Kerala at your fingertips: Elaborative maps of Kerala’s local bodies are now available!

Open Data Kerala, a collective of individuals and organisations working to open source all data on the state, has come out with ‘Map Kerala’, an elaborative digital map of local bodies
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

KOCHI: Have you ever fallen short of information on amenities available at your local body? Or didn’t know the boundaries of your hometown?  Worry not! ‘Map Kerala,’ an Open Street Map (OSM)-based data portal that contains elaborative maps of Kerala’s local bodies is here. The initiative launched by Open Data Kerala (ODK), a collective of individuals and organisations working towards transforming all data on Kerala into open-source provides geospatial map data on the state to everyone.

“A user can directly check the openly-available facilities in a local body without wasting much time — be it petrol pumps, libraries, auditoriums or ATMs. Such data is missing on current platforms. We are hoping that our portal will encourage activities to bridge missing information. We are trying to create curated data sets and are focusing on reusing them for future research or administrative visualisation,” said Manoj Karingamadathil, programme coordinator, Open Data Kerala. 

All these available data sets can be downloaded from the portal The data sets are classified under amenities, education, emergency, nature, political, public transport, recreation, religion and tourism. Around 1,034 local bodies including panchayats, municipalities and corporations have been added to the project. 

ODK is planning to include block and district panchayats, and districts in the coming phases. “Though the plan is to expand the project with more details, we are trying to keep it minimal and ensure easy access even with low bandwidth connections. We have launched the alpha version of ‘Map Kerala’ and are planning to include more features and data sets in future,” said Arjun Gangadharan, an ODK member.

Open Street Map Kerala community has been conducting several activities based on OSM for the last decade. Following the deluge in 2018, the team realised the importance of drawing the geospatial boundaries of every local body and providing necessary data for public use. “It will be very useful for disaster management. If an entire panchayat is flooded, rescue operations can only be possible based on geospatial data. If you check Google maps, you will only see a canopy in the area and no roads. But a resident of that region can easily draw available roads and other details of the area in OSM,” said Manoj

There are around 400 contributors currently working on the project. Along with Manoj, ODK members such as Naveen Francis, Arjun Ganghadharan, Jinoy, Kelvin, Jaison Nedumbala, Jothish, Akshay Dinesh and Abraham have contributed to the Map Kerala Portal. Henis and Marcel, two Germany-based mappers are also actively contributing to boundary mapping in Kerala.

OSM has adapted a Wikipedia model for mapping. “Anyone can draw the maps anonymously and their activity will be monitored. As it is a community-driven voluntary initiative, open street map volunteers will regularly track the history of editing and rectify the errors by communicating with the respective contributor,” said Akshay Dinesh, the developer who worked with the project.

Making maps accessible to all
The project also intends to open up the map data for all. “There was a time when individuals had to face legal action for possessing certain maps. Even the creation of maps was prohibited to an extent. As technology transformed, all map data became available in our smartphones. Still, the government has not made the map data of Local Self Governments publicly available. We need more accurate layers of information for more future projects,” said Manoj Karingamadathil. A few others point out that data mapped at the government-level should be made accessible to the public. “Though the government is investing heavily in GIS-based mapping, all of them are inaccessible to the public or are not regularly updated. As data concerning government departments are stored on the government’s open data website, officials need to ensure open access for creating more public-driven initiatives in future,” said Naveen Francis, an open data activist.

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The New Indian Express