Humanitarian OSM Team Mission to Haiti - Week 2: Trainings and Field Assessment

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Humanitarian OSM Team Mission to Haiti - Week 2: Trainings and Field Assessment

Robert Soden
The project continues to go well.  The focal points of this week were a two-day surveying trip to Jacmel with IOM and CNIGS and an OSM mapping party on Saturday with the Cite Soleil community forum and an NGO called INURED.

To prep for the Jacmel trip we first needed to sort out the data models used by the various agencies collecting info on schools, hospitals, roads, water points, IDP camps, and the electricity grid.  After a slough of meetings and emails with GIS and Information officers we were able to come up with some basic structures that we turned into paper forms and JOSM presets based on the OSM Humanitarian Data Model. With this done, we were able to look over existing data with IOM to target priority areas, print out some Walking Papers, load the OSM pelican cases into the back of a pickup truck, and make the 3 hour drive to Jacmel.  Nicolas and I were accompanied by staff of IOM, MapAction, and CNIGS whom we had trained previously and met by staff of the IOM office in Jacmel who also participated in the exercises.  We spent the majority of our time there doing training and the field collecting information, data checking and entry will happen this week.

Nicolas will be doing similar work in Leogane this coming week and will have more insights but so far we can say that using Walking Papers to help orient the surveyor, define areas of responsibility, and allow for ad-hoc note taking along with GPS and paper assessment forms worked great.  We worked in groups of three but two seems sufficient.  The JOSM presets we built made it pretty simple to transfer the information collected on paper right into OSM.  The short trainings we provided on use of GPS, Walking Papers, and JOSM seemed sufficient to allow new mappers to quickly get up to speed on the process.  There's some strategic questions to think about regarding indicator data that changes frequently or is very operation specific and smart ways for managing the unique IDs agencies assign to objects like camps and schools but this is pretty simple stuff.  Expected challenges that we did not run into here include lack of internet access, issues concerning sensitive data, and finding effective strategies for using Walking Papers in the rain :)

We spent Saturday in Cite Soleil, meeting with 8 representatives from the community forum and joined by a GIS officer from CNIGS, and staff from INURED (  We were introduced to the Cite Soleil Community Forum and INURED by Sabina from the Ushahidi team. The Forum is very interested in ways in which they could collect and share information about Cite Soleil, which has not received much attention during the response - issues of access and information about the community being the primary reasons given by actors we spoke with.  We spent a few hours talking with them about their work, explaining OSM and the various tools, and then split up into groups and walked around - collecting data using the same process we had worked on in Jacmel.  One of the many small victories of this week was that Abed from CNIGS, who we trained earlier in the week and came with us on the Jacmel survey, took the lead in the mapping work and demonstrate for the group how data entry in JOSM works once we returned.

In between these trips and the required preparation, we did a lot more OSM training.  By my count, we trained around 30 new OSM mappers over the past 9 days.  This includes folks from most of the agencies working on LogBase, several local and international NGOS, and the Haitian government.  Many of them, like Abed, are now comfortable enough to train others.  Some will likely need some more assistance before they are ready to go out on their own. 

I arrived home to Washington DC last night.  Nicolas will remain in Haiti for one more week, doing an assessment trip in Leogane (again with IOM and CNIGS taking the lead), conducting more trainings (WFP-VAM, reps from Cite Soleil, an NGO called the WINNER project, and DAI are planned), and working on defining plans for some longer term OSM projects in Haiti and within the cluster system.  The first two weeks of the mission feel successful to us, but some of the gains we've made are still a bit fragile.  CNIGS has expressed strong interest in making OSM an important part of their work, but this relationship will need continued support.  Many of the GIS officers using OSM on logbase, now trained on how to contribute, will reach the end of their contracts in the next month and new staff will replace them.  Finding ways to establish continuity for OSM will be an important part of Nicolas's last week.  The Cite Soleil Community Forum will need a lot of support if they decide to continue to explore the possibilities that OSM provides.  A possible short-term solution is to facilitate stronger connections between CNIGS, who has expressed interest in slum mapping, and the forum.  Longer term it makes sense to have this assistance coming from a local NGO that is working in Cite Soleil, like INURED. 

Nicolas will send a final update next week and there is a lot more we need to clean up to share with the community - adjustments to the HDM, associated JOSM presets, the training materials we developed, and ideas for future activities for H.O.T in Haiti and elsewhere. 

Best of luck to Nicolas on the rest of the mission!