Map-building workshop is streets ahead

Burnet Institute

21 June, 2018

Image: Volunteers embrace the task of building a map of Keravat, Papua New Guinea

The first of, hopefully, many workshops to build maps of villages and townships in Papua New Guinea to support Burnet’s malaria, and maternal and child health research projects was an outstanding success.

Using OpenStreetMap, a free platform that takes data from manual inputs and other sources, a team of volunteers transformed the best available existing map of the township of Keravat in East New Britain – effectively a blank canvas – into an informative resource.

The volunteers were led by instructors from MapTime Melbourne, a project to map vulnerable communities around the world in an accessible and open source framework, with support from collaborators Global Health Alliance Melbourne, and the Nossal Institute for Global Health.

“What we managed to do is map buildings and roads, including tertiary roads and walking tracks in fine detail over a relatively large area around Keravat,” said Burnet Senior Research Officer, Dr Philippe Boeuf.

Image: Dr Michelle Scoullar explains how the exercise will assist Burnet research and the people of Keravat

“It will be helpful for us to reach the women and participants in our Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) project that we need to follow up, but also understand the hurdles they face in terms of reaching health services.

“HMHB is all about designing and implementing interventions and obviously having a much more detailed knowledge of the road system and where people live will be tremendously helpful in implementing those solutions.”

Dr Boeuf said the natural next step would be to expand the mapped area, but also to include details relevant to the health issues that Burnet addresses.

“With malaria, for example, there’s water waste, water tanks, vegetation, altitude; all these things that affect malaria transmission would be useful to have on the map,” he said.

“Also things that are far more practical for the local population like where to find the nearest STI clinic. When is it open? What services can you access there? What are the contact numbers?

Image: Using Open Street Map to add detail to the map of Keravat, PNG

“You could map all this on this platform and it would be accessible to everyone for free, that’s the beauty of this open street map service.”

HMHB Principal Investigator Dr Michelle Scoullar said the volunteers were a mix of people interested in mapping and learning a new skill, but also people interested in supporting Burnet generally, and Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies in particular.

“What this exercise helped us to understand is how much can be achieved in just one hour of mapping with complete novices,” she said.

“What would be ideal is to have our team in Papua New Guinea involved because obviously it’s their area and they know it in much more detail than we do.

“The internet in East New Britain can be patchy, but if we can get the basic mapping done, we could use their insight to identify the buildings, put names to everything and get that local context and detailed understanding that we can’t provide.”

Find out more about Burnet’s Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies project and our other research in Papua New Guinea.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Doctor Michelle Scoullar

HMHB Principal Investigator; PhD candidate




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