Open Source Mapping

Cartography has became relatively easy in this digital age we live. Making maps a 100 years ago was many times harder than it is today. Maps then were also not always accurate either. Times have dramatically changed since the advent of satellite technology. Satellite imaging and mapping technology use to be reserved for the military and other national security apparatuses.  Now anybody can get onto Google Earth and view anywhere on the planet with almost perfect accuracy for free. Not only can we pin down the physical terrain with stunning accuracy, we can now start mapping the “soft-terrain” for almost no costs too!

A good example of this technology from the Blogs of the Council on Foreign Relations just days ago:

Technology Innovations for Humanitarian Assistance

Last month, The Global Journal published a list ranking the top 100 NGOs in the world – an interesting, if ambitious task, with lots of room to quibble. The top ten list included some of the biggest, best-recognized NGOs in the world – like Oxfam (number 3), BRAC (number 4) and CARE (number 7). But number 10 on the list, Ushahidi caught my attention because it is a newcomer on the scene and relatively unknown. Ushahidi is a Kenyan-based NGO that calls itself a “non-profit technology company.” It has developed mapping software that is distributed for free, and can be modified by anyone. In a very rapid way, is it democratizing how information is collected, distributed, and used. Its great innovation is to leverage the resources of volunteer curators and translators to allow data, collected from basically any source, to be posted on a map in real time.

Click to read the rest of this article.

Today, the fine folks at Joint Task Force North linked to an article that included an “interactive map lets you compare homicides and drug-related homicides, with the option to examine marijuana, opium, and drug-lab-related homicides.”

Check out the article by Audrey Watters from The Radar at O’Reilly:

Visualization of the Week: Mapping Mexico’s drug war

Diego Valle-Jones’ interactive map illustrates the toll of Mexico’s drug war.

Diego Valle-Jones has created a powerful interactive map of the ongoing drug war in Mexico.

The interactive map lets you compare homicides and drug-related homicides, with the option to examine marijuana, opium, and drug-lab-related homicides. If you click on a bubble, you can see the number of murders over time, dating back to 2004. Important events are highlighted on that time line. You can also draw a shape on the map to look at a particular region.

Map of the drug war in Mexico
Click to see the full interactive version of “Map of the Drug War in Mexico.”

Valle-Jones writes:

“To unclutter the map and following the lead of the paper Trafficking Networks and the Mexican Drug Warby Melissa Dell, I decided to only show the optimal highways (according to my own data and Google Directions) to reach the US border ports from the municipalities with the highest drug plant eradication between 1994 and 2003 and the highest 2d density estimate of drug labs based on newspaper reports of seizures. The map is a work in progress and is still missing the cocaine routes, but hopefully I’ll be able to add them shortly.”The data can be exported to CSV, and the source code is available on Github.

My question is when will we see a map that is tracking rumors and the flow of hostile propaganda in insurgent areas?


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