Sunday, December 4, 2016

Missing Maps

Oddly enough, I got another cool email about crowdsourcing you can do, this time from Doctors Without Borders. Although I'm sure they'd also be thrilled if you simply wanted to donate money to their worthy organization, they sent out an email a couple of days ago asking people to volunteer some time to a project called Missing Maps. I'm pasting it in here (when they mention MSF, they're referring to their French name, Médecins Sans Frontières) :

Help Put Aweil, South Sudan on the Map!

Aweil, the capital of South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, is home to tens of thousands of people, many of whom live on the city’s largely unmapped outskirts. Putting these settlements on the map is the first step to collecting crucial health and demographic data that will help MSF provide essential medical care to this underserved population. That’s where you come in!


When MSF responds to disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and other health crises, hundreds of teams have to cover enormous areas (as happened when MSF responded to a measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year). Now, with MapSwipe, you can help give MSF coordinators a super-fast snapshot of where the population clusters are, helping them to send their teams to the locations where they are most needed to achieve maximum vaccination coverage.


MapSwipe, available free from the App Store and Google Play, enables users to view and swipe through satellite images of remote areas to identify features such as settlements, roads, and rivers. The information gathered helps to build maps for aid workers to use in largely unmapped but crisis-prone regions like Aweil.

Here's how you can help:
  1. Download the free MapSwipe smartphone app from the App Store or Google Play.
  2. Create an account.
  3. Start mapping! You’ll find the “Map South Sudan for MSF” mapping project in the app’s “Missions” section.

Click here for a tutorial on how to use MapSwipe—helping us map is easy and fun!
MapSwipe is part of the “Missing Maps" project, an open collaboration that aims to map vulnerable places in the developing world.
Unfortunately, I don't have a smartphone so that I can be the guinea pig on this. However, I think you can use a computer if you go to this Missing Maps page. Not sure if it will take you to this particular Sudan project, though.
Although this is endorsed by organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, I do wonder a little if there could be misuse of such maps. In fact, a quick Google search brought just such questions on a website called  raised just such questions at a website called, though the article did not question Missing Maps or any of these groups ethics. Something to ponder a bit before jumping in. Meanwhile, back to looking for blood vessel stalls.


  1. Worth finding out about, I'd say. Thanks.

  2. Yeah, I'd say it's weighing their usefulness for epidemics and other health crises against other players with less benevolent ends. Not sure how to resolve this, although I think evil actors probably have their own maps anyway.

  3. As much has been said about any number of technological innovations the last fifteen or so years, I think.