Volunteer to be a Digital Humanitarian and Help With Mapping Projects

Caitlin Dempsey


The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is a nonprofit that works to create provide free, detailed and up-to-date maps that is then supplied to government and humanitarian organizations working to provide economic development support and emergency response to regions in need around the world.

Since its launch in 2009, the humanitarian arm of OpenStreetMap has been involved in hundreds of mapping projects.  

Paul Stewart, a Volunteer Mapper and Communications Working Group Member with HOT elaborates, “In response to last year’s Nepal earthquake, HOT boost OpenStreetMap coverage of Kathmandu and the surrounding area and, in turn, helped aid delivery and reconstruction efforts. And in partnership with the Nicaraguan OpenStreetMap community, HOT has just provided Managua with its first ever transport map. Right now, HOT is most busy mapping areas of  Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Philippines.

How to Volunteer for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

HOT is able to provide these remote mapping services in large part due to its army of volunteers such as volunteer mappers, volunteer validators, and volunteer translators.  So, how can you get involved with HOT’s humanitarian efforts?  

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Stewart explains that there are several ways those interested in volunteering their time can get involved with HOT.  

First, start by signing up for the HOT mailing list which will connect you with the broader HOT community (you can also connect with HOT via Facebook and Twitter). 

Next, help map geographic data in needed areas which can be done remotely or by participating in a mapping party.  No previous mapping experience is required for your volunteering to benefit such project areas as The Peace Corps’ Botswana public health programMissing Maps’ West Swaziland malaria elimination program or MSF’s provision of aid in Tete Province, Mozambique. For an introduction to the various mapping projects and an explanation of what needs to be mapped, visit Create an OpenStreetMap accountLearnOSM and HOT’s OSM Tasking Manager.  

A third way to get involved is by joining a HOT working group. According to Stewart, “There are eight HOT working groups:  activation, communications, community, fundraising, governance, security, technical and training. Each call for skills other than those associated with mapping. All of them together are driving HOT into the future.”

The fourth way to get involved with HOT is to apply for specific project- and operational-related paid work.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.