Apr 102012
Tarangire in OpenStreetMap edit mode the 10th of April 2012

Tarangire in OpenStreetMap edit mode the 10th of April 2012

This posting is about OpenStreetMap and how Microsoft thorugh Bing Maps contributes to establishing a good open data basemap all over the world. But it is also a modest request for more of the good stuff. The Tanzania coverage from Bing Maps is poor. I am hoping it can become better.

It’s been almost 20 years since I worked as a localizer for Microsoft Worldwide Product Group in Dublin, Ireland translating software and documentation from English to Norwegian. Way back then I took part in translating Windows for Workgroups (Windows 3.11) and Word. Bringing software to the people is hard work. Microsoft and it’s owners have prospered throughout these years making profits and contributing to technological breakthroughs. Supporting OpenStreetMap is one of many ways Microsoft is contributing back to society.

In the time since I have not always been equally happy about the Windows operating system software. I am beyond counting hours trying to set up windows or fixing a broken Windows install. Wether it be due to viruses, clueless users, design flaws – or a combination of all the mentioned factors.

There has been good things happening as well. One of the more recent ones is Microsofts contributions to OpenStreetMap. This has been done by Microsoft allowing some Bing Maps imagery being used as a backdrop for OSM map editors.

“Microsoft is pleased to announce the royalty-free use of the Bing Maps Imagery Editor API, allowing the Open Street Map community to use Bing Maps imagery via the API as a backdrop to your OSM map editors.

Bing Maps imagery must be used in accordance with the API Terms and Conditions [see PDF below] – although this is not legal binding advice, and you are encouraged to read the TOU itself, in sum the TOU says: you are only granted rights to use the aerial imagery, you must use the imagery as presented in the API, you cannot modify or edit the imagery, including the copyright and credit notices; you cannot create permanent, offline copies of the imagery, all of your updates to OSM arising out of the application must be shared with OSM, and the OSM map editor must be free to end users.”  (Source: Microsoft Imagery Details posting)

In parts of Norway Bing has provided background imagery which has enabled me to make modest contributions to the island where my dad grew up. The same imagery has facilitated for substantial mapping of the Tandale area in Dar es Salaam.

In a posting the groundtruthinitiative writes the following about the project behind the initiative:

In June, GroundTruth began planning a project in Dar es Salaam, supported by the World Bank and Twaweza. We’re training in both mapping and citizen reporting in Tandale, an informal settlement of Dar. During August, we’ll be working with both community members and urban planning students at Ardhi University to create maps and build reporting resources for this community.
(Source: Dar es Salaam – Introduction to Informal Tanzania)

Knowing the TZGISUG mailing list members and many other researchers and co-workers I believe that better imagery in protected areas will lead to better maps for those areas. It worked in Dar es Salaam, and I am sure it will work for protected areas as well.

Tarangire National Park is a well known protected ara in the northern parts of Tanzani. I have visited the park on several occations. On some of these I brought a GPS on others just my camera, a camera and a day set aside for experiencing Tanzanian wildlife. The combined results of my own and fellow openstreetmap contributors is based on GPS tracks and what is available of imagery covering the park. It does not amount to much and it is not enough to provide a good map over the park and its surrounding areas:

Tarangire in OpenStreetMap edit mode the 10th of April 2012

Tarangire in OpenStreetMap edit mode the 10th of April 2012

More and better imagery from Microsoft will lead to better basemaps from OpenStreetMap. Better OpenStreetMaps will again lead to better research, better management and lastly also more awareness about these areas internationally.

In short – it would be a good thing if Microsoft provided more and better imagery for Tanzania. I would certainly be happy about it 🙂

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