Road Trip 2012: The Story

From wednesday the 5th to Saturday the 22nd of September the Mapping Day Uganda team traveled across the country, visiting 5 universities. The sole goal was to introduce, explain and explore OpenStreetMap (OSM) with an aim to enlarge the focus on community mapping. The team drove from south to north and from east to west.

We go, we go

Road Trip Route 2012

After leaving Uganda's biggest city and capital Kampala, the Gulu University was visited first. Gulu is probably known because of the "guluwalk" and the recent Kony 2012 campaign by Invisible Children. Despite all negative associations Gulu is an upcoming lively city in northern Uganda, counting approximately 146.000 residents and attracting many non governmental organisations (ngo's).see university map here

"In 2012 the American and Ugandan Red Cross started to accurately map Gulu and Lira cities onto Open Street Map. The map was created using crowd sourced mapping traced on satellite images donated by the US government, which were then tagged (street names, businesses and facilities names added) by local volunteers. The aim of the project was to improve disaster management."

Specific information like the type of shop, the name of a restaurant, the provider of an ATM machine, opening hours, etc. is missing and can only be added by local people. With satellite imagery available and these recent activities by the American and Ugandan Red Cross, Gulu offered the Mapping team an interesting challenge: "How can we encourage students to volunteer and contribute to this project?"

Voluntary work is not so obvious in Uganda and probably also in other African countries, as it is in Western countries. Time is precious and maximum attention to the collection of a small wage where several family members depend on, is necessary. Without an allowance for transportation costs, lunch or a daily fee it is almost impossible to stimulate contribution to work in the interest of society.

The second stop was the Uganda Christian University (UCU) in Mbale. This town in Eastern Uganda is mainly known for Mount Elgon and therefore attracting many tourists and businesses. An estimated 86,642 people live in this town. Some parts of the district regularly experience mudslides caused by weather changes, deforestation and growth of population. Satellite imagery is available in high quality. Mapping work has been done by Dave W Farthing, researching disaster prevention in this area. see the university map here

The trip continues to the Mbarara University of Science and Technology. Mbarara is the fastest growing western town with a population of 102,926 people and 12 informal settlements.The town has good satellite imagery to work with. see university map here

Fort Portal
The fourth University Uganda Pentecostal University is in Fort Portal. Fort Portal is a town in the west of Uganda's Kampala. In 2002, there were 40,993 inhabitants in Fort Portal. The town is situated in the middle of the Rwenzori Mountains, the Kibale Forest National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. The main sources of income are tourism and trade. see university map here

The fifth and final place to be visited was the Uganda Martyrs University in Nkozi. Nkozi is a town in central Uganda and situated along the Kampala-Masaka highway, approximately 88 kilometres, southwest of Kampala. The exact population of Nkozi is not known.The area has good satellite imagery what might help estimate the size of the town. see university map here

To do..

Universities are evenly spread across the country, have Internet facilities, a more reliable power supply and luckily, students. We visit 5 universities to map the campus and the surrounding neighbourhood and teach additional skills like

  • understanding the GPS device,
  • using the walking papers,
  • digitalising their trails in OpenStreetMap and
  • working with an editor that allows you to customize the map.


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.

The overall outcome is that the university area is mapped on to openstreetmap(for the ones that were initially non-existent) and in much more detail(for those that had been mapped to some extent). Students add names of buildings, sport facilities, roads and their names, shops and much more features that can be found on their campus.

The students asked the team many critical questions like, for example:
"Why can't Googlemaps, OpenStreetMap and Wikimapia come together since they are doing the same thing?", "Why did you choose our University?" or more technically, "How can fibre optic cable be mapped to OpenStreetMap?", "How to measure the length of a polygon in JOSM?" and "How can we view features in OpenStreetMap in 3D?".

Of course not all students were up for the challenge of mapping their own environment but the majority were enthusiastic. They understand the idea behind the project, although the concept would have a greater impact if all commitment leads to better employment opportunities according to the students. The teachers see potential in the training material. The tool kit 'Making Sense of Openstreetmap' was used for the training and can be found at Learn OSM

Gulu Before
Collecting data in Gulu
Gulu After

The Gulu University

Read Full Report or Watch Slideshow or View Map

Data collection
The data collection session was crowned with an 'experience sharing' one- each group member had to tell their story about the field activity.

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.

Experiential Feedback
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”.

Flip Chart Notes
Some of the students will map their home districts, according to the flip chart feedback.

Mbale Before
Collecting data in Mbale
Mbale After

UCU Mbale

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Data collection
The satellite imagery in Mbale is great. This made editing, adding and verifying the GPS data points a lot easier and faster. We did not have to rely on waypoints and tracks only.

Experiential Feedback
Mapping with UCU Mbale turned out to be a rich learning experience for both the participants and mapping team from Fruits of Thought. We faced a challenge with seemingly empty gpx files from the GPS units and had to devise quick means of recovering the files without losing all the data points.

Secondly, one of the groups represented nodes as buildings, and went ahead to upload these edits to the OSM server.

The uploaded information had to be erased from the OSM server and the editing process started all over again- with some disappointment from the group members. Having to face the flip-side of editing with JOSM equiped us with skills to handle such challenges in future.

