, 2012 with the training and the deployment of the volunteers and a HOT field support of three weeks in each of the four countries (Kenya, Central African Republic, Burundi and Chad). It was then the project mid-term and a necessary review and discussion within the EUROSHA consortium of 9 NGOs for the second phase. Supporting the volunteers teams (whose blog posts can be found there) through emails and Skype calls was also one of my duties, as well as preparing the second field support missions, as planned in the project frame. In the same time, I was discussing with the HIU, as the area around Molo in Kenya, where the volunteers were hosted, was not covered by high resolution Bing imagery. An official request for a delivery through their “Imagery to the Crowd” program has been done and the imagery kindly delivered a bit after. Another EUROSHA related activity was starting a HOT Monitoring in Central African Republic on January 5, as the country had been invaded by the Seleka Rebellion in late December, what made necessary the evacuation of the EUROSHA volunteers deployed there. WIth them, we also set an agreement with UNICEF for an import in OSM of their database about health facilities, schools and drinkable water points over half the country. Otherwise, I also had a global Skype chat with all the French Speaking OCHA GIS/Information Management Officers, that was organized by Andrej Verity, in order to make them know more about OSM and how to use it in the field. In February, after a blog post about EUROSHA in Kenya (see here), back to the field, starting with Burundi for three weeks of field support for the EUROSHA volunteers (their facebook here), for outreach, internal and external training on OSM and QGIS, as related in this other blog post. A camp mapping in partnership with UNHCR in Gasorwe finally occured just after my leaving (see a [video]([ Once again, I had great times with the volunteers, but also the Geography professors from the University of Bujumbura. Late March, the team from Kenya (their Facebook here left the country before the Presidential election and joined Bujumbura with Stéphane, their HOT field support, and we all had interesting meetings and joint work. Early March I directly went to N’Djamena in Chad to support the EUROSHA volunteers during their last weeks of deployment. Outreach and training again (here are some pictures and a video), as well as the results conference at the National Library during the Open-source Softwares Days. Back to Burundi for a couple of days, then back to Europe.

After a few days break, I went to the EU Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy to talk about OSM and HOT, and other interesting topics, as related in this blog post before going back to home. In April, I have started leading a HOT Activation for Central African Republic (see blog post here as Bangui, the capital city, had just been taken over by the Rebellion. The aims are mapping the most affected cities, getting a consolidated road network and documenting the UNICEF data to be imported, in order to get an authorization from the OSM import list. I hoped the settlements layer from OCHA COD (Common Operational Datasets) could be also imported, but unfortunately, the license status of this data remaining uncertain, so this could not be done. Late April, I went to FOSS4G Buenos Aires followed by SOTM-Ar. I made a presentation of HOT (my first one in Spanish, or rather portuñol) then participated to an OSM workshop/training during the SOTM day. Then I prepared my deployment in Northern Eastern Haiti to join CAP103, the OTI funded project in partnership with Limonade University that had already started for one month and a half, involving a lot of HOT members and contributors (Nicolas, Brian, Jaakko, Pierre, Fred, Yohan and Will), 14 experimented Haitian OSM trainers and 60 new local mappers. These beneficiaries have been be trained to OSM techniques and organized in 6 effective teams to map the area between Cap-Haitien and Fort-Liberté, and along the project, have been supported to create their own local organization with the help of 2 Community Mobilizers (Delphine and Emilie). The project also has been the opportunity to set a thinner HDM preset and a Humanitarian OSM rendering. During two months, my duties encompassed organizing the mapping planning and review, meeting local authorities and involving them in the mapping (especially for the helmet names and remote places), daily reporting, as well as training the young mappers to QGIS (in my average Creole). Was quite exhausting, but really great time with everybody. Once the project was done, I stayed voluntary for extra training and support, a visit to COSMHA-STM (the OSM Organization in Southern Gonaives created last year after the HOT Project in Saint-Marc with OTI) and a few meetings in Port-au-Prince, where, as ususl, I set up home in Haiti Comunitere, a HOT partner for years in the country and a great place to be.

