Imagery to the Crowd


Imagery to the Crowd (IttC) is an initiative of the State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU). The HIU provides information to decision-makers and partners in preparation for and response to humanitarian emergencies worldwide and promotes innovative technologies and best practices for humanitarian information management. IttC publishes high-resolution commercial satellite imagery licensed by the United States Government, in a format that volunteers easily map into OpenStreetMap. IttC addresses significant data gaps for humanitarian and development needs.

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Imagery Frequently Asked Questions

MapGive utilizes satellite imagery when supporting OpenStreetMap mapping projects for humanitarian and development needs. High resolution imagery is key to mapping remotely in OpenStreetMap so that OSM users, like yourself, can see a clear picture of what's on the ground when you are editing in OpenStreetMap. To learn more about how to use satellite imagery to trace edits into OpenStreetMap, check out our how-to videos on our Learn to Map page.

As you may have noticed, there is already imagery available throughout OpenStreetMap. Since November 2010, Bing has allowed OpenStreetMap editors to trace from their aerial imagery for the purpose of contributing content to OpenStreetMap. For many mapping projects, the available imagery is often sufficient. Sometimes the area of interest is located in a gap where there is no good-quality imagery coverage. At other times, the available imagery may be outdated and newer imagery is needed to respond to a current event. This is when MapGive can help.

Inspired by the success of the OSM mapping effort after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU), a division within the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues at the U.S. Department of State, sought a way to support the creation of OpenStreetMap data through the provision of processed imagery services based on USG-licensed high-resolution satellite imagery. Imagery to the Crowd resulted from technical and policy discussions that were held with numerous partners over several months.

As a proof of concept, in May 2012 the HIU conducted the Horn of Africa Mapping Experiment and posted imagery for the ten refugee camps in the the Dollo Ado (Ethiopia) and Dadaab (Kenya) complexes. In 48 hours mappers from around the world traced the imagery and produced highly detailed map data of the camps. Later that same year Josh Campbell of the HIU gave an Ignite Talk at ICCM 2012 officially launching IttC.