An excerpt from the field blog post


In rural Malawi, it is often a challenge to upload base maps of the visitation sites and the correct survey of the day to the 20 tablets, and to download all the data collected in the field from the tablets in an efficient manner. To mitigate dependence on internet connectivity, we brought a Portable OpenStreetMap device (POSM, developed by the American Red Cross – GIS team) to Malawi to temporarily store offline edits made during the survey. This device creates a Wi-Fi network for the tablets, enabling data to be processed on the go.  To prevent errors, collected data was checked during lunch breaks, during which everyone was in range of the POSM device, which was plugged into the car. This way, collection errors could be caught in time, and enumerators were guided in the right direction.

Collecting streetview data for remote analysis

During the field work the entire traveled path was recorded using Garmin VIRB cameras which captured the GPX points of each photo. The data collected by the cameras was uploaded to Mapillary ( and OSM to add to the open ‘street view’ images of the world – these are the first street view images to be made for Malawi, take a virtual tour here. The images will be used in our Missing Maps mapathons to enrich OSM data, as through studying the images the building material and even the function of buildings can be identified.


In Malawi, the OMK application and the POSM have proven to be a powerful combination. Availability of building location data was necessary for validation of the research as well as for creation of more accurate data on the Thyolo communities. Meanwhile, the very limited internet connectivity could be overcome by the POSM, with direct verification of data collected as one of its key strengths.

The collection of ‘street view’ imagery was easier than expected, with absence of power supplies being the largest challenge, as twenty tablets and personal phones needed charging as well.

The survey was conducted with the help of twenty volunteers and the training and mapping activities proved very successful, with all volunteers performing above expectations. For surveys, mapping activities and even IT purposes, volunteers are invaluable for the Red Cross as they form an important pillar of the local capacity.

Working with remotely sensed data is often a cost-effective way of gathering information and has proven to be a good source for analysis of remoteness indicators.

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