The Gulu University (1st University)

Gulu University Students update OpenStreetMap.

Opening remarks

The Gulu University mapping day drew together twenty five committed participants, a couple of University staff members and two Agency for Technology Coorporation and Development (ACTED) staff members from Gulu Branch.

The morning was chilly with erratic drizzles, but this did not stop the participants from turning up for the mapping event. The greater part of the group only listened intently but the moment Douglas gave an overview of the Mapping Uganda project, the mood got warm again.

At this point, the attitude was one of interest since most of the participants were attentive, having heard that they were to build on the work that had been done by the Red Cross and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (H.O.T.)

A few weeks before our visit to Gulu The Red Cross together with H.O.T. mapped the two cities in Northern Uganda, Gulu and Lira by tracing satellite imagery.

This imagery was made available for a couple of days and had been used by dedicated OSM volunteers in Washington DC. After their mapping exercise, both cities were suddenly in much detail represented on OSM but did not show specific information: the type of shop, the name of a restaurant, the provider of an ATM machine, opening hours of the petrol station etc. These can only be added by local people or ones on the ground and therefore we presented this case study to the students.

After the question and answer session, the participants split into groups, received mapping tools and off they went.

In the Field..

The data collection session was crowned with an 'experience sharing' one- each group member had to tell their story about the field activity. This session had funny breaks with the students sending us into fits of laughter since some had more data points than others.

Two of the five groups had an argument about mapping the other's 'territory'. This resulted in the same building being given two different names; this discrepancy had to be corrected, since some groups were getting errors on uploads around the same area.

View Larger Map We suggested that the students check and correct the conflict and provide accurate information because the map would be viewed by the world and not only the University students.

According to one of the groups, the area allocated to them was too small so they decided to go the extra mile and mapped the faculties outside the University like the department of Bio systems engineering the “boda boda stage”, the pork joints with in vicinity and the famous

“Garamba forest”. They got back to the training venue after every one else had already reported.

Map Making

The editing session would have proved challenging because internet connection was apparently off. Fortunately the department of ICT secured a couple of modems that were shared between the groups. This made editing a lot easier because the Mapnik imagery from OSM could be downloaded into JOSM to give context to the GPS and walking paper information that was collected from the field.


We got feed back from the students in three ways:

  1. through the physical map results by pointing out some of the features that had been mapped
    (each group had a chance to present),
  2. then the experiential feedback which came straight from the horse's mouth
  3. and lastly using flip chart notes, which triggered a discussion among the participants.

Some of the students will map their home districts, according to the flip chart feedback. We hope to give support and share material that would be helpful to foster such activities and build the OpenStreetMap Mapping community in Uganda.

Geoffrey Kateregga (a winner of Mapping challenge in June) wrapped up the one day event with a word of thanks to the participants for showing interest and letting the humor flow. The students and University staff were handed a Garmin Etrex 10 G.P.S device from Fruits of Thought, to be used by the students who would need to map and discover more. We were seen off by the dean of the faculty of science, Dr. Andogah Geoffrey.

Read also

Road Trip 2012: The Story
2nd University "UCU Mbale" report
3rd University "Uganda Pentecostal University"
4th University "Mbarara University of Science and Technology"
5th University "Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi"