MapGive and PEPFAR: Working Together to Engage New Audiences and Encourage Open Mapping in Africa

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PEPFAR presentation at a MapGive event.
Irum Zaidi, Deputy Coordinator at the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, discusses open mapping for HIV/AIDS epidemic control.

MapGive and PEPFAR: Working Together to Engage New Audiences and Encourage Open Mapping in Africa

The MapGive team is actively supporting crowdsourced mapping projects that directly support planning and analysis for programs funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.

Geographic focus is a critical part of these programs as PEPFAR seeks to align services and investments with the epidemic, which is more concentrated in specific regions and neighborhoods. Understanding where communities are located, their access to essential services, and how they are connected by roads helps PEPFAR ensure HIV/AIDS programs are in the right locations. Quality geographic data and improved base-maps that emerge from open mapping efforts improve the understanding of program coverage, help optimize supply chain logistics, and support the analysis of clinical data. Read more about these efforts here.

“Improved base data has led to logistical savings in terms of travel time, fuel and increased the number of sites visited. ”

-PEPFAR Uganda team 

Mapathons are coordinated mapping events that engage citizens, and particularly young people, in increasing the availability of open geographic data in OpenStreetMap through crowdsourcing. Last year for World AIDS Day 2016, MapGive, along with Youth Mappers and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), hosted the inaugural PEPFAR mapathon at the OpenGovHub in Washington, D.C. to begin engaging the volunteer mapping community and to publicize PEPFAR’s need for detailed geographic data. This year, we again observed World AIDS Day by hosting the second annual PEPFAR mapathon at the OpenGovHub.

MapGive-style cake for the PEPFAR mapathon participants.

MapGive is working hand-in-hand with PEPFAR to grow volunteer participation in ongoing mapping efforts. To this end, we have increased partnerships across the humanitarian mapping community and engaged new audiences through existing State Department public diplomacy programs, principally through the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator’s Data Revolution for Sustainable Development team.

2nd Annual PEPFAR Mapathon at the OpenGovHub in Washington, DC.

Specifically, in an effort to connect with youth in Africa and encourage the usage of data to address challenges in public health, MapGive and YouthMappers partnered directly with YALI, as well as local citizen mapping organizations like Map Kibera in Kenya, to host and facilitate mapathons across Africa and at U.S. universities. Participants at these events were trained on the basics of open mapping and how PEPFAR programs use these data to improve their work. PEPFAR’s Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI) partnership with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is working to build on these efforts. For example, DCLI’s dLab in Dar es Salaam hosts regular mapathons to support PEPFAR mapping projects, and DCLI’s Data Zetu program engages capable local civil society organizations working to map communities from a grassroots level. Read more about the YALI mapathons here and in a brief article via Share America. 

More than 1,700 volunteers have created over 280,000 data points for PEPFAR mapping projects throughout Africa with support from over 20 different organizations, including universities, local civil society organizations, international NGOs, and private companies. In addition, young leaders across Africa have learned these technologies and can continue to engage directly in mapping efforts that support important development and humanitarian programs in their countries. Going forward, we want to further support efforts to engage and train local volunteers to ground truth data created through crowdsourcing and remote mapping. 

For more information on open mapping, explore the MapGive website and watch our video featuring some of our partners! 

About the Author: Andrew McKenna is a Geographer and Nathan Heard is a Public Health Analyst in the Humanitarian Information Unit at the U.S. Department of State. 

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.

Andrew McKenna
Nathan Heard