My Experience Participating In the Open Cities Accra Project (Mapper)

My name is Chris Eshun, a third-year Geomatic Engineering student at the University of Mines and Technology, Tarkwa, Ghana. I am the Training Coordinator for UMaT YouthMappers Chapter, a member of OpenStreetMap Ghana and the current President of the Geomatic Engineering Students Association.

The Open Cities Africa (Accra) project is a project that seeks to make Alogboshie and its environs resilient to natural disasters, especially flooding. The project also involves the remote mapping of Nima, Akweteyman, and Alajo which are areas of focus in a larger resilience project, GARID, and are all located along the Odaw River which is prone to floods. This project is being implemented in Ghana by Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), Mobile Web Ghana and OpenStreetMap Ghana (OSM Ghana).

I was selected to be part of the Project after filling the application form requesting for interested mappers to apply. I received a mail on the 1st of August 2018 which indicated that all applicants were to convene at Mobile Web Ghana for an interview and briefing on the Open Cities Africa Project that was about to commence. I got selected after the interview session and was invited to the training program a few days later.

On the 6th of August at 9:00 am I went to the Office for our first Training. I met other participants of the Project. Enock Seth Nyamador, Stephen Mawutor Donkor (both of OSM Ghana) were the trainers and David Luswata from HOT was our Supervisor for the one-week Training. On the first day, we were taken through lessons in the following, introduction to the aims and objectives of the Project, GIS and the tools required to contribute to OpenStreetMap etc. This session was to help participants who did not have knowledge about OpenStreetMap to also be at par with the rest so that they can effectively help in mapping the area. Day two involved the remote mapping of Alogboshie, we used Java OpenStreetMap editor (JOSM) to map the areas of interest to the project, Mobile applications such as MAPS.MEOSMTrackerOSMAndOpenMapKitOpenDataKit were also introduced to us. The Data Model required for the project was discussed and how the tools we had learned about were going to play a major role in the data collection. On the third day, we were given the opportunity to test our skills in field data collection. This exercise was to help us familiarize ourselves with the data collection process. It was an exercise aimed at getting feedback and comments on ways to make the field data collection effective and efficient. On the fourth Day, we were divided into various teams and sent to Alogboshie, the main area of focus for the Open Cities Accra Project. The various teams had different sections to work in, using OpenDataKit and OpenMapKit for the data collection of details such as building materials, building levels, house address, and other data required for the project. On the last day of training, we went back to the field again to develop strategies for all the teams involved to be used during the actual data collection exercise. The project involved two main teams, the data collection team, and the data cleaning team. The data collection team was responsible for getting data from the field and the data cleaning team had to check and validate the data to reduce errors and mistakes. I was selected to be part of the data cleaning team.

After the training for the participants, work began as the various teams were tasked to do their individual work, data collection team did their work with enthusiasm and from time to time we also got data from the field to rectify and clean.

Participating in the Open Cities Project has given me knowledge and skills in how I can use OpenStreetMap and other Open Source Software to help solve similar problems that plague the community I am in. It has also given me more ideas on activities and projects that our YouthMappers Chapter in the University of Mines and Technology can undertake.

Special thanks to the Mappers, David from HOT, Enock, and Mawutor for the training, support and fun time we had during the project not forgetting Mobile Web Ghana for the wonderful learning environment.