IGARSS 2010 - 2010 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium - July 25 - 30, 2010 - Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Community Remote Sensing: AfricaMap: Volunteer Mapping for Africa


Community tools for deriving map data from satellite imagery. his project will enable volunteers around the world to help in accurately mapping remote regions of Africa where there is no existing cartography, using UNOSAT-facilitated satellite imagery delivered to their PCs via a simple web-based annotation interface built using the open source software platform for collective intelligence, BOSSA.

The project will also enable UN staff and their implementing partners as well as local inhabitants to annotate the resulting maps, sharing their local knowledge of health and development issues via the maps using HP Gloe, a social networking platform for mobile devices. A feature of the project is to monitor usage patterns of HP Gloe statistically in order to suggest improvements to this platform.


The project will involve a student at the University of Geneva, supported by software developers in two African Universities. The student will collaborate with a researcher at UNOSAT, the Operational Satellite Applications Programme of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, which is based at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory near Geneva. The student will also collaborate with the team of Bernardo Huberman of HP Labs in Palo Alto.


Many parts of Africa are without reliable cartography. Where maps exist, they are often out of date: roads and villages have moved, arable land has turned to desert. For humanitarian workers of UN agencies and NGOs active in disaster regions, after an earthquake or a war, this lack of basic information about the territory can be a major handicap. And even when such maps exist, there is often no easy way for the humanitarian workers to annotate them with up-to-date information from the field, which would benefit their colleagues.

Solutions such as Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth exist, and are particularly well-suited for urban areas. But the information they contain tends to be less accurate and less recent for remote regions, and in general these solutions are not well adapted to mobile device access and annotation. What the humanitarian worker requires is not a general solution for the whole world, but a specific set of reliable and recent maps for a region, often spanning a narrow range of time before and after a crisis.

The ability to annotate satellite imagery, for example indicating the current state of various buildings such as hospitals and schools, and to share those annotations, would provide humanitarian workers with a further and vital layer of information about the territory they are working in, allowing the execution of specific tasks and ensuring compatibility between existing data and newly created data. Since restoring local mobile phone coverage is now one of the first actions taken in disaster regions, developing a tool of this kind specifically for use on mobile devices is highly appropriate.


To be posted when available.


Principle InvestigatorsBastien Chopard, CUI (Bastien.Chopard@ unige.ch)
Ana Gago Da Silva, University of Geneva, ana.silva@cern.ch
Project Websitehttp://www.citizencyberscience.net

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