Missing Maps: crowdsourcing digital map creation

Each year natural disasters and disease epidemics kill tens of thousands and displace millions of people. Many of the places where these disasters occur are 'missing' from any map. First responders lack information to make decisions for relief efforts. Missing Maps is an open, collaborative project to put communities on the map. We crowdsource volunteers to map missing areas to provide humanitarian organisations and governments with the information needed to address these problems.

At a Glance

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About This Innovation

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Innovation Stats

Do you have any funders?: 
MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders)
American Red Cross
Clinton Foundation
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Where have you implemented your innovation?: 

How does your innovation work?

Maps are created through two innovations:

  • Web-tool: using the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager, users can trace digital maps by drawing roads and buildings over satellite imagery. It takes about 5-10 minutes to get started.
  • App: using the MapSwipe app, users can identify buildings and roads in remote places around the world.
  • Validation tools: maps are validated on the ground by local volunteers, who add meta-data of place such as street names, and identifying hospitals.

Do you have current users or testers?

We currently have over 20 NGO partners who use our mapping tools to improve their efficiency working in the field. We have 24,000+ volunteers who volunteer their time to create the maps.

What is your innovation's value proposition?

Missing Maps provides value in a wide range of ways. Selected examples:

  • Improving efficiency of NGOs and governments working on the ground, and reducing costs and time of their projects by doing so.
  • Providing data needed to measure towards the SDGs. Geospatial data is needed to measure many of these, particularly the 'proportion of population with access to..' indicators.
  • Providing an engaging remote micro volunteering opportunity for organisations, and companies to involve their employees in, and meet their CSR objectives.
  • Enabling NGOs to more accurately estimate project costs and timelines.

Target results and impact

In the last two years we have mapped the homes of 30 million people who have never been on the map before, enabling them to be included in policy and programmes they never would have been counted. Our objective is to map the homes of 200 million people by 2021. By putting vulnerable people on the map, we can provide the data that will change the way in which aid is distributed, and SDGs are measured.

What Evidence do you have that your Innovation works?

All NGOs which have used Missing Maps services to provide maps have commented and blogged that it improves their capabilities to respond to issues in the field. Some examples are:

MSF have also commissioned a report proving the impact of Missing Maps on field projects, for logistics and epidemiology support.

Provide a status update for your Innovation.

Missing Maps is in a period of expansion, and needs support to do so. We have successfully grown from four founding members to fifteen NGO and research partners, and have attracted over 24,000 volunteers worldwide to contribute to the project. To scale further, we require funding to grow our team and develop new partnerships.

What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?

We want to scale through:

  • Partnerships with NGOs and organisations who would benefit from map creation in places where they work
  • Partnerships with corporates, who are able to provide ready access to large numbers of volunteers and funding
  • Partnership with effective altruism organisations - as we crowdsource map creation, we provide huge value at incredibly low cost
  • Community development - researching and implementing ways to engage and grow our userbase of 24,000+ volunteers

Next Steps

We are actively seeking partnerships to help us expand.

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