Facebook Collaboration

16 November 2016

At the core of the Missing Maps project is our desire to create detailed street and place maps of the billions of people vulnerable people not represented on the map. Missing Maps engages private and public sector partners to open data sets for use by the greater OpenStreetMap Community. Over the past two years, Missing Maps, engaged over 18,000 volunteers to make millions of edits to OpenStreetMap putting over 20 million people on the map. Throughout our work we’ve constantly tried to figure out faster more efficient ways of using volunteer mapping time. Recently with the introduction of MapSwipe we have a great tool to focus our mapping efforts.

In our humanitarian mission we are data omnivores, within licensing restrictions of course, constantly looking for datasets that can aid our mission and the larger mapping community. Collaborating with Facebook is an obvious step for us to take. Using the data created by Facebook volunteers will waste less time checking out a task to find an area with nothing to map. Currently, volunteers scan huge areas to find rural hamlets and villages to effectively map roads and buildings to prevent malaria, vaccinate for measles, or prepare communities for the effect of disasters. This mapping is not efficient and waste valuable volunteer time.

The data for Malawi was already used during OSMGeoWeek to help map over 1 million people in Blantyre, Malawi. And will help the Missing Maps partners better focus are mapping in the next few months as we strive to completely remotely map Malawi to support the many humanitarian projects there.

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Mapping by volunteers in Blantyre, Malawi during OSM GeoWeek 2016

Facebook did a great post about how they created the dataset. To generate the data, Facebook applied techniques from computer vision to satellite imagery. In so doing, they created the most detailed population estimates available to date in these countries. This effort demonstrates the immense power of artificial intelligence to produce insights for the public good. Read more about the technology side on Facebook’s engineering blog. In partnering with Facebook Missing Maps is making these valuable datasets available for free. Facebook provided data for Haiti, Malawi, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Ghana.

All of the data will always be available from the Columbia Earth Institute. To make the data more useful for OpenStreetMap use we made a global TMS layer. If and when Facebook completes additional countries we will add the data to this TMS.

by Dale Kunce