Newbie basic questions

Hi :slight_smile:

I am a geographer with environmental projects field experience. After decades of work in various institutions I just became part of an NGO to tackle urban-environmental planning projects in Latin America. Because my background I have used GIS tools before. My question to you is regarding the tools in OpenStreetMap. Why would I choose to use this tool instead of the Google Earth API combined with ArcGIS or QGis? Your help clarifying this issue will be much appreciated.


I have no idea why because I don’t know what you want to do and I don’t know what the alternatives have to offer. I have no incentive to put in a very great deal of work to find out what the alternatives have to offer and produce a comprehensive feature comparison, thereby doing your job (for which I assume you get paid) for you. Others perhaps already have the requisite knowledge and are more willing to help you out.

OpenStreetMap data is open and free unlike Google’s data.

A bit more about it:

OSM is not a tool but a dataset, so the first part of the question is not particularly apposite.

Whether you want to use OSM or, say Google data through an API, should depend on how fit the data is for your purpose. In general I would expect OSM to have more data relevant to urban environmental planning than Google in Latin America. Furthermore with OSM it is possible to quickly enhance areas where the type of data you want might be incomplete or missing. OSM will also tend to have more information about pedestrian routes in cities.

You can compare OSM vs Google with this tool (here showing the well-mapped Bolivian city of Cochabamba):

OSM data can be readily retrieved into both ArcGIS and QGIS, so you can use the GIS tool of choice. QGIS provides the ability to pull thematic categories in from OSM as layers (note that OSM data itself has no notion of layers). Alternatively the overpass (& overpass-turbo webinterface) provide ways of examining & capturing data with specific properties (here in Buenos Aires, bicycle lanes : ; and fire hydrants:

There are active communities of mappers in various countries: Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina to my certain knowledge. HOT and other initiatives (e.g., Development Seed) have also been doing various humanitarian mapping tasks across Latin America. Contacting these groups may be useful for understanding the current status of mapping in various places.