Getting started with OpenStreetMap

Visualising community contributions in OpenStreetMap | Data: OpenStreetMap, Design: Mapbox/ Eric Fischer

Information is a vital part of our lives. With the right understanding, individuals and communities are able to make significant decisions that will lead them to a better future.

OpenStreetMap is a crowdsourced project which is popularly known as the Wikipedia of the mapping world. This is a map that is built by the contributors from around the world, sharing information of places they know and love.

Most maps out there may be free for individuals to use, but use proprietary information and display a very limited view of the world, limited by the interests of the companies that make them available.

I believe that no one can know your vicinity better than you and this is the idea that OpenStreetMap is built on. OSM allows you to map the house that you were born, the kindergarten you attended, the garden you often visited with your grandparents, the store where you bought your first prom dress, the restaurant where you went on your first date and many such important memories of your life. If everyone on this planet started mapping their locality, imagine, how rich in information that map can be!

This would not just help you map information you care about, but this will be a valuable asset in case of a disaster and something that allows organisations and citizens make better decisions, and hopefully make lives better. The advantage of OpenStreetMap is that all information is stored online, and anyone can access them at any time, totally free.

Some amazing maps made from OpenStreetMap data. Find more of such maps in this article: “The maps that made 2016 extraordinary!

Excited to start mapping? Sign up for an account on OpenStreetMap and then click on the “Edit button” to open OpenStreetMap’s editor. You’ll be welcomed by a short interactive walkthrough to help you begin mapping. For starters, here are some things to remember:

  • Only map current and real things present on the ground.
  • Don’t copy data from anywhere unless you have explicit permission to do so.

Here is a tutorial that will help you make your first edit in OpenStreetMap

Once you save your edit, you’ll be directed to the screen below. Congrats on making your first edit!

Want to learn more? Here are two links that talk about OSM in detail!

Tell us stories behind your first edit in OpenStreetMap in the comments below.

Currently Sr. Program Manager @ Grab, map enthusiast (OSM), part of the Communications Working Group @ OSM, editor @ WeeklyOSM & ex-Mapboxer. Views are my own.

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