Today our interview series continues with a chat with Tyler Radford, Executive Director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.


Tyler on the far left at a HOT event in Tanzania.

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

I’m incredibly proud and privileged to serve as Executive Director of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). I spent a number of years working in private sector enterprise technology programs in a Big 4 consulting firm, then at the United Nations. The last five years of my career have been focused on community – engaging online and offline communities post-disaster. OpenStreetMap is amazing because it combines the technology and GIS sectors with hundreds of local communities all over the world. This is what drew me in.

2. What is the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team? What do you do and where and how do you do it?

Imagine a global network of smart, enthusiastic, tech-savvy, young and old people all around the world who love maps and making their world a better place through open data. A network where in nearly every country you visit, you have friends of different ethnicity, ages, religions, and backgrounds that you can call your own. A network that is willing to spring into action when called upon. This is HOT. We are a global community, more than 99% volunteer-based (supported by a staff team of 25 people) who use maps and map data in OpenStreetMap for disaster response and socioeconomic development around the world. More than 32,000 volunteers have worked with us over the years since we were formed after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Today, HOT donors fund projects in Indonesia, Tanzania, and Uganda, and HOT volunteer leaders are active in dozens more countries.

3. You recently launched a fundraising campaign (that we were delighted to contribute to). Why and why now? What are the plans for the money?

Volunteer leaders in our community are achieving amazing results on shoestring (or zero) budgets. Many have desires to map their local communities, cities, and countries, but lack the basics to be able to do so, such as reliable equipment and funding to pay for transport and internet. Our campaign this year aims to improve data in OpenStreetMap through providing these basics in the form of small “micro-grants” to key leaders. The micro-grants will cover basic costs of mapping, from GPS devices, phones and laptops to transportation and internet connectivity. The program will launch in January 2017 to support local leaders who are transforming their countries by creating more complete maps.

4. Besides contributing to the fundraising drive, what is the best way for people to get involved in HOT?

HOT is representing our community by showcasing the stories and needs of our volunteer leaders around the world. We ask for your help in doing this by sharing the HOT story with friends, family, colleagues, and classmates. You can create a personal page on our fundraising site and you can share with your networks on social media. You can also come map with us

5. HOT has been around for a while now and is well known in the OSM community, but what are some aspects of the project OSMers might not be aware of? What steps could the global OSM community take to better support HOT?

HOT and the OSM ecosystem rely on each other and can support each other in many ways. Some of HOT’s newest initiatives from this year, such as signing an agreement with YouthMappers (a network of 40+ student mapping groups) and launching the micro-grants project are all about expanding the reach of OSM and making mapping more accessible to more people. At the same time, we are working on ways to improve the quality of data in OSM through better processes and new ways to engage. This year our Missing Maps partners launched MapSwipe, a mobile app that lowers the barrier of entry. We are also working on a complete redesign of the Tasking Manager, the signature tool for organizing large-scale mapping efforts over a single area in OpenStreetMap. This year we also launched OSM Analytics, a tool for exploring and analyzing OSM data. We welcome all in the OSM community to contribute. You can join our mailing list for the latest updates or find our projects on GitHub.

6. Our standard final question: in 2014 OSM celebrated its 10th birthday. Where do you think the project will be in 10 years time? What’s your vision for HOT over the next decade as well?

In the disaster relief world, we’re often very focused on the coming days, weeks, and months. Ten years is a long time! We’ll have the whole world mapped by then, right? (that’s a question we often get!) In all seriousness, we are hearing and seeing from many humanitarian partners that OSM is already quite simply the best available source of data in the countries where they work. So, we have already crossed the threshold where OSM is now the default base map in many humanitarian contexts. While OSM will become more ubiquitous in the years to come, one of our longer-term challenges will be to build applications and knowledge to make full use of the rich data that we’ve worked so hard to make available. I also envision a world where everyone who wants to contribute is able to contribute and we can help OSM communities to become self-sustaining organizations. On the tech side, the data that we add to OSM will be greatly enhanced through new sensing technologies, democratization of imagery collection through drones, and machine learning. It will be all the more important that we don’t lose sight of the people behind OSM, our core asset.

Many thanks Tyler, for the taking the time to answer our questions, but also for all your work, and the work of thousands of others on HOTOSM. We’re proud to play a tiny part in such great work, and encourage everyone to get involved.

best of luck with the fundraising drive,


You can see all of our 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.