Putting Uganda on the Map

It is hard to believe that I have been in Uganda for three weeks today! Kampala has become home, HOT colleagues have become friends, and the other AidData Summer Fellows have become family.

I am working with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team with another AidData Summer Fellow, Cleo, who is a Master’s student at UT Austin.  We began work immediately; we jumped right into the deep end! After delayed flights and a 24 hour layover in Doha, we arrived in Kampala late at night on June 1st.  I was in my apartment for a grand total of 10 minutes before receiving a phone call from my new boss.  Unfamiliar with the Lugandan accent, all I understood from the call was to be ready at 7am the next morning for a 4 day trip to a Lake.

Less than 12 hours after landing in Uganda, I was on an 8 hour bus ride to Lake Bunyonyi with Cleo and our boss, Geoffrey.  Together with HOT, we conducted a two day mapping training at Edirisa: a private sector enterprise seeking to facilitate tourism as a means for economic development.  The workshops focused on map literacy and began refining OpenStreetMap’s coverage of the area.

OpenStreetMap uses crowd sourced mapping to capture local knowledge on a policy relevant platform.  Participants in the training worked with JOSM, an editing software, to add structures from their own villages to OSM.  The second day of training included field work; the group canoed to a nearby island with Android phones loaded with OpenMapKit to track various features.

In the West, we take for granted the vast quantity of  accessible spatial data.  When regions such as that surrounding Lake Bunyonyi do not have relevant maps available, there are economic, humanitarian, and social consequences.  Hopefully, local people will now be able to refine OpenStreetMap’s database! I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to help with the training.  The amazing two days we spent at Lake Bunyonyi were a great reminder to just go for it!



  1. conorsmith17 says:

    Your research sounds incredibly interesting! As a map nerd, crowd-sourced mapping sounds like a forward-thinking and unique way of approaching geography in all its many layers. You are correct to say that we take our spatial knowledge for granted, I think this project could lead to an empowerment of peoples from across the globe– everywhere from Uganda to Siberia to even the most rural and regions of the US. I am interested to see what possible mysteries may potentially be unearthed from a closer mapping of our world.