Interview - Martijn van Exel of the OpenStreetMap Foundation
14 Nov 2016
Today in our interview series we chat with Martijn van Exel a board member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation of which we’re proud to be a corporate member. Amongst other topics we chat about the OSMF’s current donation drive, which we hope you will contribute to.
Who are you and what do you do? What got you into OpenStreetMap?
I am Martijn van Exel, I am proud to be on the board of OSMF since this year, and have been on the board of OSM US for a number of years. I got involved with OSM many years ago in Amsterdam. I heard of this crazy fantastic thing called a mapping party, and since the first book I ever owned was a world atlas, I had to go! Much later, in 2011, I moved to the United States and got involved with OSM there. I also have been very fortunate to make OSM my full time job at Telenav, where I help run all community facing OSM efforts.
What is the OpenStreetMap Foundation and how does it relate to OpenStreetMap the project?
The OpenStreetMap Foundation was established in 2006 to support the OSM project. The Foundation ensures that the OSM project has everything it needs in terms of infrastructure, money and legal representation, now and into the future. The Foundation is made up of its 650 members, a Board of Directors, and several Working Groups that take on much of the day-to-day responsibilities that come with running a global and widely used OpenStreetMap.
Why are you running a funding drive? Why now? How will the money be spent?
In previous years, the donation drives were always tied to a specific purchase, usually related to our hardware infrastructure. Having our own servers to host the project’s data and software is a very important aspect of our independence. It is expensive, especially if you consider that the entire project runs on a budget of less than €100k a year.
This year, the Operations Working Group, who are responsible for maintaining the hardware infrastructure of the project, did not have a hardware shopping list that required a donation drive. That does not mean that we do not need money as a project. To give just one example: the protection of the OpenStreetMap trademarks has become a significant budget line item. Our reserves are small and previously reliable sources of income, such as the State of the Map conference, have not contributed as much to revenue.
More fundamentally, we want to remain independent as a project. This means, among other things, that we do not want to be relying entirely on a few corporate donors for the financial viability of OpenStreetMap. By running this donation drive, we give the grassroots community an opportunity to help balance our revenue streams. Seeing that we already collected well over €40,000, this independence is very important to people.
How can donors have confidence in OSMF?
The OpenStreetMap Foundation was founded early on in the existence of OSM by the grassroots community with the objective to serve the project. It has since built a strong reputation of doing just that with confidence, an open mind and ears, and financial restraint. The Board is elected by the membership in a democratic process.
Relatedly, this year there has been an ongoing discussion about corporate membership of the OSMF. What is the outcome of that discussion? Why should an organization join the OSMF?
We just published the new Corporate Membership program this week! This is the outcome of a long process of discussions with both the Membership and potential and current corporate members. We strongly believe that this new program offers the flexibility for organizations and companies of all sizes to support the OpenStreetMap project.
Using OpenStreetMap data is free, as we all know. But running a project of the size and visibility that OpenStreetMap has become is far from free. Organizations and companies realize this, and they are asking us what they can do to contribute, both in-kind and with money. Of course anyone can donate at any given time, but with this Corporate Membership program, we hope to strengthen the ties with those stakeholders and generate a more reliable, continuous revenue stream for the project. Together with the benefits that we offer corporate members, this makes it very interesting for a company or organization that relies on OpenStreetMap for its business to become a corporate member.
Besides financial contributions what other ways can people and organizations best support the project?
Mapping! That is what OpenStreetMap is all about. Editing the map is single most important thing anyone can do to contribute to OSM. OpenStreetMap is as rich and complete as it is because of the countless hours of mapping that is being done every day by a great and diverse group of mappers, both as individuals or as part of an organization that has an interest in making OSM the best map there is.
Besides contributing to the map, people can consider joining one of the OSM Foundation Working Groups. These groups consist entirely of OSM volunteers and are an essential part of day to day operations of the project. Examples are Communications, Operations and Legal. A complete list can be found on the Foundation Wiki.
Our standard final question, this summer OSM celebrated its twelfth birthday. Where do you think the project will be in 10 years time?
In ten years, there will not be a need for other map data besides OpenStreetMap. The first ten years were about proving our point - Geodata wants to be free. The next ten years will be about driving that point home.
Oh and this just in: Mapbox has announced a matching donation worth €10,000! This means that every donation made now will be matched by Mapbox 1:1 until we exhaust that €10,000. So if you donate now, you effectively double your donation amount. Thanks to Mapbox for this generous gesture!
Thanks Martijn for taking the time to chat with us and for the work you and the others volunteers do at OSMF to keep OpenStreetMap working. We encourage everyone to join OSMF and to give generously to the fundraising campaign. Many thanks to Mapbox for matching donations.
You can see all the Open Geo interviews here. Please let us know if your community would like to be part of our series. 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.