DIT Bolton Street host Charity Mapathon

On Wednesday 8th of February DIT students from the BSc Geomatics, BSc Geographic Science, MSc Geographic Information Science and MSc Spatial Planning partook in a Charity Missing maps Mapathon in DIT Bolton Street, organised and sponsored by Esri Ireland in collaboration with Concern Worldwide.

Volunteers mapping buildings and roads in Cite Soleil

The purpose of the charity mapathon was to map building and roads in Cité Soleil, Haiti, where Concern has just commenced a 5 year aid programme which will focus on improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education and livelihoods for people living in Cité Soleil, Haiti. Prior to last Wednesday, most parts of this area were unmapped, which from Concerns perspective makes planning and implementing projects in Cite Soleil more difficult.   During the summer of 2016 Esri Ireland, a software and services organisation specialising in the application of geographic information systems approached Concern offering  help adding details including buildings and roads to open source maps, to assist  Concern’s project work in Cite Soleil, Haiti. Working in collaboration, both organisations planned a series of Charity mapathon’s using Missing Maps,  a global open, collaborative project initiative that uses volunteers from all around the world. Remote volunteers coordinate their progress using the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager. Using satellite imagery, they trace map features which are then made freely available worldwide in OpenStreetMap.com.  This mapping information can be used to assist humanitarian organisations respond more quickly  to crises brought about by natural disasters, conflict and  in areas that must respond more quickly affecting them. 

There are many on- going missing maps projects that volunteers can work on in their own time that are accessible through the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager website: http://tasks.hotosm.org/ 

Joanne Mc Laughlin Esri Ireland, Ellen Ward Concern Worldwide, and Aideen Croasdell Esri Ireland

The mapathon on Wednesday 8th of February was the third Mapathon event sponsored by Esri Ireland.  To keep the volunteers going for the afternoon, Joanne McLaughlin from Esri Ireland arranged for lots of food and goodies to be provided throughout the afternoon. There were also spot prizes for all the busy volunteers who spent the afternoon with their heads down tracing buildings and roads from satellite imagery. To start things off Ellen Ward from Concern Worldwide gave a presentation outlining the incredible work since 1994 being done by them in Haiti, a country where three quarters of the population survive on less than two dollars per day and which in 2010 was struck by an earthquake killing 300,000 people, and then more recently by floods and hurricanes, the outcome of which is severe destruction to both infrastructure and houses. Since 2013 Concern has focused their project work in the Grand Ravine area of Haiti. Working closely with the local communities they have redesigned community infrastructures by providing fresh water, safer spaces and waste disposal, while also increasing livelihoods for the residents such as bakeries. Additionally, they have put in place preventative measures for the community to reduce the effects of flooding and natural disasters.

Having completed work in Grand Ravine, Concern is now focusing their attention on Cite Soleil, a shanty town located in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.  Described as an area where 300,000 residents live in extreme poverty with no running water, electricity or sewers, the five year programme aims to improve the quality of life for the residents of Cite Soleil though provision of livelihoods and also community resilience.   Up to now Cite Soleil has not been mapped and this is where the volunteers came in, by getting a large number of volunteers together in one place to trace buildings and streets from satellite imagery into open source Open Street map, Concern project teams on the ground will be able to plan out where they will focus their project work, map services including schools, water points, play areas and waste disposal areas. Mapping this information is just the first step in the process, once mapped community volunteers on the ground in Cite Soleil will add local knowledge such as neighbourhoods and street names. Information that is critical in ensuring that the resources available for the project are used as effectively as possible.  Students were assigned an area in Cite Soleil which consisted of 167 grid squares. Students were given initial instructions on how to trace building from satellite imagery and upload these onto open street map.  

Ellen Ward from Concern Worldwide was impressed by the speed and accuracy of the mapping, “We have held a couple of Missing Maps events before, but none of our volunteers took to the task so easily. The DIT students were able to map immediately and the quality of work was really good. We were happy to see so many students donate their time to this project, which is only possible because of volunteers. Thanks for a really fun and productive afternoon at your campus, we hope you continue to support Missing Maps and Concern in the future.” 

By the end of the afternoon all building and roads in Cite Soleil had been mapped and checked by the volunteers. Overall on the day a total of 726 buildings and 15km of roads were digitised and checked and will now form part of the open street map of Cite Soleil, Haiti, providing the information necessary for Concern Worldwide to carry out its great work helping the poorest people in the world to transform their lives. Well done to all the DIT student volunteers who participated on the day.

Map tiles to be digitised at start of Mapathon

Map tiles digitalised and verified (marked green) at end of Mapathon

More Information

About The Missing Maps initiative: Each year, disasters around the world kill nearly 100,000 and affect or displace 200 million people. Many of the places where these disasters occur are literally 'missing' from any map and first responders lack the information to make valuable decisions regarding relief efforts.

More information about the work done by concern in Haiti can be found at:  



You can read about the first Concern/Esri Ireland mapathon held in September 2016 at Esri Ireland headquarters.  

Volunteers from DIT that took part in The Missing Maps Mapathon