State of the Map 2024: Join us in Nairobi and online on 6-8 September 2024!

Dear all,

Get ready to meet and connect with old and new mappy friends from the global OpenStreetMap community again!

The State of the Map Organising Committee is thrilled to officially announce that the global conference of the OpenStreetMap community, State of the Map (SotM), will be making its way to Nairobi, Kenya from September 6th-8th 2024! This landmark event will bring together passionate mappers, data enthusiasts, technologists, and community members from all corners of the globe to celebrate the spirit of collaboration and open mapping.

Following the good feedback for State of the Map 2022 Firenze, the upcoming State of the Map 2024 will once again be held in a hybrid format. Building on the valuable lessons and experiences from the previous events, the SotM Organising Committee is committed to making this edition even more accessible to everyone who wishes to partake in this grand celebration of open mapping, sharing passionate voices with the entire community.

Learn more about the SotM 2024 announcement on the OpenStreetMap blog: Announcing State of the Map 2024: Join us in Nairobi and online on 6-8 September 2024! | OpenStreetMap Blog

More details about the organization will be soon communicated.

Federica Gaspari on behalf of the SotM Organising Committee

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I’m an out, queer trans woman. I presume this event won’t be safe for people like me?

It’s illegal to be gay in Nairobi, and parliamentarians are proposing even stricter, oppressive laws¹. Trans people are often lumped into the same group. The last SotM CoC² said: “[we are] dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of … gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, …. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form”. This CoC wouldn’t be possible in 2024, right?

I presume the advice from the SotM WG is that this event cannot for LGBTQ people, right?

Oh, doesn’t this go against the OSMF/SotMWG’s safety policy?³

¹ Insight: Kenya could follow Uganda as East African nations wage war on LGBT rights | Reuters
LGBT rights in Africa: Will Kenya be the latest to pass anti-gay law? - BBC News
² Code of conduct - State of the Map 2022
³ StateoftheMap Organizing Committee/StateoftheMap safety policy - OpenStreetMap Foundation

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Here we are 4 months later, and basically no replies from the OpenStreetMap Foundation, the State of the Map Organising Committee, or the local organising team.

However, they have published their Code of Conduct, which at first looks like a decent CoC.

But now I’m confused. What’s going on? Is this conference actually going to be safe for LGBTQ+ people, as the CoC says, comparable to other SotMs? Or should LGBTQ* people stay away, or stay closeted? What about people who can’t easily hide themselves, e.g. non-passing trans people?

The US government says

The UK Government says

The Canadian government says

The German Government says

(“restrained behavior in public is strongly recommended. Homosexuality is largely taboo.”)

Local LGBTQ NGOs in Kenya say:

So what’s going on?

Can the SotM WG clarify what (if any) advice re: LGBTQ+ attendees they have received, or what advice they are giving to possible attendees?

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It is now a month since Amanda asked this very valid question and the
silence is deafening.

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Hello everyone,

Thank you for raising your concerns about safety at the upcoming State of the Map (SotM) event in Nairobi, Kenya. As the Local Organizing Committee, we value your input and are dedicated to ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for all attendees.

We understand the challenges and complexities faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in certain regions, like Kenya, and this has been an issue we’ve been discussing, investigating, and actively working on. People should always be looking out for the safety of themselves and their community. We’ve been in touch with LGBTQ+ advocates in Kenya to get their perspectives, and are going to continue to engage to get their help as we prepare State of the Map.

While Kenya’s legal and societal landscape presents challenges, our commitment to a harassment-free environment remains steadfast. Despite perceptions to the contrary, the situation in Kenya has improved over the last several years. Yes, there are antiquated laws on the books, but in practice, these are not enforced. Yes, politicians do sometimes use gay rights as a wedge issue, but strictly speaking, LGBTQ people should not face harassment or discrimination. Meanwhile, the safety situation in other countries in the region has deteriorated, and Kenya can get caught in that harsh spotlight. In Kenya, gay people have been given more space in the local media to explain and present themselves.

That is particularly true in cosmopolitan Nairobi, which is a more tolerant environment than rural parts of Kenya and attracts multinational organizations for their regional and continental presence. That said, you have to pay attention to the nuances. You can be yourself, but shouting about yourself or displaying affection (i.e. kissing)on the street – you have to understand the cultural context.

