Software Development
Data / Environment

How Philly devs are lending a hand to Puerto Rico relief workers

A group of 20 staffers from Philly B-corp Azavea are helping with a global effort to map out the island in the aftermath of Hurricane María.

At HOT Lunch, where Azavea workers got together to pitch in a global Puerto Rico relief effort. (Courtesy photo)

The people of Puerto Rico — U.S. citizens, all of them — are going to be dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane María for some time to come.

The natural disaster caused, by some estimates, close to $100 billion in damages and left half of the island’s 3.4 million inhabitants without drinking water for days. Since the might of the chaos is hard to put into words, we’ll let San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz explain: 

To help relief workers on the ground, a global effort to map out the island is underway through an organization called Humanitarian OpenStreetMaps Team (HOT). The push is simple enough: crowd-editing a map (Wikipedia style) to include information like roads, buildings and houses. The map then helps relief workers quickly assess affected areas with the most up-to-date info available.

Led by Community Ambassador Dan Ford, 20 Azavea employees banded together to join the effort Wednesday in an event that Ford aptly named “HOT Lunch.”

“I’m excited because this is something anyone can do: just log on and start working on it,” Ford said.

The interface splits up the map in grid cells that can be claimed and then traced with features like roads, houses and buildings.

While HOT Lunch is an Azavea initiative, anyone is welcomed to join the push (either on-site or remotely) by logging onto the Tasking Manager and donating some time to the communal effort. Coding skills aren’t required.

Here’s what editing a map in the platform looks like, courtesy of Ford:

Adding a building to the Puerto Rico OpenStreetMap. (Courtesy GIF)

Adding a building to the Puerto Rico OpenStreetMap. (Courtesy GIF)

Ford is hoping that HOT Lunch can become a fixture on the last Wednesday of every month, but not just in Philly.

“I’m hoping to turn it into a larger international community,” Ford said. “My big dream is that all around the world, at 12 PM local time on the last Wednesday of every month, people log on to donate some time to these tasks.”

Those wishing to collaborate can hit up Ford on Twitter or email dford [at] azavea [dot] com

P.S. Want to donate? Here’s a list of organizations vetted by the New York Times.


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