OpenStreetMap Trips

Aug 16, 2011   //   by Hameed   //   GIS  //  7 Comments

As I said in my ear­li­er blog, our com­pa­ny (J Syn­er­gy Tech Devel­op­ment) is work­ing on a map­ping project to edit Nan­garhar Province in the east­ern Afghanistan on Open­StreetMap. There are a few dif­fer­ent ways to edit on OSM: You can edit by hav­ing local knowl­edge of the area you are edit­ing. You can also edit by record­ing gps tracks with a gps or a smart phone and then upload­ing those tracks on OSM and edit all the places you have been to with your device. This way you can mark places with names and take geo­t­ag pho­tos, etc. Anoth­er way to edit on OSM is to draw a map of the places you are vis­it­ing and then sit at your desk and edit from your home. Our team uses a com­bi­na­tion of all these meth­ods. We are a group of five edi­tors that usu­al­ly go on long trips to the far away dis­tricts of Nan­garhar. We have a TOYOTA Corol­la with a mileage of 233415 that was dumped in Afghanistan after it was used in the U.S. It still has ‘THE LONE STAR STATE’ license plate on it.
The day before yes­ter­day, we went to Behsood, a dis­trict that is not very big and it is close to Jalal­abad city. We already knew some about the struc­ture of its main bazaar, its roads and streets and pub­lic ser­vices build­ings but we still had a lot to see and map: any new schools, clin­ics, or oth­er pub­lic places built. Usu­al­ly, when we go to a far away dis­trict we go through our con­tacts to see if any of us has friends or rel­a­tives in the area. We always find hos­pitable friends that will host us for how­ev­er long we want. We take some food with us to our host fam­i­ly for all of us to make sure that they have enough to serve us. On this par­tic­u­lar trip, we did vis­it some friends but we did not have to take any food: a) we went ear­ly in the morn­ing and fin­ished in one day. Behsood is very close to Jalal­abad so we came back home for the night. b) We were all fast­ing as it is the month of Ramadan here. In Afghanistan, to avoid any sus­pi­cion you want to fin­ish every­thing in one trip, if pos­si­ble. Two days is enough time for us to dri­ve around on the main roads of a dis­trict, get a sense of where every­thing is and get some tracks of the key loca­tions. Some of us walk with their gps track­ers on so we can cov­er as much area as pos­si­ble. We also draw a map of pri­ma­ry roads and oth­er key places on our draw­ing pads. 
After we fin­ish record­ing tracks of all the main roads and key areas, we come back to Jalal­abad and start edit­ing on Open­StreetMap. We put all the col­lect­ed data togeth­er before we start edit­ing. We usu­al­ly work for a cou­ple of weeks on each small dis­trict before we go to anoth­er. There are 22 dis­tricts in Nan­garhar and we will be work­ing on OSM to edit as many dis­tricts in the next five months as pos­si­ble. Next week we are plan­ning to go and map Surkhrod Dis­trict. It also a dis­trict that is close to the city but it is big­ger. By the end of 2011, we will have a very detailed map of our province. We will hope­ful­ly start edit­ing anoth­er province after Nangarhar. 
In the pho­to below is Noor Ahma­di, our net­work admin­is­tra­tor and he makes that our Inter­net is always work­ing as we edit the map of our city on OSM online. 
Rah­mat Sadat is our admin­is­tra­tive assis­tant and he always makes sure that every­thing is work­ing smooth­ly and every­one is work­ing on their planned tasks.
The rea­son why it is impor­tant to record tracks and gps points is that the imagery on OSM is usu­al­ly old and it does not have places that have been built recent­ly. There is one prob­lem in our project: None of the gpx files that we record with our Sony Eric­s­son smart phones view on OSM. Right now, we con­vert those gpx files to KMZ and open them on Google Earth. We look at the Google Earth and edit OSM which is a much hard­er alter­na­tive. If you/any of your friends can help us trou­bleshoot the gpx view­ing issues, please leave a comment.