In July, before visiting my family in France, I taught OSM at Federal University in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil before going to Geneva for ECOSOC where I held a HOT booth. Was a good opportunity to meet people from other Virtual Technical Communities that are also part of the Digital Humanitarian Network like SBTF, Translators Without Borders, MapAction or Humanity Road. A few weeks later, I joined SBTF in order to find ways and opportunities for SBTF and HOT to work jointly during Activations. I spent the rest of July and August in France; the HOT project in Mongolia was supposed to start during the summer, but has been postponed. Therefore, apart final reporting on the EUROSHA project, I had Summer holidays and on my free time, I continued working on the UNICEF data to be imported in OSM. Once clear with the Import talk list, I modified the raw data according to OSM tags and Ben Abelshausen designed specific Tasking Manager jobs cutting the dataset with the extent of each tile. I wrote a detailed workflow and started the import. In the same time, along with a few mappers, we improved a lot the road network in the country and had exchanges with MSF Spain deployed in Kabo that mapped the town and its outskirts on OSM. In the meantime, I also applied for a voluntary UNSPIDER Technical Advisory Mission in Malawi in mid-October and I have ben selected. Still in August, large floods affected the Niles in Sudan, especially around Khartoum, and a HOT Activation has been launched (see its Wikipage with interesting exchanges with UNOSAT, HIU, and local relief volunteers. One challenge was to define AOIs (Areas of Interest) and we used this uMap to compile various information (special thanks to Brendan!). The Response of the OSM community has been great and imagery from Charter Activation has been released and made accessible for OSM mapping. Thanks Guilhem, the raw imagery has been georeferenced and hosted and I used the great offset_db JOSM plugin to add reference points based on Bing imagery.

Early September I went to Birmingham by car with people from OSM France to attend SoTM. Opportunity for me to also meet HOT members or contributors I had never met before or for a long time (Haiti 2010 after the Earthquake). Most of us then moved for the HOT House in Clumber Park during one week to discuss about various topics and review documents. Then Kate, Rafael and I went to MapAction base camp during one of their - impressive - exercises to discuss how to interact more with HOT - they were preparing a deployment in Karthoum. During these 2 days, we also discussed with Dale and Robert from American Red Cross regarding the design of an OSM mapping project they wanted to set in Northern Haiti. Back to London for a couple of days, kindly hosted by Harry, before going back to France and prepare the HOT project in Mongolia with Russell. The Mongolia project in Ulaanbaatar lasted 7 weeks between Early October and mid November and was a challenge regarding the language for us (now there is a Google Translate for Mongolian that did not exist in 2013), sometimes chilly but basically great time, with motivated students in Ulaanbaatar, but also under gers in the countryside during two week-ends. In the middle of this mission, that was supposed to happen earlier, I went to Malawi for one week as one of the Technical Advisers for the UNSPIDER mission. Likely the most crazy trip back and forth in my life so far, but also a great experience and the opportunity to advocate for OSM (see here). Once the project ended in Mongolia (see the Facebook group here), I directly joined Nairobi, Kenya, to attend ICCM, the International Conference for Crisis Mappers. Interesting discussions, in and off, like the one with Heather Leson from GISCorps, about working jointly in the future. During the third day, dedicated to Self-organized sessions, I participated to one about crisis in CAR and set one about the initiatives covering more than just Crisis response (Crisis response is not the only step involved in a disaster: preparedness allows to reduce its impacts, and once the emergency time is gone, recovery and reconstruction are also critical. Are there other initiatives than OSM that aim to this large response? How could they work together?). In the afternoon, Heather and I organized a Mapping Party in partnership with Joshua and Benson from HIU and a team from Map Kibera Trust. At least half of the participants had never mapped with OSM and raised many questions about its use in humanitarian contexts. Those who mapped contributed to the Haiyan Response. About this topic, I must admit I did not participate, except for a few edits, because of the huge number of committed people, making my contribution not essential, while it would have forced me to neglect the Activation for Central African Republic, also a United Nations-declared Level 3 humanitarian emergency (the highest one). The day after ICCM ended, I joined the DHN Summit in where all the participants (OCHA, DHN Members, representatives of local organizations) discussed about how to improve the DHN mechanisms and response (see the HackPad here. I left before the end to catch a flight for Senegal to join, as an individual, a sprint organized by the International Organization of Francophonie (= French Speaking Countries) to translate the Intermediate and Advanced Chapters of LearnOSM from English into French. It was the opportunity to work again with Nicolas and Pierre after the time passed together in Haiti, with former EUROSHA volunteers and to meet for the first time mappers from Senegal, Burkina Faso and Togo who have been mostly commiting in OSM since the Senegal project and the EOF projet. The Sprint week was intense but fruitful. Once done, many of us remained voluntarily a couple of weeks more, in order to provide mutual training on various OSM techniques, and organize training to students in Dakar and Saint-Louis. On December 19, I went back to Europe to join my family for Christmas greetings. Unfortunately, a political crisis arose in South Sudan and led to a HOT Monitoring. A new opportunity to work with HIU, but also GISCorps (whose one team mapped the city of Malakal) and start using uMap systematically to quickly show the mapping response over the country. An improved version for Central African Republic would follow soon after. But this is already 2014.

