OpenStreetMap: A Helping Hand Through Times of Travel and Tribulation

As we’ve discussed before, more and more people are turning to mobile navigation to fulfill their travel needs.

In addition, these apps have become not only an essential ally for daily commuters and recreation enthusiasts, but also for those affected crises.

A recent survey, published by Mashable, found that mobile navigation app use increased by 104 percent during Hurricane Sandy, and we couldn’t be more excited to know that our industry has become such a reliable resource during these times of need. Furthermore, this poll has also conjured up memories of firsthand experience we have had with crisis response, the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

Following the January 2010 earthquake, widely available maps of Haiti (one of the poorest countries in the world, and thus widely ignored by commercial mapping data) only consisted of a few roads and highways, adding insult to injury, as first responders and volunteers were faced with trying to provide relief to places where no map data existed (in addition to trying to deal with the devastation itself).

With this in mind, volunteers turned to OpenStreetMap — our free, editable and interactive map of the world built by an ever-growing number of already more than 900,000 voluntary contributors — as a primary vehicle to address this navigation and humanitarian conundrum. By utilizing such sources as historic maps and available road data, volunteers and contributors were able to bring Haiti’s map (with newly marked bridges, hospitals and like data) into the 21st century while also immediately answering, and adapting, to the needs of the moment.

OpenStreetMap’s malleability enables it to provide the most up-to-date map data in the world and we are so glad that it is as widely trusted as it is (and at such a low cost).

In the end, we remember firstly those individuals affected by such devastation, but couldn’t be happier that people turn to our services as a way to adjust their life based on the situation at hand (regardless of whether they are at the hands of a traffic stop or natural disaster).