Timor Leste and OpenStreetMap

Tracing in areas with big and dense canopies is hard.

Tracing in areas with big and dense canopies is hard.

A couple of weeks while planning a work related trip to Timor Leste I started looking at the OpenStreetMap (OSM) for Dili. On my last trip we drove along the coast to the west of Dili, then south to Suai and east/north through Maubissie back to Dili. It was a nice drive, and I kept my GPS running throughout. The tracks were used to make minor edits on the OSM map.

A lot of spatial has been established in Timor Leste courtesy in part of the UN Mission in Timor. But without a proper mechanism to receive the data Timor Leste is practically left without documented (metadata) maps. Can OSM play a part here?Opening the map to review my work I discovered that Bing had updated their background imagery for a fairly wide area stretching from Dili and south through Maubissia to Betano. The data were more than good for me to start doing some tracing. I went to work.

One of the more touristic destinations not too far away from Dili is Maubissie. It’s main hotel for tourists is an old Portuguese house built on the top of a hill a couple of hundred meters away from the market place.

I decided the place needed a better OSM map and started working on it:

I must have registered close to 50 kms of roads and paths in Maubissie and other parts of Timor Leste. Many roads have not yet been registered. The area near Loti is an example of an area with an extensive system of paths:

Loti as a lot of unregistered paths.

Loti as a lot of unregistered paths.

Suai is an area in which a lot of development is imminent. The area is rich in roads, houses, paths and agriculture. A lot remains to be digitized there as well.

Dili city centre allows for registration of buildings. Many bigger buildings are left untraced. Smaller ones could be a challenge because of dense canopies and metal roofs which makes it difficult to distinguish one building from the other:

The eagle shaped building holds the among other offices the Directorate for Environment.

The eagle shaped building holds the among other offices the Directorate for Environment.

Currently I guess the most important work is to show that Bing is not wasting their resources providing background imagery for Timor Leste. The coverage is still not great, and I am looking forward to better coverage both here and a couple of other countries.

Timor Leste has been helped by the UN through an extensive mapping effort mainly focusing on socioeconomic data. Later this year (2012) the UN Mission in Timor will hand over some of these data. Currently Timor Leste does not have any mapping authorities to receive these data. It could very well be that the very useful data will remain without an official status for some time to come.

In the meantime the solution is to use OSM to update infrastructure data. In it’s current state the OSM infrastructure data sets are not good enough for even rudimentary navigation. But from what I have seen some of the traces made are more accurate and up to date than the current infrastructure data set floating around.

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