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Open data’s role in Nepal’s earthquake

Two Nepalese women standing next to a truck

Who: OpenStreetMap and Kathmandu Living Labs
What: A crowd-sourced open-data and open-data-source response to the Nepal earthquake
Why: Rapidly increasing the impact and speed of disaster response through collaboratively building on existing data and tools and crowdsourcing their expansion
When: 2015

The data

Data: Open Street Map Nepal
Source: Open Street Map
Formats: Geospatial
Licence: Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL) 

Data: QuakeMap
Source: Kathmandu Living Labs/Ushahidi
Formats: CSV, XML 
Licence: OpenStreetMap contributors

A devastating magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, killing more than 9,000 people, injuring thousands more, and leaving an additional 3 million homeless.

This huge calamity showed the importance of open data. Open data and open-source projects saved many lives after the earthquake and provided important lessons that other countries can learn from Nepal.

Immediately following the earthquake, thousands of local and international volunteers instantly stepped in to collaborate and create data and tools. Responding agencies then used this information to coordinate planning mobilisation of resources.

About 8,000 local and international OpenStreetMap community members worked to create detailed maps of affected areas.

The open data gathered by these 'digital humanitarians' was then relayed to volunteers on the ground and used to address the needs of survivors and victims. Training was provided on OpenStreetMap to responding units and organisations, and custom maps were produced for specific purposes and missions.

'We can safely say that open data and open source projects saved numerous lives after the earthquake,’ says Nirab Pudasaini, mobile application developer at Kathmandu Living Labs.

Since the earthquake, there have been many data collection projects for damage assessment, relief distribution tracking, and reconstruction monitoring.

This includes work between multiple government and non-government organisations to collect damage assessments of historical sites, schools, and residential buildings. Work between partners such as the Kathmandu Living Labs and the World Bank has used mobile data collection for relief and reconstruction monitoring and tracking.

Free open source tools were used, such as, which allowed people to communicate their needs to responding organisations, and the Open Data Kit, a data collection platform which helped organisations build, collect and aggregate data.

Read more: Open source and open data's role in Nepal earthquake relief

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Photo: Marcoski