OpenStreetMap Does the Philippines

4:43 pm PHT

I’ve heard about OpenStreetMap (OSM) (see the Wikipedia article) maybe one or two years ago and was interested in the collaborative aspects of it. This mapping project aimed to create a free (as beer and in speech) street geodata of the whole United Kingdom and Ireland. While Great Britain already has excellent mapping data care of the Ordnance Survey (the national mapping agency of the UK), the problem is that this data is not free (as in beer and speech). The Ordnance Survey holds the copyright to the mapping data and charges people who want to use it, despite being funded by taxpayer’s money. So the OpenStreetMap project was born.

OpenStreetMap builds street data primarily by using Global Positioning System (GPS) tools and equipment. The GPS “tracks” are then collected, thrown into a database, annotated, and then rendered to produce street maps. This way the data is truly free of any pre-existing copyrights and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution, Share-Alike 2.0 license.

I haven’t been following developments on OpenStreetMap, since they only did UK, but when I recently checked them out again, I was surprised to see that they’ve expanded the project to cover the whole world. There’s already some data for the Philippines, mostly concentrated in the Metro Manila area. There’s even a Philippines page for contributors.

 Example OpenStreetMap of Metro Manila

One interesting development on OpenStreetMaps that I missed was that Yahoo! agreed to let the OSM use its satellite imagery data, derive data from it, and release the derived data for “free,” without having to credit Yahoo! (See the OSM Wiki page about the arrangement.) This greatly simplifies the mapping process because before, you needed to use GPS to get copyright-free street data, or else use low-resolution LANDSAT satellite pictures, or public-domain but outdated maps. Now, you don’t need to have a Nokia N95 or other GPS units to get data; just load the Yahoo! satellite image, trace the roads and presto! Instant vector maps! Check out the “Edit” tab in the OSM website (registration needed).

This is great news for us Filipinos because Yahoo! already has satellite imagery of Metro Manila and Davao City. Migs Paraz has been ranting about the lack of nice Metro Manila street data (mapCentral, while it has the best map data of the Philippines online, is not very user friendly), so he might be interested to check OSM out. When I have time, I’m definitely going to map out my neck of the woods.

P.S. I’ve been meaning to write about OSM since last week, but this post by Abe catalyzed me to do it.  :D

Update, August 6. Based on feedback, I’d like to clarify some of the points and give more background. I have exaggerated when I said that it’s easy to create street maps by just tracing satellite images. Any data you extract based on satellite imagery should be cross-referenced and corroborated with other sources of information such as personal observations, ground-level photos, other maps, etc. So, the best person to create street maps from satellite images is the one who is knowledgeable about the place. You can’t expect me to create street maps for Sydney, for instance, but you can bet that I can create maps of the Makati Central Business District. More discussion can be found at talksmart’s reaction and the comments that follow that reaction.

The reason I checked out OSM was because of this article on the Google Earth Blog: “India Maps - Local Knowledge Power”. This is the same topic that Abe discussed in his blog post that I linked above.

Filed under , , and

Add your comment | 11 comments


Comment times are in Philippine time (+0800).


On 10:33 a.m., 5 Aug 2007, talksmart wrote:

Hi. I wrote something about your post. Please click the link..


On 12:03 p.m., 5 Aug 2007, seav wrote:

@talksmart, thanks for reading and reacting to my blog entry. I’ve responded to your concerns on your blog (well, once you approve my comment).  :-)


On 2:54 a.m., 6 Aug 2007, urbano dela cruz wrote:

hey eugene,

did you catch this bit of news?…

google is doing OSM one better.

btw, is there anyway to overlay OSM’s data on Google earth?



On 11:25 a.m., 6 Aug 2007, seav wrote:

@Urbano, yep, I’ve read about it on O’Reilly Radar and even much earlier on the Google Earth Blog: India Maps—Local Knowledge Power two weeks ago. The Radar basically just picked up on the story. Anyway, the Google Earth Blog article was actually the reason why I checked out OSM and discovered the Philippine data. And Abe’s blog post about this India story is what prompted me to post about OSM now.  :)


On 11:31 a.m., 6 Aug 2007, seav wrote:

@Urbano, to follow up (serves me right for hitting the submit button too soon—and I’m too lazy to bring up the comment editor), while Google does OSM better, the data is unfortunately not free (as in speech).

As for viewing OSM data in Google Earth, I know it’s quite possible and only needs some enterprising soul to do the covnersion software and someone did! Check out this OSM Wiki article: OSM in Google Earth. I haven’t tried this yet.


On 2:16 p.m., 6 Aug 2007, Miguel wrote:

While we’re on the topic… are there good locally-available Bluetooth GPS modules? I would like to use one with my Nokia Eseries.


On 5:51 p.m., 6 Aug 2007, seav wrote:

@Migs, I’m don’t know of any since I don’t have any hi-end phones, so there’s no incentive for me to look these things up. Ok, that was a lot of help.  :p


On 6:00 p.m., 7 Aug 2007, Miguel wrote:

That’s no problem. Somebody is bound to search for GPS stuff, land on this page and answer my question—thanks to your fantastic pagerank!


On 6:39 p.m., 7 Aug 2007, seav wrote:

Fantastic PageRank? I’ve slipped back to PR4 while you’re still at PR5.  :-) Besides, your posts about my Google Earth/Maps coverage on your blog and PTB has consistently been among the top 10 traffic sources for my blog.  ;)


On 8:06 p.m., 14 Aug 2007, samson wrote:

visit, this was programming was done by a filipino.

this is a street level imagery mashed-up with google maps.


On 9:31 p.m., 15 Aug 2007, seav wrote:

@Samson, thanks! I’ve heard of this website before and I’ll check it out in more depth. If I’ll like it, I’ll promote it.  :-)

Post your comment here

Comments moderated: Comments for this entry is now moderated. That means that the author will have to approve the comment before it can be viewed by the public.

Remember The Data Above? (Uses Cookies)

Comment shown to:

Comment notes

Your name and e-mail address are required. Your e-mail won't be displayed.