Message from the UN: Why we are hosting State of the Map US at our headquarters

Apr 10 2015 Lambert Hogenhout, Becky Band Jain, Gregory Ogolla

The upcoming State of the Map US will take place at the United Nations headquarters. We invited our partners at the UN to share why they’re looking forward to hosting.

When King Sejong presented the Korean people with their own alphabet, some time in the early 15th century, few realized how enormous a change he had introduced. It was not in the first place for the elegance of the alphabet but because it was so simple to learn that the 90% of the population that had hitherto been illiterate were instantly empowered. And these people soon started using their new tool to produce writings that helped the economic progress of the entire nation.

We are currently living through amazing changes of similar magnitude. Free and open source software and freely available data have empowered people around the world. Content is no longer controlled by one entity, but by communities. Internet-based tools facilitate collaboration of millions of individuals to jointly achieve feats that until recently no one imagined possible. OpenStreetMap is of course a prime example of this.

To empower and to create a level playing field

Many of the benefits that OpenStreetMap offers are issues that are close to the heart of the United Nations: to empower nations and individual citizens, to facilitate economic progress and to create a level playing field where all have access to accurate and up-to-date information. OpenStreetMap is already being used by the UN in disaster management and emergency response and there are many more fields where it could provide great value.

We are therefore very happy to host the US State of the Map conference of at UN headquarters in New York this year. We hope the setting will give the conference an international character - we are expecting participants from all over the world - and can highlight the improvements to human life that such technological innovations can bring. It will be an opportunity for GIS folks within the UN and the OpenStreetMap community to meet and exchange ideas, and we hope that it will spark further collaboration.

And if you are attending the conference, you may have a chance to see a particular exhibit by the elevators on the second floor: the Korean alphabet.

Lambert Hogenhout, Becky Band Jain, Gregory Ogolla - Analytics, Partnerships and Innovation Section, United Nations

Photo credit: Photographers’ UN Flag, United Nations Photo

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