Friday, January 16, 2009

Ready to Move North

Despite the ongoing conflict in Gaza, work in the West Bank continues to progress with few hindrances. Today we completed mapping the villages adjoining Hebron, and with that we have finished work in the south and are now making preparations to move our teams north to work in the regions surrounding Janine, Nablus, and Ramallah.

Our partnership with Relief International has proven integral to our success. RI has provided us with access to their computer labs around the country for use by our mapping teams to input their data and upload it to the central Freemap server. Additionally, RI’s Bethlehem office has connected us with numerous engineering students offering to volunteer with JumpStart as we move the mapping initiative to the north. On Saturday we met with them to offer an introduction to GIS mapping, and inshallah half a dozen volunteers will be trained and ready to go within the week.

In addition to Relief International, JSI is partnering with the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). ARIJ is providing some spatial data and PCBS is providing maps used by the Palestinian Authority with proper street names. Both locations have agreed to allow JumpStart staff to work in their offices to compare to our data with theirs so that our map can be revised as accurately as possible.
Below are some photos from a single day of work in Hebron. The day begins with the coordinator showing the area each team of two will work. The teams go to their assigned villages, GPS devices and clipboard in hand, and collect the required information, including roads, road names, and points of interest. Later at the computer lab, each team inputs it’s data into the computer and uploads it to the server.

In related news, in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, JumpStart advisor and OpenStreetMap guru Mikel Maron is currently organizing an effort to map Gaza remotely, so that the data may benefit humanitarian organizations in their work in the region. Volunteers have already been busy at work tracing satellite imagery in south Gaza, and north Gaza will be completed as soon as aerial imagery can be purchased. The most difficult part of mapping an area remotely is being able to identify street names and landmarks, as it requires personal knowledge of the area. Today we met with ARIJ in Bethlehem who is willing to contribute such information to the Gaza initiative. Read more about this project here.

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