Open geospatial tools for humanitarian data creation, analysis, and learning through the global lens of YouthMappers

Patricia Solís, Jennings Anderson, Sushil Rajagopalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


OpenStreetMap (OSM), often thought of as a technological tool or platform, can be envisioned as a community of communities and informed by a broad understanding of geographical systems. In this article, we explore the community of university students known as YouthMappers, who utilize OSM and related tools for humanitarian data creation, analysis and learning. Students approach OSM simultaneously as aspiring members of the workforce in a global digital economy and as emerging world citizens of a global society. Established in 2014, YouthMappers is a campus-based consortium of more than 200 chapters in approximately 50 countries that networks and supports engagement in humanitarian data with practitioners, government agencies, and other actors. Open geospatial data are contributed to authentic campaigns through OpenStreetMap and an ecosystem of open source and proprietary tools. A 2019 survey of YouthMappers and an analysis of YouthMappers data contributions allow us to explore the following questions: Who are using open geospatial tools, and in what context? Which open geospatial tools are being used and where? How proficient are they as users? How confident do they feel? How prepared does this make them for the future? How do these patterns vary across the global digital divide? Results show evidence of mapping both locally and globally. They also reveal a gendered confidence gap, and tool use patterns hint at a gendered division of geospatial labor in some global contexts. Internships are key to unlocking job opportunities, and are prevalent among YouthMappers members. Findings also reveal that with growing self-reported proficiency, a commitment to the ethic of being a good global citizen increases, underscoring the potential promise for open geospatial tools to support not only workforce capacity, but also meaningful connections to learning about geography, place, people, and the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-625
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Geographical Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Digital divide
  • Gender
  • Geospatial workforce
  • Global south
  • Humanitarian mapping
  • OpenStreetMap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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