Flip Chart Notes
One of the flip chart questions looked to find out if any skills had been shared: one group's response was “We have acquired mapping skills through the use of internet and the different software involved”. The different software would be JOSM and Potlatch.

Fort Portal Before
Collecting data in Fort Portal
Fort Portal After

Uganda Pentecostal University

Read the full report or Watch Slideshow or View Map
Data collection
The four groups that were sent out to collect data were already well versed with what existed within and around the University,

they had local knowledge, were eager to know how they can use a g.p.s unit and walking papers to make an on-line map with existing information. After the field session, the participants dug into the editing session to update the almost empty area where the University was located on OpenStreetMap (OSM).

This was guided by a clear satellite imagery that could be loaded into both the on-line editor (Potlatch), the off-line editor (JOSM) and the g.p.s traces.

Experiential Feedback
By this time, all the groups were ready to present what they had been doing for the day, and each group was to send a representative to tell the rest what results they had come up with.

This is usually an engaging session where light moments of laughter are shared from the work of various groups, and this is a session where there is a final result of how the map looks like after being updated.

Evaluation also takes place after a display of the results.

Some of the University staff promised to have more students involved by the time another mapping event takes place at the University.

Mbarara Before
Collecting data in Mbarara
Mbarara After

Mbarara University of Science and Technology

Read the full report or Watch Slideshow or View Map

Data collection
A well-stocked computer lab at the university resource centre was the venue for the Mapping Day.

We started at 9.00am with introductions from the participants comprised of Computer Science and Information Technology students, one lecturer and an administrator from the computing services unit of the University.

Some of the students were planning to do their final year projects with a component of digital maps.

They were eagerly waiting to learn as much as they could about OpenStreetMap (OSM) and online mapping.

By 11:00 am all teams were out covering the complete university campus collecting data on features like buildings, land use and ways.

The following session, kicked off at 12:00 pm, had more practical use of JOSM, downloading traces, waypoints from the Garmin Etrex10 devices, and the walking papers to edit OSM.

Experiential Feedback
It was a very rewarding moment that prompted one of the participants to suggest that they form an association to carry on the mapping activities. So that a better map for the whole of Mbarara town could be produced.

Nkozi Before
Collecting data in Nkozi
Nkozi After

Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi

Read the full report or Watch Slideshow or View Map

Data collection
UMU is a beautiful University with well kept lawns, flower gardens, walk ways and well labelled buildings. It was therefore easy to collect the geographical information using the GPS unit. The interface offered by JOSM was familiar ground for the participants since most of them had used similar tools before to sketch buildings, paths and land use. We also had access to high resolution bing satellite imagery which made editing easier.

Experiential Feedback
We had to use JOSM for iMAC and the at resources were a good read.

Flip Chart Notes
1.) Why use OSM instead of other commercial maps?
The OSM wiki page and more here may answer this but not exhaustively.

2.) How is the quality/authenticity of data ensured for future users? This OSM wiki page is informative.

3.) How could we add contours to OSM?
OSM data can be downloaded from websites like Geofabrik and loaded into geographical information systems like QGIS. Two data layers can be merged using the merge tool.

Some of these questions are looking to find the application of OSM data in our work or studies- this was good for both the team and participants.

Despite the tight schedule, notable changes were made to the map. Initially, the area was bare.

Follow Up

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. Hopefully we see OSM being updated by the students in they areas we have visited. We track students activity via their account on OSM to monitor uploads of traces and edits via this tool.

The mapping team plans to keep in touch with the students through email conversations and Facebook status updates. A follow-up meeting where the team travels to all universities is planned for later this year.

The Team

The travelling mappers are:
Douglas Musaazi and Ketty Adoch, the core team and probably Uganda's most dedicated mappers. They are both coordinators of the Mapping Day Project and get support from Joel Ongwech, Julius Iversion and Godfrey Kateregga who emerged as the most active participants during the Mapping Challenge 2012.

Looking back..

Back in November 2011, Loren Treisman Trust Executive of the Indigo Trust Foundation, visited our office to find out more about our mapping activities. By that time we had organized 4 Mapping Days with students, implemented one course based on the Learn OSM manuals and mapped together with the Makindye Division, one of the 5 divisions in Kampala (600.000 residents). Fruits of Thought got a grant from the Indigo Trust Foundation to visit five universities outside Kampala.

It was because of this corporation and our works in Namuwongo, a small informal settlement in Makindye, that we got a publication in the New Vision and we presented this case study and the detailed map of this area at TechFest, an annual science and technology festival showcasing Uganda's innovations.

Why are we doing this?

Most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive, or unexpected ways. Like, for example, off-line usage of the map when there is no connectivity or printing the map to be less dependent on an Internet connection or power supply.

Creating an open source map of Uganda is a big project. By engaging Ugandan students to join our mapping activities they extend their skill set and distinguish themselves from other students what increases chances of employment. On the other hand, mapping by communities improves the level of detail, solves the issue of outdated information and lowers the costs because of efficiency.

Indigo Trust Foundation supported our vision to establish a nationwide network of mappers.

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Read also

1st University "The Gulu University" report
2nd University "UCU Mbale" report
3rd University "Uganda Pentecostal University"
4th University "Mbarara University of Science and Technology"
5th University "Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi"