TRF-Online volunteers map uncharted Ebola zones to help save lives
By Stella Dawson
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Donating to disasters used to mean writing a check to Oxfam or the Red Cross.
These days in the Internet age, for the Ebola crisis, citizens from all over the world are donating their time by going online to build maps for relief workers.
Call it crowd-sourced cartography that can save lives.
Roads or paths to remote villages through deep forest in West Africa, bridges and river crossings, school buildings that can be used as temporary clinics, an open field for a helicopter landing - all these are visible from satellite imagery and provide critical information for delivering aid.
However, these details never made it onto official maps in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone - countries too poor to worry about whether there are accurate Google Maps loaded onto smartphones.
So when the Ebola epidemic erupted earlier this year, Doctors without Borders, the American Red Cross and other groups on the ground found that unreliable maps made fighting the spread of the deadly virus much more difficult.
They could not trace the likely vectors of transmission because they did not know the patterns of peoples' daily lives, and they could not plan effective aid delivery.
Enter the collaborative Ebola project by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). Continuación...