Prep Step 1: Tracing roads in JSOM


JOSM is a free software that is used for offline editing of OpenStreetMap (OSM). If you don’t know what OpenStreetMap is, it is an open source online map that can be edited or downloaded by any registered member. The easiest way to describe it is to call it the “Wikipedia” of mapping. There are now millions of people who contribute and I recently signed up because I learned it would be a valuable tool in generating a globally positioned map of Beni. JOSM allows you to select an area that you want to download from OSM and then has the option to put a tiled Bing satellite image behind it. Then using editing tools it is possible to add to the map by tracing new elements such as roads, buildings, or waterbodies, or adjusting existing lines and information. I am in the process of tracing roads and creeks because it is all I need to make a preliminary base map.

One might ask why I am tracing the roads of a place I have never been to and what if I make errors. The reason I am doing it is because I need to create a base map that I can add to once I go to Beni. If I do not create a base map, I would have nothing for the mapping participants to even follow or know where to go or what neighbourhoods to explore. They will use this information as a base but will then add to it and correct any errors by physically being there. That means that OSM will have errors for a small amount of time, but will soon be made accurate as we gallivant around Beni and document refinements and edits. The mapping participants will be able to collect information beyond just the tracings by documenting data such as road names, road types, paving types, and what condition they are in. They will also be mapping other things such as buildings and places that are Points Of Interest (POIs) for the community (as will be described in Future Prep Steps 2 and 3).

While the line information can be shared with OSM, we have the choice of whether or not to add the detailed information or keep it for our own use. JOSM always encourages people to upload the content back to OSM, but what is nice about the program is that you can always wait until the information is accurate before uploading, or choose to upload only the elements you want to contribute to the public map. Another great feature of JOSM is that it can export the information as gpx tracks that are compatible for download onto Garmin devices or GPS Android applications for use in the field (Future Prep Steps 2 and 3). JOSM can also export as geoJson files that can be used in coding or to import the same elements with their data into QGIS, an open source Global Information System (GIS) (also for a future Prep Step).

There is an online editor called iD that essentially does the same thing as JSOM, but it edits OSM directly. I like JSOM for the ability to wait, its exporting capabilities, and also because work can be done offline, a key thing to think about when working with technology in a developing country where internet can be spotty and expensive. I’ll be bringing all of these programs over on a USB key to avoid any need for downloading big files from the web! One may also ask why I am not just editing this information in QGIS, a program that is capable of doing the same thing. The reason I have decided to use JSOM is because its connection with OSM allows me to use really helpful tools such as this website (future Prep Step 2) that formats base map img files of a specified area from OSM for Garmin devices. Editing in JSOM is also much faster than in QGIS just in the way the interface is designed. QGIS will come into the picture later on when it is time to manipulate the data that we collect to create our own custom maps and corresponding databases. Lastly, JSOM is great for preliminary work because it is valuable to contribute to OpenStreetMap, not only because I am benefiting so much from it as a tool and resource, but also because others will benefit from an open source base map of Beni.


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