Foreigners, in particular, are given more latitude in Kenya. They are shown respect – though also at times seen as an “opportunity”, but that is not to do sexual orientation or gender identity. Traveling to Kenya, you have to be smart about where you go and how you conduct yourself, but overall it is an easy place to travel to.

We are hard at work, and will transparently communicate safety guidelines, support resources, and recommendations to empower all attendees to make informed decisions about their participation. At the conference itself, we expect everyone to show respect, grace, and inclusion to all.

For any further questions or suggestions, please feel free to reach out. Your contributions are integral to creating a positive and inclusive hybrid SotM 2024 event.

Best regards,

Walter Mayeku
On behalf of the SotM 2024 Local Organizing Committee

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Thank you Walter for answering.

We want to provide travel and safety information at SotM website latest when we start ticket selling (March or April).

Code of conduct never promises “absolut safety” but it shows the spirit of conference attendees. It is a commitment by the community which attend SotM. Please always consider travel information by your government or any other trustful source. All what we do as organizers is additional to your travel preparation. Please prepare your travel with the same sincerity as you would do if you make a travel without SotM.

Amanda as long term community member, SotM visitior and even board member you know all these and you could have write these answers by your own and share with the community.

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Has a theme or deadline for proposals been announced? If not, is there an eta for that?

They have deadlines and submission forms for 15 minute talks, but not five minute talks yet!

https://blog.openstreetmap.org/2024/03/20/sotm-2024-call-for-participation/

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This post was linked elsewhere as a response to

Would a session on LGBTQ+ issues be treated like other sessions and be available to both the in-person and remote attendees? Obviously, it would have to be given remotely given the threat of jail time or death.

This post doesn’t contain a clear answer. Would it be better to have an answer here or in slack, which is where the original question was asked and not answered?

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The conversation here is far more visible to the community than a closed system.

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I am not sure if I understand this correctly. If the question is: “Can I produce content that violates Kenya’s laws and have OSMF air this on a big screen publicly inside Kenya, and then rub my hands and say ‘told you so’ when everyone gets arrested”, then the answer should obviously be “no” because that would ruin the conference.

(And it only takes one single person who is either anti-LGBTQ+ or who is LGBTQ+ and super-eager on the “told you so” aspect of this to file an anonymous complaint with the authorities and force them to act…)

Is the question from someone who seriously wants to do a talk on LGBTQ+ issues, or just from someone who cleverly constructed this idea for maximum pre-conference social media censorship brouhaha?

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I expect that only tiny part of concern is about topics of talks being presented.

Anyone wondering about “should I warn people that they should not go there if they are gay etc.” or “should I warn people to not bring rainbow-coloured accessories and check own baggage whether I have anything interpretable in this way” would benefit from clarity here.

And yes, I expect that some of questions like this are actually complaining about selecting location where answers to such questions are not as obvious (or outright contrary to expected).

And are more or less subtle suggestions to take also this kind of diversity into consideration when selecting location for next SOTM.

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That’s a good suggestion. You’re about 5 years late… :slightly_smiling_face:

This has been part of the selection criteria for SotM for almost 5 years. (cf. 2024, 2023, 2022, 2021 was online, 2020).

Nairobi SotM’s answer was: “It’s a big city, with good flight connections. The courts said the government can’t ban gay groups any more”.

The OSMF Board spend months on this in late 2021, mostly led by my efforts. It was covered in 5 different board meetings/mid-month chats: #1, #2, #3, #4. Eventually the Board voted to adopt a policy 2½ years ago, in Oct 2021 to only hold SotM in places which are safe to marginalized groups, like LGBTQ people

Some other relevant history: In 2018, HOT’s annual conference (HOT Summit), took place in nearby Dar Es Salaam, and had the same issues _(here’s … someone … pointing it out]. In 2023, there were only 2 bids, on from Prizren, Kosovo, and Yaounde, Cameroon (some of the same organisers as Nairobi 2024). In the end the SotM WG decided to not have a global SotM, (relevant forum thread).

So it’s a good idea to consider these issues in location selection. :+1: That’s been the case for ~5 years. :clap: The OSMF Board had decided not to host SotM in countries unless they are safe from systematic or institutional discrimination for all attendees.

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My read on that situation as an outsider, at the time and now in retrospect, is that the board voted in that way to appease you and had no good faith intent to hold themselves to that policy.

Africans are just as much a group deserving respect and they deliver a good that is important for us in the form of a map of Africa.