PS: if anyone quoted would like not to be or differently (eg with the link of his OSM profile or any other profile), please tell me. Likewise, if I forgot someone I should have quoted or a topic I should have talked about, please tell me too.

OSM mapping at regional or national scales: aiming at creating consolidated reference layers / La cartographie OSM à échelles régionales et nationales : l'objectif de créer des couches de référence consolidées

Posted by sev_osm on 15 February 2014 in French (Français)

English text

Most often, OSM mapping is focused on areas of interest: a neighbourhood, a slum, a town or a city, less frequently a region, in which the aim is to get a multi-thematic map, more or less detailed, but generally more than the ones that are or could be available through an official way or a commercial product. Nevertheless, from this approach results a “gap map”, a kind of patchwork where highly detailed areas stand alongside others where the the strictly minimum is not even fulfilled. This inconsistency has consequences:

  • it is one obstacle for the official national agencies to adopt OSM or an opportunity if they want to criticize the project. These agencies aim to produce complete reference layers and do not operate like the OSM community through mapping parties or focused edits on Areas of Interests. So whatever OSM is very detailed in some places: if they take a bit of time to browse the map they may quickly reply that yes, but some regional capitals are missing and that the primary and secondary road network is quite incomplete, contrary to their reference layers.

  • it is also a limitation for the humanitarian workers to potentially adopt OSM. One easy incentive is the OSM data can used for routing in many devices and such data is frequently absent in developing countries. But if the road network lacks continuity and connectivity... It is all the more a pity that within the next decade, smartphone will likely expand as the GSM phones did the last ten years, and the local population could use them whenever to get around and find POIs.

This is why any OSM country project should encompass national scale reference mapping. It would be both useful and actually also quite motivating to to achieve various completeness steps. It does not mean at all replacing the usual focus on AOIs, that is definitely useful (HOT participates to it through the Tasking Manager jobs during a Crisis Response), but is a complementary to get a map consistent enough to have the minimum everywhere.

Of course ways to reach the aim have to be discussed. What follows is a first reflection. It might be better not to start a lot of reference in the same time over a same territory, but to move forward step by step, from the most primary reference features to those more secondary, the first ones providing the backbone for the latter and being often less numerous, therefore shorter in time to achieve. Checking the main administrative centers, adding the missing ones and apply the Admin level tags decided for the country will allow to determine what are the primary road connections and the OSM gaps. This done, the same process could be done for a sub-level, by checking administrative sub-centers and secondary/tertiary road connections. Once traced, it might be interesting to add the residential area for the villages and towns crossed by these roads and give them a name, from an existing POI or an external ODbL compatible source like the Geographic Names for Geopolitical Areas from NGA, even if this one is often considered as quite outdated.

The means to do this mapping efficiently is also an obvious topic. Tasking Manager v2 should allow to import geojson file with polygon, as it already exists for tools like Mapcraft, that limits their size to under 500Kb. For the road network, I aim at creating buffer layers from opendata road network. Each buffer would go from a town to another and represent a task within the TM job. Statistics applied to such jobs would provide useful information regarding the progress of OSM compared to these reference layers.

