Happy new year everyone! We kick off 2016 by continuing our long running profile of OpenStreetMap in different regions of the world. Today our focus turns to west Africa, where we had the chance to speak with Kokou Elolo Amegayibo (and others) about OpenStreetMap in Togo. 


1. Who are you and what do you do? What got you into OpenStreetMap?

My name  is Kokou Elolo Amegayibo, alias AKE Amazan, I’m an economist, web addict and geek. I discovered OpenStreetMap in 2013 during a training mission organized by HOT/ProjetEOF with the support of Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). Ever since I’ve been involved in contribution, development of tools, and I train young people on OpenStreetMap. I also contribute to the translation of many tools related to OpenStreetMap to make them accessible to the entire Francophone community.

I’m not alone, with friends Richard Folly, Alice Souka, Aimé Boukpessi, David Ragatoa, and with the help of ProjetEOF we create the Togolese OpenStreetMap Community to group all  OpenStreetMap contributors (residents of Togo or not) to propel free digital mapping in Togo.

Richard Folly: “The adventure started on june 2013, with HOT/ProjetEOF which send us a volunteer - Amadou Ndong - for a three months training in Lomé, the togolese capitale. And we were joined by other people interesting on digital mapping and Gegorapic Information Systems. Together we have built a strong community.”

2. What would you say is the current state of OSM and the OSM community in Togo?

OSM Togo Community, like many other OSM communities, is doing well. We are a small community of 3 years soon and saw contributions of each other, their commitment to the side of the other sisters communities we can say that we are making good progress. We continue by advocacy with government, business and other communities to get them to use OSM data.

I would say OSM is crossing a sensitive stage: it is more and more appearing as THE reference in GIS data in many different fields such as humanitarian work. Universities, international organizations and even research institutes are using OSM data. This means we’re doing very well. But more importantly, we should be watchful, for the project should continue growing while not to losing its basic principle.

In Togo, we’re facing almost the same reality. More and more people and actors are interesting into on OSM and our work in Lomé. They are not all free software users or open data promotors, so there is sometimes a misundertanding of our actions and we try to change that with dialog and through our training sessions.


3. What are the unique challenges and pleasures of OpenStreetMap in Togo? What aspects of the projects should the rest of the world be aware of?

Our goals are the development and localisation of OpenStreetMap (OSM) in Togo: promotion, training, capacity building (especially at the community level) and conduct of actions focused on the use of the OpenStreetMap project (data) in the field of humanitarian and sustainable development, in particular the creation, dissemination and use of cartographic data under free licenses which are compatible with the ODbL (Open Data Base Licence.)


4. What steps could the global OpenStreetMap community take to help support OSM in Togo and West Africa?

First by supporting us in mapping our territory and join us when there are activations. The second will be a technical support either remotely or join us in Togo for sessions of capacity building. The third will be a material or financial support to help volunteers on the ground to do the job better. The can also help us by dissemination and conduct lobbing on Open Data at the level of our national institutions and administrations.

5. Last year OSM celebrated its 10th birthday, where do you think the project will be in 10 years time, both globally and in Togo specifically?

Today, seen all things OpenStreetMap Data can help to do many thing regarding the Geographic Information Systems. We can only hope for more  contributors commitment, more use, and more tools. We want governments and more companies to migrate to OSM and especially, we want to see free GIS take hold in our schools and universities. This will allow more companies and governments as partners to support the project.

Thanks for taking the time to inform us, and great to read that OS is thricing in yet another corner of the world. Good luck and thanks for all your efforts. Anyone interested in learning more should follow @OSMTogo on twitter

You can see all the Open Geo interviews here. If you are or know of someone we should interview, please get in touch, we’re always looking to promote people doing interesting things with open geo data.