Mapillary in Lesotho—A Short History

Find out how Mapillary gave mappers an advantage on the ground and spurred the competitive spirit of #MapLesotho. Mosotho urban planners, Fingal County Council from Ireland and OpenStreetMap contributors from around the world are using Mapillary to create accurate maps for the country.

Lesotho Mapping Sessions

Seisa and Tespo making the most of the good weather to take take photos with Mapillary's Android app

Mapillary was first introduced to the MapLesotho team via our ambassador John Marshall. He’d been working with the team for over a year and saw a clear link between creating an accurate map of Lesotho in OpenStreetMap and street level photos. The project began as a collaboration between Physical Planners in Lesotho and Spatial Data experts from Fingal County Council in Ireland. Together they have created a crowdsourced effort to map Lesotho, using a variety of tools such as HOT task manager, QGIS, Mapbox and of course Mapillary. The beauty of such tools is that they allow people from around the world to contribute to the mapping of Lesotho, and this is exactly what has happened. Of the top 10 mappers thus far, 2-6 are from outside Lesotho. In fact 70% of edits are made by mappers residing abroad. Mapillary works on the same principles, believing that individuals with the right tools and enthusiasm can contribute meaningful data in a way large organisations can’t.

Mapillary’s initial involvement was to support the crowdsourcing initiative by supplying phones to the top 10 editors from Lesotho. This would not only incentivise them to contribute, but provide the winners with a practical tool to capture street level photos. The Fingal Team (Ciáran Staunton, Dave Corley, Colin Broderick, Hazel Craigie) coordinated the competition, using it as one of the final pushes to complete the base map of Lesotho, two years in the making. At the time of writing, over 13 million map edits have been completed since February 1st 2015. These are huge numbers, particularly when you consider that Lesotho has only two million people. Amazingly, at the height of the competition Lesotho had more map edits over a 24 hour period than any other country on earth. This shows viability the of crowdsourcing map data and the role Mapillary can play providing tools to make these contributions easier.

Phases of MapLesotho

  1. Mapping Competition - Create a base map for Lesotho
  2. Validation Competition - Ensure the base map is accurate and complete
  3. Ground Level Detail - Make the map useful with details on the ground

Thanks to Ciáran’s relentless enthusiasm and hard work, Mapillary has also been introduced to students at Portmarnock Community School. Their tech savvy teachers Niall FitzGerald and Colette Cronin helped them become familiar with OpenStreetMap, so the next step was using Mapillary and other apps to gather field data for OpenStreetMap editing. In recognition of their mapping efforts and use of multiple technologies they won the Young Social Innovators competition.


Portmarnock Community School - Outright winners of the Young Social Innovators competition

This is just the beginning of collaboration with MapLesotho and Mapillary. With the base map complete, the next phase, phase 3, is about creating a map with the ground level detail that will make it useful for everyday Mosotho. Street level photos on Mapillary allow OpenStreetMap contributors to make edits with a level of detail not possible from satellite imagery, memory and field papers.

Examples include:

  • Building info (purpose, shape for areas where satellite imagery is poor, height)
  • Shop info (Lesotho has many small, street side shops that come and go, providing essential products to locals)
  • Road information - speed limit, road direction, type, quality
  • Amenities - Bus shelters, park benches, fire hydrants, bins, public toilets

In phase 3, we aim to greatly improve street level image coverage in the country, with the end result a map that can be used by all. This will mean overcoming technical challenges such as limited internet access and bandwidth, lower smartphone penetration and data storage issues. We believe all these challenges can be solved with the right tools and the dedication shown thus far by Mosotho mappers, the Fingal County Council team and the #MapLesotho contributors from around the world. If you'd like to join the journey or contribute to Mapillary from your area, sign up and say hello.

Sequence from tshedy - overall winner of the #MapLesotho competion with over 2.2 million map edits and counting...yep, that's super impressive!

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