Missing Maps: Big Data saves lives. 

Free pizza? Yes please!

A simple idea with big consequences. 

A Tuesday night and thirty volunteers registered with an organisation called Ready2Help. An element of the Red Cross. 

In a spacious university room with wheeled tables and chairs and our own laptops, a group of strangers assembled on a Tuesday night. 

The reward: Pizza! 

The challenge: Map Malawi. 

Missing Maps has a simple idea. Get crowdsourcing to generate big data so that remote area of this planet can be mapped more effectively. 

Human geography for places which are poor is very thin on the ground. By bringing people together aerial photography from satellite can be studied and used to indicate human details in these remote areas. 


Without such information a country is a mystery. It is impossible to know where communities are based, what resources they have and how they can be supported in times of need.

Missing Maps are filling those gaps. 

The skills are simple. Using open street maps (the geography equivalent of Wikipedia) and a simple editor our team scanned the images and mapped buildings and roads. In the thee hours we were working, we identified 5000+ potential buildings and 800 km of roads. 

In the next stage these will be checked locally so that the type of building can be clarified. This means that in an emergency a hospital is identified and if it is damaged it will be easier to provide help for example. 

A community of houses that is hit by flooding can be supported. 

Missing Maps also undertakes crisis mapping when disasters hit to provide information in extreme need. 

Our team of Humanitarian Opensource Street mappers (known as HOTties) can now be called upon to help with this work too.  

At the end of the night there was a strong sense of achievement. It was great to learn how big data and digital teamwork can help solve world problems with a bit of pizza thrown in. 


It’s easy to get involved either by registering for an event of linking up with the Mussing Maps website. Access to a computer, the internet and an account on Open Street Maps are the key tools. 

Mappers can join in and continue the work after a session. 

Why not start today? 

Another option is to use the Mapswipe app to participate in mapping too. 


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