[Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my personal and don’t represent the thoughts of my employer. Since these are based on my own observations, I might have missed some information. ]
2020 was a very different year for the whole world. In Nepal, although the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on 23rd January 2020, the government issued a nationwide lockdown starting from 24th March. The whole nation was halted with schools, universities, offices, and businesses closed. One of the few options people had with them was to spend time with their computer.
During this extraordinary time, the OpenStreetMap (OSM) volunteers from all over the world spent a considerable amount of time mapping Nepal. The number speaks for themselves:
I am assuming the person reading this right now is familiar with OpenStreetMap (OSM) and its data model. If you are one of those who do not have any idea about OSM, it is a freely editable map of the world built by volunteers from all over the world. To learn more, please visit this link.
Key players and activities
In 2020, Kathmandu Living Labs, NAXA, Youth Innovation Lab, YouthMappers (all its chapters in Nepal), World Food Program (WFP), etc. were the major organizations working in the OSM domain of Nepal. They primarily worked on improving buildings, roads, and landuse which are basic yet most important geospatial data. Besides, special mention to many independent national and international volunteers contributing to OSM Nepal through mapping and other means.
Based on OSM data, Kathmandu Living Labs Consult developed Baato ( translates to “way” in Nepali), which provides cloud-based geospatial services for developers and businesses. You can find more about Baato here.
WFP Nepal implemented “Local Trails and Community Infrastructure Mapping for Emergency Preparedness and Response” projects partnering with NAXA and Youth Innovation Lab, for mapping Kalikot, Bajhang, Bajura, and Dolpa which are some of the remotest districts of Nepal. As a result of this project, the local trails and infrastructure data of these areas will be uploaded to OpenStreetMap. Consequently, those data will be used for emergency preparedness and response activities in the area. Through these projects, WFP Nepal also aims to build the capacity of local people to collect geospatial data of their locality on their own.
Back in June 2020, Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL) initiated a mapping campaign for remotely mapping buildings, roads, and landuse in Province 2 of Nepal. The campaign was organized as a response to the increasing COVID cases in the province back then and the vulnerability of the region to natural disasters. Similarly, various workshops, talk sessions, and virtual and in-person mapathons were organized by KLL, NAXA, Youth Innovation Lab, YouthMappers’ chapters over the entire year.
I am proud of all the YouthMappers’ chapters and their activities here in Nepal. They have been one of the greatest assets for the OSM community of Nepal because of their large numbers and active participation. As of today, there are 6 YouthMappers chapters based in different cities of Nepal. Geomatics Engineering Students’ Association of Nepal (GESAN) is the oldest and only inaugural chapter among them. All the chapters have been organizing remote mapping events, map literacy programs, GIS related training, career counseling courses, publishing annual magazines, etc. Since their establishment, they have also been partnering with KLL, NAXA, YIL, and other organizations for improving OSM data in the region.
Representation in the international community
Dr. Nama Raj Budhathoki was selected as a Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) Regional Hub Director for Asia. He will be spearheading an initiative to build OSM communities around 25 countries in the Asia region and partner with other organizations for improving people’s lives through data.
Saurav Gautam, who also happens to be YouthMapper Regional Ambassador gave a talk on inspiring youths to map Nepal at HOT Summit 2020. He communicated his personal stories of failures, success and lessons learned en route to mobilizing young people towards the use of OSM. Likewise, Angela Tamrakar from Youth Innovation Lab presented on engaging mappers in Nepal through virtual training at the same conference. She talked about the necessity of mapping Nepal, and how they have been providing training and establishing a knowledge sharing and discussion forum for OSM enthusiasts.
Although founded by Steve Coast in 2004, it was only after 2011 OSM movement started growing here in Nepal. Dr. Nama led the first OSM meetup in Nepal on the 29th of July, 2011. Since then, the number of volunteers contributing to Nepal’s OSM data has been growing. Over the period of 2020, 2756 volunteers from all over the world made at least one edit in Nepal.
When I looked at the buildings’ data over the period of 2020 in Nepal, they increased by 18.56% from 4520k (on Jan 1, 2020) to 5359k (on Jan 1, 2021) which is pretty impressive.
Likewise, the length of highways increased by 8.89% from 214108 km to 233138 km. The main reasons behind these increments are primarily, emergency preparedness projects run by WFP Nepal, Province 2 mapping project organized by KLL, and several other regular mapathon events organized by YouthMappers (GESAN, GES, etc.), NAXA, Youth Innovation Lab, and other institutions.
Top 10 mappers in 2020 for Nepal
Data-driven decision making is very crucial especially to a country like Nepal, which is likely to experience disasters at any point in the future. So, let’s continue our effort on creating free and accessible geospatial data all around Nepal and the world!!