Mapathon Keralam and OpenStreetMap Community Collaboration

This is the letter to Director Kerala IT Mission, behalf of the OpenStreetMap India Community on 14 September 2020 (PDF)

Dear Smt. Chithra,

We are writing this letter on behalf of the OpenStreetMap India Community. We are part of the global OpenStreetMapmovement and have a history of mapping country for over 15 years. Our community members are spread acrossIndia, representing its vast geographic and cultural diversity. Day in and day out, they contribute and maintain, whatright now, is the largest open map of India.

Your leadership and commitment to OpenStreetMap through the Mapathon Keralam Project has been incrediblypowerful for our movement. This has gained international attention and truly put our humble community literally on themap. The Government of Kerala’s official adoption state-wide for several development as well as disaster recoveryand resilience projects is a huge motivation and a recognition of years of the communities’ hard work.

The community has a lot to offer in supporting new mappers, collaborating on quality analysis, and growing MapathonKeralam. The recent efforts to document[1][2] the Mapathon Keralam projects and responding to questions from theOpenStreetMap Kerala mapper community has greatly helped to establish a positive relationship between MapathonKeralam and the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that make up the global OpenStreetMap community. Our hopeas part of the OpenStreetMap community is to build on this relationship to make Mapathon Keralam an IT case studyof how the state can successfully partner with a global open source collaborative project. For this, we request yourleadership to address the following action items:

1.Appoint a community coordinator

Organised editing in OpenStreetMap requires close collaboration with the community. A community coordinator’s roleis crucial to engage with members outside your organisation to ensure that mapping projects run smoothly and wecan hold ourselves to a high degree of quality. The coordinator will be responsible for responding to questions fromthe community and act on behalf of mappers of your organisation. The coordinator can discuss consensus within thecommunity, gather feedback, and contribute to training of your mappers.

2. Follow OpenStreetMap organised editing guidelines

There are hundreds of volunteer mappers as part of the OpenStreetMap Kerala community who are improving theopen map of Kerala outside of Mapathon Keralam. Documenting the scope, goals and detailed workflow of eachmapping project ensures a high quality of output. Your team has already opened a Wiki page specific for projectsunder Mapathon Keralam[2] and request you to continue to do this for all future projects as well. Mappingadministrative boundaries, river streams, public offices all should either have their own specific documentation orregional mapping pages that clearly document the project workflow so it can be reviewed by the OpenStreetMapcommunity for feedback and approval. Mapathon Keralam generates a large volume of data, and an improperworkflow can easily result in poor quality data that is not usable for any purpose. This documentation should follow OpenStreetMap Organized Editing Guidelines.

Acting on these two above points will establish positive partnership where both Mapathon Keralam and theOpenStreetMap Project mutually benefit of each others’ success. Collectively, the OpenStreetMap Kerala communityhas decades of field mapping experience that can be a great asset for the Mapathon Keralam project and help inproducing the high quality of map data. The mapping community had previously reviewed the output of MapathonKeralam and identified several basic data quality issues[3] that could have been avoided with better coordination withthe community.

We would be happy if you convene a meeting to discuss implementation of these steps and how the OpenStreetMapcommunity at large can be helpful in this endeavour.

This letter and statement is endorsed by the following OpenStreetMap Kerala and India community members:

  1. Sajjad Anwar (geohacker)
  2. Naveen Francis (naveenpf)
  3. Manoj K (manojkmohan)
  4. Arun Ganesh (planemad)
  5. Satyakam Goswami (Satyaakam)
  6. Kelvin Matthew (muzirian)
  7. Arjun ARK (ark_arjun)