FEU Alabang studes join ‘global public mapping database’ to help fight COVID-19

FEU Advocate
April 02, 2020 21:00

By Gio Carlo D. Castro
Photo courtesy of ACM FEU Alabang Student Chapter

Students from Far Eastern University (FEU) Alabang took part in ‘OpenStreetMap’, an online mapping community that aims to locate nearest healthcare facilities and services in fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) last March 30.

In a Facebook post of FEU Alabang, the team is composed of members from Association of Computer Machinery (ACM) FEU Alabang Student Chapter: Austin Marbella, Yel Tibio, Junel Capawing, Dana Huang and Jose Limpiada.

Marbella, one of the junior officers, told FEU Advocate in an online interview that it all started when they were oriented about ‘YouthMappers’, one of the programs and causes that ACM FEU Alabang Chapter supports.

“Its primary objective is to allow students and other youths to contribute to a global public mapping database that will be used by governments and more importantly emergency services,” he explained.

Their gathered data were then given to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), an international humanitarian organization. According to Marbella, their project has “no specific community”, but rural areas are considered more important in mapping.

“There is no specific community that our task adheres to but rural areas take more precedence since they aren’t mapped as robustly as urban areas,” he said.

He added, “Healthcare services could greatly benefit from these data. This is our contribution in the fight against COVID-19.”

However, the BS Computer Science student shared that the verification process of the areas they gathered was considered a challenge for them amid the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

“The first would be to see if there is any inconsistency in the data received. The second would be on-site verification where members of the OpenStreetMap team would verify the structures we’ve identified. The problem lies in that due to the enhanced quarantine, volunteers from OpenStreetMap have very limited movement in terms of the secondary verification,” he said.

Despite this, Marbella along with his team still takes technology as an advantage in joining projects in these trying times, “With the high potential of technology today, we could use it to our advantage to create new breakthroughs as well as to help people in need.”

“With this in mind, I, along with the whole ACM FEU Alabang Student Chapter decided to use our skills in mapping to help the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team in mapping hospitals and healthcare facilities in the Philippines to make them more visible to people finding them,” he ended.

FEU Alabang is one of the four universities in the country listed in the roster of YouthMappers Chapters.