Aid industry must be open by default to improve, says life-saving mapping team

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With the 2015 Open Data Awards just around the corner, we catch up with Harry Wood, volunteer for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, a finalist for the Open Data Social Impact Award.

The Open Data Awards celebrate innovation and excellence in open data across the world. Hundreds of inspiring people and organisations have been nominated across five categories, from social impact to publishing.

The awards will be held on July 9 at Bloomberg’s London offices on Finsbury Square. Explore all nominees and finalists and follow #ODIAwards for updates on the night.


Harry Wood


Hi Harry! How are you?

Very well, thank you!

What do you, or your organisation, do in a nutshell?

We use OpenStreetMap and operate within the OpenStreetMap community to create free, open-licensed, up-to-date maps, used by relief organisations responding to disasters and humanitarian crises.

What first got you excited about open data?

Collaborating on Wikipedia and the travel guide WikiVoyage. I got excited by wiki-style collaboration, and found my way to OpenStreetMap when it was forming here in the UK. This style of collaboration is very much enabled by open licensing, as people share in a spirit of co-creation and co-ownership.

What are your biggest data challenges?

With a very large number of contributors it’s easy to achieve areas of good detail and quality within map data, but achieving consistent levels of detail and quality is a big challenge. This requires coordination, which is an area the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team works on with tools like Tasking Manager.

What kind of open data would you like to see more of?

In the humanitarian realm, an “open by default” approach for data would unlock massive improvements in aid delivery. For mapping, we’d love to get hold of more data from teams on the ground, for example, teams using (paper), (smartphone), or (drone imagery).

How do you feel about being nominated for an open data award?

It’s thrilling to see the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team recognised in this way. OpenStreetMap is a constantly updating editable map, which is a powerful thing, but the open data aspect is what makes it truly revolutionary. Open data can be a quiet revolution, so it’s great to shine a spotlight on it with these awards.

The Open Data Awards will be held on July 9 in partnership with Bloomberg at Bloomberg’s London offices on Finsbury Square.

Explore all nominees and finalists and follow #ODIAwards for updates on the night.

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