Feedback on the decision for no SotM 2022

I want to start this by saying that I have huge respect for the State of the Map working group members - I was a local volunteer in 2013 and part of the international team in 2015-2018 so I understand first hand just how much work goes in to organising it. For anyone it doubt; it is a HUGE amount of work. For multiple months of they year I was effectively doing two full time jobs (my actual paid job and then almost the same amount of time on SotM after work).

Having said all of that, I do think the decision to not hold a State of the Map in 2022 was wrong and want to use this as a chance to provide some feedback. I’m opting to do this publicly as the blog post has already received several comments. I feel it is better to have that conversation here where all users can contribute using their standard OSM log-in credentials.

The bid from Cameroon
This bid has been rejected on security and safety issues. I was curious as to the level of concern here so searched for more details via a (closed) system that my international employer makes available to it’s employees. While that are indeed some areas of the country that are classed as “Extreme Travel Risk” or “High Travel Risk” it is important in many countries to look at the local detail. The bid was to hold State of the Map in Yaoundé. Here the risk is classed as Medium with the advice that “Travel to Yaounde can proceed with standard security precautions”. A map was even included showing which areas of the city are the trouble spots. The proposed conference centre was outside of these areas.

Out of interest, I was curious as to how this compared the two cities I recently visited on holiday in South America. Both were also classed as “Medium Risk”.

The point I am trying to make here is that there are many places where the risk is higher than in places that State of the Map has previously been hosted. Managed properly this risk could have been reduced to a level where some members of the OpenStreetMap community would have been comfortable travelling. Given that an event is happening there anyway (the State of the Map Africa conference), it is a shame that the global project and the OpenStreetMap Foundation hasn’t found some way to support the event.

The working group continues to be keen on hosting an international State of the Map in Africa. May I kindly suggest that the OSMF pay for a professional company to help identify a suitable location and provide risk reductions. Without this pro-active engagement it is putting a lot of pressure on the local groups and we may find ourselves back in the same situation next year.

The bid from Kosovo
The reason why this bid was rejected is baffling. The bid was described as “strong” but rejected on the basis that it is in Europe and we have already held many SotMs in Europe. While I have not been to Kosovo, I have visited Skopje in North Macedonia some 2 hour drive away. Assuming Prizren is not too dissimilar, then it is going to be different to the other European cities State of the Map has been to. The rejection here sends a negative message to the local community; namely that we have a first-come, first-served policy in Europe and western European countries have already taken all the available places.

My proposal to the SotM WG

  1. Organising an event is hard. We struggle to get many local communities willing to host the conference so we need to try a different approach if we want to take SotM to new locations. The working group should ask OSMF to fund professional event companies to help identify suitable locations, manage much of the day to day admin and seek solutions that can minimise the risk to travellers.#
  2. Give people the choice. What some consider high risk, others may consider as a low to medium risk. While there is a need to avoid some places, other locations can be visited with sensible planning and with local guides. Information should be made available to the community so that individuals can decide or not.
  3. Local communities cannot change their national politics. We should acknowledge that and do our best to support these communities to host a SotM. Rejection should be an absolute last resort otherwise we risk sending the message that we want diversity but only if it meets an unrealistic set of targets. We should not reject a willing community just because recent SotM’s have been held in the same continent. (If this is a rule - which it shouldn’t be - then it should be set out in advance so that local communities do not waste a lot of time preparing a bid to have it rejected).

I’m sorry if this comes across as a bit of a moan. As per the start of my message, I know that the SotM WG members put a lot of voluntary effort into this. However, I was disheartened to hear the news today. I encourage the WG to work with the OSMF to rectify this for future years. Simply continuing as is, and hoping next year will be different, is not the right way forward now. OSMF: Open the purse strings and give SotM WG what they need to ensure they can bring a safe event forward next year. Success requires early planning.

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Ce sujet de discussion accompagne la publication sur https://community.openstreetmap.org/t/feedback-on-the-decision-for-no-sotm-2022/4231