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Use of open cartography and open tools for navigation purposes on Ebola emergency response. Case Western Area

Use of open cartography and open tools for navigation purposes on Ebola emergency response. Case Western Area.



This document describes the use of Open Software and Open Data to provide support on navigation to the ambulances and support cars that works on the Ebola Virus Disease Response in Western Area (urban and rural) in Sierra Leone. It describes the use of mobile solutions, printed maps and laptop apps to provide accurate information useful for localization of the services and probable EVD cases in the most populated district in Sierra Leone, and operated by Handicap International.  Also is an orientation to other districts to implement similar processes with similar objectives.

The solution is oriented on using Open Code Software and OpenStreetMap cartography, produced by Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). Please refer to acknowledgement section for details.


  • Introduction. 1
  • Background. 2
  • Description of the needs and solutions proposed. 3
  • Paper maps. 3
  • Mobile apps. 3
  • Laptop solution. 3
  • Training. 4
  • Contacts. 4
  • References. 5
  • Cartography. 5
  • GIS tools. 5
  • Mobile app. 5
  • Desktop app. 6
  • Other tools. 6
  • Acknowledgments. 6
  • Training plan: Use of Smartphones and Open Cartography for finding places in Western Area. 8
  • Agenda. 8




The Ebola Virus Disease EVD Outbreak in West Africa has been by far the biggest challenge to health systems in the affected countries, and the International Community expressed the commitment. The National governments, the international community, volunteers and local communities are working together to stop the outbreak and build local capacity, looking forward to a sustainable and resilient zero new EVD cases. The work is based on four pillars: case management, surveillance and contact tracing, social mobilization and safe and dignified burials. 

Sierra Leonean government have the National Ebola Response Centre NERC as the coordination institution for EVD response, and works in coordination with the District Ebola Response Centers DERCs with the support of UNMEER and several other counterparts.

Western area district is divided in Rural and Urban. A huge mechanism for appropriate transportation of probable EVD persons is established, and includes strict protocols on using Personal Protective Equipment PPE, and decontamination of the ambulances, and other support vehicles. To have a better recognition of the field and streets is an added value to the operators of the transportation. For Western Area Handicap International is in charge of the administration of that process.  

 HOT is a network of volunteers who works in the Digital Humanitarian Network framework to provide open and shareable cartography of areas affected by natural disasters or armed violence, starting in 2010 in Haiti earthquake and in several emergencies after that including EVD outbreak. Now a highly compressive cartography is available for the most of the affected areas. Also there exists tools to use that cartography in several devises including mobile phones, with navigation purposes.

Also is important to mention that the operations center have limited access to internet, so the establishment of an offline solution is desirable.

Description of the needs and solutions proposed

After some meetings between the operators, UNMEER and NERC Information Management Unit, this strategy is proposed to be implemented.

Paper maps

Is important to have printed maps with different zoom levels for operational purposes.  UNMEER/NERC IMU produced and print maps in A0 format using the OSM base data of the Western Area. The scale used is 1:9500 and 1:10.00. The printed maps where given to the operators and are available to download in Humanitarian Response. The maps were produced using ArcGIS and Quantum GIS.

Mobile apps

As is mentioned, an offline solution is desirable. After checking the options UNMEER/NERC IM team selected OSMAND as the navigation tool that uses OSM cartography and allows to find locations and navigate. OSMAND have a free version that is compatible with the information needs of this exercise. 

UNMEER/NERC setup and provide Smartphones donated by the private sector, using OSMAND and with the OSM cartography ready to be used.  

Smartphone devices

UNMEER provided Smartphones Samsung SIII received as donation from the private sector.

Laptop solution

The ambulance dispatcher have laptops with limited access to internet, but also After some consultations with the OSM/HOT team members, the tool “Atlas” provided by Talent S.A. was selected as the Laptop offline option. Atlas is a Java map and navigation application using offline vector maps that uses GraphHopper for offline navigation purposes.


Participants of the training in Hastings field operated by Handicap International. Western Area. 16/06/2015

UNMEER/ NERC IM team is providing training on using the tools and devices. Also this document is shared and published for future references. Plese see the training plan attached to this document.




This is the list of resources used in this implementation. User manuals and guidelines are available in each webpage


As mentioned UNMEER/NERC IM used OpenStreetMap data, produced by HOT.


GIS tools

ArcGIS and Quantum GIS were used. Quantum GIS is an Open source tool and ArcGIS is privative and requires the payment of license.

Mobile app

Google Play

When installed please download the Sierra Leone Map

  • Tap in the square with 4 small squares at the bottom left
  • Tap in the cogwheel at top right
  • Tap on “Manage Map files”
  • The message “This free OSMAND version is limited to 10 downloads… available 10 files to download” -> tap in “OK”
  • Tap in ”All Downloads”
  • In “type to filter” write “Sierra” (the system will filter the list and will show “Sierra Leone”
  • Check the box near “Sierra Leone”
  • Tap in the bar “DOWNLOAD (2)(8 FILES LEFT)
  • Wait for the files to download. The first time the app will download also the world view.


Amazon Apps


The files can be downloaded using the App, but also can be copied in the Android folder  /storage/extSdCard/Android/data/net.osmand/files/osmand
 the files extension is .obf

The app MyAppSharer is also being used for the setup of the devises. This app helps to share the installers between Android devices. Using this app is not necessary to use internet for the customization.  

Google Play


Desktop app

About Atlas

Downloadable from
Produced by


The compatible files are available in the MapForge project and the version used was download from

The system requires Java for operation

Other tools

Those are other tools evaluated in this process



United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response express gratitude with the volunteers and counterparts that makes this possible. Special gratitude with the members of OSM Project Pierre BÉLAND and Andrew BUCK, coordinators of the OpenStreetMap Response to the Ebola Outbreak; and  Jean-Guilhem CAILTON, Blake GIRARDOT, Mikel MARON, Robert COLOMBO, Marco Antonio FRIAS, Leonardo GUTIERREZ, Freddy RIVERA, and all the volunteers and counterparts involved in the process. More information about the OSM activities in EVD Response available in  

Comments or questions please address to the focal point for this exercise: Luis Hernando AGUILAR RAMIREZ, IMO at /

For coordination with National Ebola Response Centre please contact to Christian Lara, Coordination Officer


 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.





Training plan: Use of Smartphones and Open Cartography for finding places in Western Area


At the end of the training the users will know:

How to use maps in paper and in digital support
How to operate a smartphone,
Will understand how the GPS system works
How can find a place in the map, and how navigate using smartphones and laptop app.
 Also will know where those maps are coming from and how get access more information.


Brief Introduction on Maps (paper and digital)
Brief Introduction to GPS system
Brief Introduction to Smartphone: basic procedures for navigation purposes 

Package content
Battery charge
Turn on
Basic configuration
Activate geolocation
General care

Using GPS Test

GPS satellite signal view
Satellite position and constellation view
Geolocation view
Speed view
Time view

Using OSMAND: Offline navigation app for Android

Starting the app
Understanding the interface

i.Zoom levels, position,






Using Atlas: Offline system for accessing the maps in Windows

Installing the app



Operation(s)/ Webspace(s): 
United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response
Original Publication Date: 
16 Июн 2015
Document type: 
Handbook or Manual
Information Management
Technical co-operation with other countries
Coordination hub(s): 
National Ebola Response Centre NERC - Freetown Sierra Leone
West Africa: Ebola Outbreak 2014 - 2015