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Missing Maps: DIT students sign up for ‘Mapathon’

Posted: 13 February, 2017

DIT students from the BSc Geomatics, BSc Geographic Science, MSc Geographic Information Science and MSc Spatial Planning recently took part in a Missing Maps Mapathon, organised and sponsored by Esri Ireland in collaboration with Concern Worldwide.

‌Their objective was to map buildings and roads in Cité Soleil, a shanty town located in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

Concern has just commenced a 5 year aid programme in the area, focusing on improving water, sanitation and hygiene education and livelihoods generally.  The area has been largely unmapped, making access and logistics extremely difficult.

Esri Ireland, a software and services organisation specialising in the application of geographic information systems, approached Concern last year to offer help by adding details of buildings and roads to existing open-source maps. 

Working in collaboration, the two organisations have organised a series of Charity mapathons using the ‘Missing Maps’ initiative which involves volunteers from all around the world working to complete missing mapping information to assist humanitarian organisations to respond more quickly to crises brought about by natural disasters or conflict.  

‌The Bolton Street Mapathon was the third such event sponsored by Esri Ireland.  Students were assigned an area in Cite Soleil which consisted of approximately 200 grid squares and were given initial instructions on how to trace buildings from satellite imagery and upload these onto an open source street map.

To put the task in context, Ellen Ward from Concern Worldwide gave a presentation on the organisation’s work in Haiti, where three quarters of the population survive on less than $2 a day.  In 2010 Haiti was struck by an earthquake, killing 300,000 people and more recentl was devastated further by floods and hurricanes.  The presentation made it clear how important the mapping project would be in helping agencies to deliver much-needed assistance.

Joanne McLaughlin from Esri provided spot prizes and refreshments to encourage the volunteers as they worked with heads down to trace buildings and roads from satellite imagery.

Once mapped, community volunteers will then add more detailed local knowledge such as neighbourhoods and street names - information that is critical for Concern Project Teams to plan where to focus their project work.

For more information about the Missing Maps initiative go to at

More information about the work done by concern in Haiti can be found at:   


Volunteers mapping building and roads in Cite Soleil


Volunteers after a well-deserved break sponsored by Esri Ireland



Joanne Mc Laughlin Esri Ireland, Ellen Ward Concern Worldwide, and Aideen Croasdell Esri Ireland


Map tiles to be digitised at start of Mapathon


Map tiles digitalised and verified (marked green) at end of Mapathon