Project Details


Game app puts vulnerable families on the map

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @TheMissingMaps

  • Health
  • Safety & Security
  • Data
  • Geolocation
  • Internet
  • Social Software

When Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) responded to a major measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2015, they had to send out hundreds of teams to cover enormous areas of land. Instead of spending their time vaccinating the people who needed it the most, they spent hours and hours combing through bush, jungle or desert before getting to those in need. 

MSF’s Peter Masters is heading the Missing Maps project to help the organisation’s doctors identify areas with vulnerable populations that are not otherwise available on Google Maps or similar mapping software. 

Using satellite images from OpenStreetMap, Masters’ team have developed MapSwipe – a free Apple and Google Play app that allows anyone with a smartphone or tablet to log on, scan hundreds of thousands of satellite images of unmapped areas and tap once if they see roads, building or huts, twice if they’re not sure, and three times if the area is not visible due to cloud coverage. 

Thanks to its gaming element, MapSwipe has been a hit with the public. The app has been downloaded more than 9,000 times and has 7,000 active users who have surveyed over 420,000 km2 of imagery – an area bigger than Paraguay. 

Some of the first areas to be mapped include the Jonglei state in South Sudan, a volatile area with frequent clashes between rival groups, and the border regions of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, which have all been affected by the devastating Ebola outbreak. 

Catherine Harding, a 48-year-old lab technician from Virginia, loves the app. “On Saturday night, I watched two TV shows and managed to map 100km2 of Nigeria,” she says. Try it for yourself:  

Image courtesy of Mapswipe

Last updated: 13th of September, 2016

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