Government Agencies at all levels starting to use OpenStreetMap

The U.S. State Department just launched its official “Imagery to the Crowd” web site. This further supports the State Department’s established practice of providing aerial imagery to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) for fast sourcing of geographic information & data used in major crises or emergency situation.

Over the past year, the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) at the State Department has been working with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) to publish current high-resolution commercial satellite imagery during humanitarian emergencies. The imagery is used to map the affected areas, and provide a common framework for governments and aid agencies to work from during the emergency. All of the map data is stored in an OpenStreetMap database under a license that ensures the data is freely available and open for a range of uses.

In the meantime, the U.S. Census Bureau just held an OpenStreetMap workshop. Attendees were given an overview of OpenStreetMap’s key functionalities, shown examples of OpenStreetMap applications, and received training needed to get started creating and editing maps for their own purposes. Learn more about the Census Bureau's Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system (TIGER) database and mapping initiative.

The National Park Service (NPS) also recently began mapping national parks directly in OpenStreetMap.  NPS has a strong cartographic tradition that has been developed by the cartography team at the Harpers Ferry Center in West Virginia. Learn more about the NPS Park Tiles Project.

These moves by the State Department, the Census Bureau, and the National Park Service (NPS) highlight a growing interest by the U.S. government in OpenStreetMap. The free availability of OpenStreetMap data and software and the continued maturing of OpenStreetMap, together with steep budget cuts in federal and local governments, make OpenStreetMap a more attractive option for the public sector than ever before.

There are many other examples of uses by state and local governments also making use of OpenStreetMap. For example:

  • Portland’s TriMet traffic authority uses OpenStreetMap to power their multi-modal traffic planner
  • Cleveland Metroparks manages park information for the city using OpenStreetMap
  • San Luis Obispo County fire department uses OpenStreetMap to keep an inventory of buildings, to aid in incident tracking, wildland fire prevention,  and fire suppression.

A great opportunity to learn more about OpenStreetMap is at this year’s State of the Map US Conference where OpenStreetMap’s use in government will be a key focus.

Remember to check out the collected news clips and information posted on Open Health News (OHN) about many other 'Open Source' & GIS Mapping activities and solutions. Also check out the COSI Open Government web site.


Maps of several major  open source health IT projects are also in the process of being built, e.g. OpenMRS and VistA Systems The map of VistA Installations developed by OHN  is still under development with about 400 sites yet to be added.