How to plan for an open city mapping project using OSM ?

The World Bank recently released its extensive guide to planning an Open Cities mapping project, which was proudly co-authored by HOT. 

The Open Cities Project began two years ago under the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), with initial locations in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The aim is to promote open data ecosystems that support disaster risk management in high risk locations.

Of note in the Open Cities guide (available here) is a detailed approach to planning, managing, and reviewing  mapping projects in which implementers intend to map a finite area using a specific data model. Using OpenStreetMap as the platform for data collection, the guide explains the methodology of mapping primarily in organizational terms, with less focus on the detailed technical aspects of tools like JOSM and Field Papers. Extensive experience and lessons learned from the first Open Cities projects, as well as HOT activities, will help inform future efforts.

Planning an Open Cities Mapping Project

It’s great to see how many variations of OSM mapping projects have emerged in the past years under different auspices and with varying objectives and methodologies. I think Open Cities puts the right focus on one of the core philosophies of all this work, which is to foster buy-in and collaboration among a wide range of actors, as the power and value of open data gains more and more traction.

This book offers insights and practical knowledge for anyone interested in organizing a large mapping project. I’m pleased that HOT has been able to collaborate on this, especially in being able to combine our experience with the important work of GFDRR. And I look forward to the future development of more and more open mapping activities! See the Abstract below:


This guide offers a comprehensive understanding of the design and implementation of an Open Cities mapping project for both practitioners in the field and those interested in a higher-level understanding of the process. The guide’s content is based on experience in implementing the initial Open Cities projects in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka as well as on previous mapping project experience. Where relevant, it provides relevant examples from those projects in the text and full case studies at the end of guide. The Open Cities Project launched its efforts in three cities: Batticaloa, Sri Lanka; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Kathmandu, Nepal. These cities were chosen for: 1) their high levels of disaster risk; 2) the presence of World Bank-lending activities related to urban planning and disaster management that would benefit from access to better data; and 3) the willingness of government counterparts to participate in and help guide the interventions. Chapter 2, “Project Design and Preparation,” covers how a project design process begins: by identifying partners, clarifying a project’s objectives and scope, assembling a team of managers and mappers, and assessing the necessary resources for mapping. Chapter 3, “Getting Started,” then describes the steps after the initial planning stage: how to locate an appropriate workspace, assess equipment costs, and prepare staff training. Chapter 4, “Implementation and Supervision,” takes a practical look at data collection techniques from both the organizational and technical perspectives. It also addresses common challenges and mechanisms for quality control and reporting. Finally, chapter 5 examines the lessons learned from previous Open Cities projects and considers future improvements to the overall project design.


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