The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) uses open data and mapping for the public good in various ways, including in response to humanitarian crises, in building more inclusive communities, and in documenting the impact of climate change.

The organization is hosting several sessions at the Festival de Datos, looking at how open mapping can be used for disaster response, for citizen activism, and for collecting inclusive data on internally displaced people. They also have a stand where attendees can visit to chat to the team about the work they do and potential collaborations.

Here, Fabrizio Scrollini, Regional Director of the Open Mapping Hub, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), HOT, shares why the Festival is an important event for the organization, how open mapping can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and what you can expect from their presence at the Festival.

Why did the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team want to get involved in the Festival de Datos and why does the event matter for your organization?

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team was born out of the need for maps in critical situations. In January 2010, Haiti experienced one of the most dramatic earthquakes in its history. Amidst the chaos, 600 volunteers developed a base map of the country and provided information to emergency responders on the ground, changing the landscape of crisis mapping forever. This was the start of the use of openstreetmap in the humanitarian sector, where we have witnessed the power of open data to support organizations and communities working in the most pressing environments.

We are supporting this festival because we stand for the use of open data for development and we do this in our everyday work. Our teams distributed in the Americas, Africa and Asia are constantly facing situations where data is the defining factor to support a good crisis response, make visible a critical situation or engage in an informed way with local communities, empowering them.

For instance, in Morocco, after the recent earthquake more than 1,500 volunteers are contributing, mapping more than 170,000 buildings and feeding this information in response to authorities and partners. We recently launched our LAC Hub, building with dedicated volunteers and allies across the region a network to drive forward the use of openstreetmap in decision making, in the most unequal continent on earth. The festival is an opportunity to engage like-minded organizations to advance the power of open data for development.

We are supporting this festival because we stand for the use of open data for development and we do this in our everyday work.

- Fabrizio Scrollini, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

How do you use data to achieve your mission and how can open mapping contribute to achieving the SDGs?

Data is at the heart of our mission. In a nutshell, we use data in three ways, supporting the achievement of the SDGs. 

For instance, we create, use and improve data in critical situations such as the recent Morocco earthquake where our volunteers map the region, feeding the information to several allies responding to the earthquake as well as local communities. These data are critical at the response time, but also very important in the rebuilding process, once the initial chaos has passed. 

We engage governments, mostly at the local level, to put the population on the map. We are on a mission to map one billion people that are not represented in our maps, that do not have access to basic services because they are not visible. We map, but we also engage and support their voices, as we recently did with our work in Open Cities across the Americas. Open cities is a good example of how map data supports inclusion, planning and achievement of the SDGs at a local level. Whether it is access to drinking water, health services, or economic services, maps are there to be freely used. We are also engaging colleagues on the ground to work with excluded communities such as indigenous and African American communities.

Climate change is obviously at the heart of our minds, work, and actions. As we move forward we are working with local governments, communities, and others to use data to document, protect, and exercise voices about issues that we are facing collectively as a global community.

What can we expect from your various sessions? 

Expect to engage with us and maps for development. We will share how we run "activations" to respond to humanitarian crises, and you can contribute mapping to our work. We will also share how we support our allies, and we will teach you a trick or two on how to map. Also, we will share about our work to train the next generation of mappers, and our work in the Amazon region. Finally, you can listen to our Executive Director on how we respond to the challenges of AI and inclusion in the mapping sector. But we are also here to listen, to chat, and to build with you.

What can attendees chat to you about at your stand?

Come and get to know about our global work, and our hubs. Chat with my amazing colleagues on the work we are doing across the region in cities across Mexico, Ecuador, and the Caribbean. Share with us your stories, where open data can make a difference in your work. We work in 94 countries around the world, so come and let us know what we could do together.

What are you most looking forward to about the Festival and who do you want to connect with?

I’m looking forward to hearing from development partners about the shared challenges we face. Also from local voices across the world, to understand how the power of data can deliver for them in their context. I’m eager to connect with our colleagues from national statistics agencies and civil society advocates working with data. Also, I am looking forward to sharing how openstreetmap is a digital public tool that can be part of the infrastructure that brings the power of data for good to our region and across the world.