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  • Transcriber: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Camille Martínez

  • A few years back,

  • my friend's dad asked me to show him my mom's house on the map.

  • I knew we didn't have Street View in Zimbabwe yet,

  • but I looked anyway,

  • and of course, we couldn't find it.

  • When you look at most mapping platforms,

  • you will find that parts of the African continent

  • are largely missing.

  • And I've wondered:

  • Is it the people?

  • Is it the technology?

  • Or is it the terrain?

  • For nearly a billion people on the continent,

  • it's an accepted reality

  • that certain technologies are just not built for us.

  • When Cyclone Idai flattened parts of Mozambique,

  • Zimbabwe and Malawi in 2019,

  • killing 1,300 people and displacing hundreds of thousands of others,

  • it left more than just destruction.

  • It left a new awareness of the consequences of omission

  • in the way we build technology.

  • As rescue workers arrived in the region in search of survivors,

  • we learned that thousands of displaced people

  • were in unmapped areas,

  • making it difficult to reach them with much-needed food

  • and medical supplies.

  • There was no accurate accounting of what had been lost.

  • For those in unmapped areas,

  • a natural disaster often means no one will come to find you.

  • Thankfully, as the tools used to build some of the maps we use today

  • become more easily accessible,

  • we can be part of the solution.

  • Anyone with a computer or a cell phone

  • can play a role in improving the representation of communities

  • that are missing accurate maps.

  • In two weeks,

  • I photographed 2,000 miles of Zimbabwe,

  • and with every single mile I captured,

  • I got closer to an answer

  • and a better sense of what it means to not be on the map.

  • As I started to prepare for my mapping journey,

  • I learned that while many of the maps we use today

  • are built on proprietary technology,

  • the pieces that make up that canvas often have open-source origins.

  • I could combine those pieces with off-the-shelf products

  • to build maps that are accessible

  • on both commercial and open-source platforms.

  • I started with a very rudimentary setup:

  • a 360-degree action camera stuck outside the window

  • of my brother's car.

  • After capturing a few dozen miles of city streets,

  • I borrowed a proper camera from the Street View camera loan program,

  • allowing me to capture high-resolution imagery,

  • complete with location, speed and other vital layers of data.

  • I adapted that camera to sit on a backpack I could carry,

  • and with the help of a few more contraptions,

  • we were able to mount it to the dash of a helicopter,

  • the bow of a speedboat

  • and the hood of an all-terrain vehicle.

  • My journey started at Victoria Falls,

  • one of the seven natural wonders of the world,

  • and then I headed east

  • to the 11th-century city of Great Zimbabwe,

  • before retracing my footprints home,

  • finally putting my hometown on the map.

  • And yet, much of the region remains all but invisible

  • on some of the most widely used mapping platforms.

  • Beyond navigation,

  • maps are a proxy for what we care about.

  • They tell us about the quality of the air we breathe,

  • the potential for renewable energy solutions

  • and the safety of our streets.

  • These lines retrace the journeys we've taken.

  • In a sense, maps are a form of storytelling.

  • When you look at the state of mapping on the African continent today,

  • you'll find a patchwork of coverage,

  • often driven by humanitarian need in the wake of natural disasters,

  • rather than by deliberate and sustained efforts

  • to build out digital infrastructure

  • and improve overall service delivery.

  • What the continent is lacking

  • are maps that tell the story of how people live,

  • work

  • and spend time,

  • illuminating environmental and social issues.

  • With more than 600 million cell phones in the hands of people

  • between Cape Town and Cairo

  • and centers of innovation in the cities in between,

  • this is achievable.

  • Every single one of those devices,

  • in the hands of a contributor to an open-source mapping platform,

  • becomes a powerful source of imagery

  • that forms a vital layer of data on maps.

  • With virtual maps,

  • mapping is no longer just about cartography.

  • It's become a way to preserve places

  • that are undergoing constant and sometimes dramatic change.

  • High-resolution imagery turns maps into a living canvas

  • on which we can instantly experience

  • the rhythm and visual iconography of a city,

  • often from thousands of miles away.

  • City planners are able to measure traffic density

  • or pick out problem intersections,

  • and in the case of Northern Ontario,

  • where I mapped ice roads in partnership with the local government,

  • you can now explore 500 miles of winter roads

  • along the western edge of the James Bay.

  • Every winter, after 10 days of minus 20-degree temperatures,

  • engineers begin the work to build the road of the season.

  • These roads only exist for 90 days,

  • connecting communities across hundreds of miles of frozen tundra.

  • Being on the winter roads of Northern Ontario

  • after mapping parts of Namibia, one of the warmest places on the planet,

  • exposed me to the many ways in which communities are using maps

  • to understand the pace and impact of changes in the environment.

  • So after mapping 3,000 miles in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Northern Ontario

  • and publishing nearly half a million images to Street View,

  • reaching more than 26 million people on Maps,

  • I know it's not the technology,

  • it's not the people,

  • and it's clearly not the terrain.

  • Every other day,

  • I hear from scientists who are using maps

  • to understand how our built environment influences health outcomes,

  • teachers using virtual reality in the classroom

  • and humanitarian workers using maps to protect the vulnerable.

  • A dad wrote to me to say he'd finally been able to show his girls

  • the house in which he grew up

  • and the hospital in which he was born, in Harare.

  • Think about the last time you gave directions to a stranger.

  • When we contribute to connected maps,

  • we're giving directions to millions.

  • And that stranger may be the occasional tourist,

  • a researcher,

  • a first responder,

  • a rescue worker working in unfamiliar terrain.

  • As we begin to think about how to bridge the digital divide,

  • we should go beyond the traditional narrative

  • of data extraction and consumption

  • and think more critically about the role you and I play

  • in the creation of the technologies and tools we use every day.

  • The goal is not to map every inch of the planet,

  • but to spare a moment to think about where those tools are most needed,

  • the consequences of our mission

  • and the role you and I can play in filling those gaps

  • and building a more connected world

  • together.

  • Thank you.

Transcriber: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Camille Martínez

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B1 TED mapping zimbabwe terrain continent open source

My journey mapping the uncharted world | Tawanda Kanhema

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/02/26
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