Texte en français

Souvent le mapping sous OSM est réalisé par zones d'intérêt : un quartier, un bidon-ville, une ville, rarement une région où l'on cherche à obtenir une carte multi-thématique plus ou moins fouillée. Cela permet de produire des cartes ou de la donnée là où il n'y en a pas d’officielles ou d'accessibles. L'inconvénient de cette seule approche est d'obtenir une "carte à trous", une sorte de patchwork sur lequel des zones extrêmement détaillées en côtoient d'autres même pas munies du minimum d'information. Cette carte manquant de cohérence a des conséquences :

  • c'est un des freins à l'adoption d'OSM par les instances cartographiques nationales. Celles-ci fonctionnent par logique de référentiels et non d'événementiel (dans le sens: on décide de faire la carte de telle zones), par thématique. Vous pouvez leur expliquer et démontrer que vous avez plus de rues dans la capitale ou telle autre cité, si elles prennent le temps de regarder la carte OSM et veulent répliquer, elles vous diront à raison que certes, mais au moins elles ont un réseau routier primaire complet sur le pays, ou que telle capitale régionale ou préfecture ne figure pas sur la carte

  • c'est aussi une limite par rapport à l'adoption d'OSM par les humanitaires. L'un des vecteurs faciles, c'est la navigabilité de la donnée OSM. Or les données navigables sont absentes dans les pays en développement. OSM en possède, mais elles sont fragmentaires. C'est d'autant plus dommage que d'ici 5 ans, les smartphones auront remplacé les téléphones et la population locale pourrait bénéficier de la navigabilité des donnés OSM pour se déplacer et trouver des POI.

C'est pourquoi il faut lancer des projets de référentiels à l'échelle nationale, étape par étape en allant du plus élémentaire (et moins coûteux en terme de temps consacré) au plus complexe. Cette approche ne vise pas du tout à remplacer celle par quartiers, qui a montré toute son utilité, mais constitue son complément naturel pour obtenir une carte qui contient le minimum pour être cohérente globalement tout en comportant des zones où le mapping a été particulièrement poussé, que cela soit lié à une nécessité (urgence, aménagement) ou le désir d'une communauté.

Evidemment les moyens pour atteindre cet objectif doivent être discutés. Ce qui suit est une première réflexion. Il est sans doute préférable de ne pas démarrer un grand nombre de référence en même temps sur un même territoire, mais de progresser étape par étape, depuis les objets les plus importants vers ceux plus secondaires, les premiers fournissant l’épine dorsale aux seconds et ayant également l'avantage d’être plus rapides à achever compte tenu d’un nombre d’objets souvent moins important. Vérifier l’existence des chefs-lieux administratifs, ajouter les manquants et appliquer les tags Admin level qui ont été décidés pour chaque pays permettra de déterminer les principales connexions routières et ce qui manque dans OSM. Ceci fait, le même processus pourra être réalisé à un niveau hiérarchique inférieur, en vérifiant les chefs-lieux de moindre rang et les connexions secondaires ou tertiaires qui les relient. Une fois ceci tracé, il pourrait être intéressant d’ajouter les zones résidentielles pour les petites villes et villages traversés par ces routes et ajouter leurs noms, à partir de POI existants ou de source externes compatibles avec OBbL, à l’instar de Geographic Names for Geopolitical Areas de la NGA, même si celle-ci est souvent considérée comme obsolète.

Les moyens pour réaliser cette cartographie de manière efficace est également un sujet important. La v2 du Gestionnaire des Tâches devrait permettre d’importer des fichiers geojson de polygones, comme cela se fait déjà avec des outils comme Mapcraft, qui les limite cependant à une taille de moins de 500 Ko. Pour les réseaux routiers, j’ai dans l’idée de créer des buffers à partir de données ouvertes existantes et ouvertes (mais pas forcément d’une grande précision). Chaque buffer irait d’une ville à une autre et représenter une tâche dans un job du Tasking Manager. Des statistiques sur de tels jobs fourniraient un indicateur précieux de l’état de progression de la donnée OSM par rapport aux données de référence.