Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Crowd-Sourced Mapping of Uncrowded Places

Before describing the reason for sharing the map above, I want to point out that it is probably the first map I have seen that depicts the political divisions of Nigeria -- 36 states plus the federal district of Abuja. This is simply a reminder of how vast the world is -- full of places waiting to be discovered and understood.

And this reminds me that before going on I should share a locational map in order to situate this story about Africa's largest country in terms of economy and population.
This post is about a larger-scale (that is, more detailed) mapping project within three states in the north-central part of the country. Katsina, Kano, and Jigawa include 20,000,000 people spread in small settlements over an area of 100,000 square miles. But maps of these settlements are not sufficiently accurate to facilitate governance, planning, or humanitarian aid. Even tax collectors did not really know where to find the people of this region.

Of course, the area is covered by satellite imagery, but algorithms are not as good as humans at converting those images into reliable information about settlements. This turns out to be an excellent opportunity for crowdsourcing, and the Tomnod group developed a reliable protocol that it describes in Mapping Remote Settlements.

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