Building Mapping Expertise in Vietnam


Image Source: Robert Banick

Recently, the Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) team has started an Open Cities project in Can Tho, Vietnam, assisting the local government to build a city that is ready for the challenges of the 21st century.

Over the past two decades, these challenges have included extreme weather events causing more than 13,000 deaths and property damage in excess of $6.4 billion in Vietnam. More than 70% of the country’s population is at risk from natural hazards, particularly the rural and urban poor.

The city of Can Tho is particularly vulnerable as it is the economic hub of the Mekong valley, a hugely important and populous area of Vietnam that is particularly exposed to flooding and inundation brought on by climate change induced sea level rise. As people migrate to Can Tho in search of jobs, they are settling in new neighborhoods built on marginal, flood-prone land.


Image Source: OpenStreetMap

Development organizations are increasingly focused on building climate and disaster resilience in the Mekong region to ensure that socio-economic gains are sustainable and inclusive. In order to make such investments, data that is up-to-date and accessible is critical.

Last month, during a day-long workshop at Can Tho University’s Dragon Institute, the OpenDRI team introduced OpenStreetMap (OSM) to students and to Can Tho city government officials. The session was kept informal, focusing on mapping familiar terrain: the university campus. Participants learned to use the iD and JOSM editors on their desktop computers and how to use Field Papers printouts in the field. Though it’s not a typical practice for OpenDRI’s OSM training sessions, the team used local motorbikes to get around and collect data for the Field Papers.


Image Source: Robert Banick

The Can Tho city government will use the data created during this and future mapathons to manage new transportation, housing and social welfare systems that are being set up in a partnership with the World Bank. The World Bank project that OpenDRI is supporting will help settle residents into new homes in safer areas, build the infrastructure to prevent floods in those areas, and create social safety nets for people affected by flood events in the rural areas surrounding Can Tho.

Instead of each government agency paying to set up and maintain its own, separately managed database, they will all link to and update using the OSM database. For example, the Department of Transportation will update the roads to reflect their bus lines while the Department of Construction will use that data to understand the average commute for workers in newly planned housing units. This saves every agency money and creates open data for students at Can Tho University, researchers and others to use in whatever way they see fit.


Image Source: Vivien Deparday

The workshop was a major success! Participants gained valuable hands-on experience with important technologies while major improvements were made to the University map. Based on what was accomplished during this session the government has invited the OpenDRI team to return in 2017 and delve into more advanced concepts, taking the initiative even further.