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OpenStreetMap Toolbox

2.1 Definition


OpenStreetMap - The free collaborative map

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OpenStreetMap (OSM) is an international participatory project that aims to create a free and open source world map. Behind this map lies a large database of shared geographic data that is updated and synchronized by contributors from all over the world in a continuous flow. The geographic data of OpenStreetMap is considered to be a common good, belonging to all.

In developing countries, the OSM database is a reference. The data is generally more complete, more detailed and more regularly updated than data from national geographic institutes or private providers.

While one of the strengths of OSM is the ability to map remotely, especially with satellite imagery, local contributors are essential to produce reliable and accurate data, as they are able to ground truth the information (location of major facilities and infrastructures, places’ names, etc.).

The existence of reliable, up-to-date and easily accessible geographic data can be of great help to humanitarian and development actors to respond more efficiently to natural disasters/health crises; but also to individuals to plan their travels or to provide information about their neighborhoods; and to governmental institutions to better manage the resources of their territory.

The free aspect of the ecosystem ensures its sustainability. It is the community of contributors that is in charge of maintaining it. This ecosystem does not depend on the will of a specific structure but on more than 2 million individuals spread all over the world, which makes it particularly sustainable.

The richness of the OSM ecosystem allows the contribution and use of data to be accessible to all. Indeed, OSM-based tools exist and are adapted to beginners as well as experts. Everyone can participate in the building of the map but also reuses this information to answer the needs of a specific project.

The entire OSM ecosystem is based on the open source philosophy and all associated softwares are free.

OSM data is under a free license called “ODbL” (Open Database License).