Building an OSM Community in Rwanda

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Uganda, the organization I am placed with for the Summer, recently travelled to Kigali to assist with the development of Rwanda’s OpenStreetMap community.  Mapping supervisors Geoffrey Kateregga and Douglass Ssebagala collaborated with Rebecca Nyinaumuntu and Bernard Hakizimana to plan an introductory OSM training to gauge interest among the innovation community.  On July 19th more than 70 academics, business leaders, development professionals, and technologists met to learn the basics of remote mapping, JOSM editing, and the OSM tracker app.

The OSM training event was kindly hosted at Klab, an innovation and technology hub in the heart of Kigali.  The Lab serves as an open workspace for entrepreneurs and networking environment for idea sharing and business partnerships.  Every seat was taken by 8:30am and eager participants continued to flood in to sit on floors or benches.  HOT Uganda helped disseminate Java Runtime, JOSM, and OSM tracker through flash drives before the training began in earnest at 9am.

Among the interdisciplinary participants was the guest of honor Mpayimana Protais, the Rural Settelment Division Manager of the Rwanda Housing Authority.  In Mr. Protais’ introductory remarks he praised the policy relevance of OSM and cited its applicability to inform first responders.  He lamented the absence of OpenStreetMap in the response to Rwanda’s recent landslides, noting that the Rwandan government and development agencies can use OSM in the future to prevent the tragic loss of life.  Also among the guests was Camile Nyamihana from Esri Rwanda.  Mr. Nyamihana described a strong partnership between Esri and OSM; he also recognized the benefits of OSM’s accessibility and its ability to capture local knowledge.

Geoffrey Kateregga, the lead trainer for the event, described some of the applications of OSM and the basic mechanics of the platform before the group went out in the “field”.  The 70 participants split into 5 groups and were sent in different directions to track buildings around Klab.  Guided by Field Papers, each group took pictures, notes, and marked amenities to provide a more complete map of the area.  Upon their return, the group loaded their data into JOSM and downloaded imagery to upload their edits to OpenStreetMap.

2pm came far too soon; all parties agreed that the event successfully peaked interest among the tech community but was too short to provide comprehensive OSM or GIS training.  Before concluding, Bernard Hakizimana led a group discussion to decide what next steps must be taken to build Rwanda’s OSM community.  It was agreed that a uniform communication platform, simple governance, and longer, more technical trainings are necessary to increase the community’s capacity.  Bernard is now working on obtaining legal NGO status for the cohort and developing partnerships with related agencies who seek to inform their work with OSM mapping.

My colleagues at HOT Uganda and I could not have been more excited to witness the sincere enthusiasm and dedicated commitment the tech community showed towards the global OSM project.  The participants’ interdisciplinary involvement and Bernard and Rebecca’s individual efforts will surely develop a strong community with cross sector relevance in Rwanda.  I am looking forward to watching the OSM community grow and hope to return to Kigali to see it come to fruition

HOT Uganda, KLab, and AidData Summer Fellows celebrate a successful training

HOT Uganda, KLab, and AidData Summer Fellows celebrate a successful training