Stefan Geens over at Ogle Earth has done a great job of compiling UN maps and imagery of the Gaza situation and it is all available for viewing in Google Earth via this network link. In the meantime Mikel Maron has been working frantically to update the Gaza portion of OpenStreetMap. He writes about the latest developments over at his personal site Brainoff.com.
Impressive work all around but I need to gripe about what I see as an antiquated way of approaching humanitarian disasters at least as far as mapping is concerned. The fact that I am looking at a PDF overlaid in Google Earth rather than a KML file generated from the original data by the UN is absolutely absurd. This is how we have been doing it since at least 2003 with little headway made in the direction of digitizing the necessary data and presenting it in a modern rather than archaic manner.
A PDF!? Really!? Come on. People are dying and we get a PDF!? I am sorry to be so blunt, and I know the GIS folks at the UN are working hard to give us critical data, but someone over there needs to tackle this bureaucratic issue and deal with it once and for all. We have been talking about this for way too long and all I can hope for is that either Google or OpenStreetMap can accelerate their data collection and make UN maps irrelevant. At this rate it doesn’t appear that that will be hard to do. Sad that a volunteer collective effort like OSM could put one of worlds largest organizations to shame.
I’ll never forget the day I walked into the coordination meeting following the 2005 Sumatra earthquake (aka Nias earthquake) and pinned to the wall was a turn of the century Dutch map that had beautifully hand scripted village names and terrain details but little else. I remember sitting there and thinking, “We’re about to put teams and equipment onto an island that has been flattened and the best they can do is a 10″x12″ map that is over 100 years old!?”
We can’t keep doing this. We need to evolve. There are too many people relying on us. It is time to work past licensing issues, or whatever the real issues are, and start making substantive changes.