Another issue slowing recovery? Maps—or lack of them. While pre-Maria maps of Puerto Rico were fairly complete, their level of detail was nowhere near that of other parts of the United States. Platforms such as Google Maps are more comprehensive on the mainland than on the island, explains Juan Saldarriaga, a research scholar at the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University. This is because companies like Google often create maps for financial reasons, selling them to advertisers or as navigation devices, so areas that have less economic activity are given less attention.
Crowdsourced mapping can help. Saldarriaga recently organized a “mapathon” at Columbia, in which volunteers examined satellite imagery of Puerto Rico and added missing buildings, roads, bridges, and other landmarks in the open-source platform OpenStreetMap. While some universities and other groups are hosting similar events, anyone with an internet connection and computer can participate.
Saldarriaga and his co-organizers collaborated with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), a nonprofit that works to create crowdsourced maps for aid and development work. Volunteers like Saldarriaga largely drive HOT’s “crisis mapping” projects, the first of which occurred in 2010 after Haiti’s earthquake…(More)”.