When was the last time you pulled up a map on your phone?

If you’re anything like me, every day.

A few weeks ago I discovered the excellent series, Equator From The Air, presented by the brilliant Gordon Buchanan.

Check it out on iPlayer (UK only – sorry!).

In the Africa episode (Series 1, Episode 1), Gordon visits Bidibidi (timestamp 31:00), a sprawling refugee camp that has sprung up in northwestern Uganda as a result of South Sudanese refugees fleeing the ongoing civil war

The camp is expanding at an astonishing pace, as you can see from the satellite imagery taken over a few years below.

Bidibidi satellite image growth

These days we take for granted the ability to search mapping apps on our phones to find the best restaurants, complete with photos of the food and reviews from previous diners.

In refugee camps, where new buildings, streets, or neighbourhoods can appear by the day, being able to direct someone to where they need to go can be very difficult.

Co-ordinates are complex and location codes, like Plus Codes or What3Words, are not widely adopted. Yet.

In emergency settings, it is extremely important to get accurate information on the location of people and infrastructure, to understand their needs and plan the response.

Inside Bidibidi, Gordon joins a group of volunteers using GPS and OpenStreetMap to log the infrastructure, including water sources and important buildings.

I found this map online after some searching, though I’m not sure if it’s part of the project featured in the show (can anyone point me in the right direction?).

Regardless, the value is clear. New residents can quickly find much needed amenities, business owners can promote their stores, planners can monitor the erection of new homes to determine future needs…

Emergency “Street View”

As we develop Trek View, we’re finding an ever-increasing number of ways to use street-level imagery for good.

We put out a Call for Trekkers twice yearly with a focus on the natural world. Here’s our Winter / Spring 2020 focus.

Though I want to open an indefinite Call for Trekkers to those pursuing humanitarian causes.

If you believe 360-degree street-level imagery / mapping can support your initiatives, whether planning the growth of a camp for those fleeing civil war or rebuilding after a natural disaster, I want to extend our support by providing you with Trek View kit under our Trekker program.

If you have a project in mind, you can submit an application to our Trekker program here.

David Greenwood

Professional explorer.