Open Street Maps (OSM) is a project that aims to create an open source map of the world (think wikipedia but for maps) by sourcing user contribution and other unrestricted data. By performing an analysis on the latest Thailand country dump from geofabrik I would like to share some interesting discoveries I made about the state of OSM in Thailand.
There are about 197,920 kilometers of roads contributed to OSM in Thailand while according to the worldbank in 2008 the total road network is estimated to be 390,026 kilometers which means that approximately half the roads in Thailand is mapped. The worldbank report also says that there is 4,129km of rail in Thailand while OSM reports there to be 4,151kms which implies that the entire rail network has been mapped already. There are also 575 kilometers of exclusive pedestrian ways mapped in OSM as well which is a significant number especially since studies have shown that pedestrian traffic is linked to increased economic activity and since maps play an important role in pedestrian activity (ask any tourist with a map) Open Street Maps can be a major factor in increasing economic activity for pedestrian accessible areas in Thailand in the years to come. There are also 217 kilometers of cycle ways mapped, another fantastic reference for tourists, environmentally conscious people and other cycling enthusiasts.
One of the key strengths of OSM is its support for many languages, so I decided to see how much this is taken advantage of. There are 29,091 entities in the maps in English and 15,377 in Thai the interesting thing is that there is a further 132 in Russian, 54 in Laotian and 42 in Turkish. I was interested in the Turkish because they use Roman alphabet anyways, so what use could there be for adding names in Turkish? Digging deeper I came across entries such as “Phra Kaew Tapınağı” which means “Phra Kaew Temple”. This is revolutionary, one can imagine in the near future where OSM has comprehensive coverage in multiple languages, anyone looking at the map, whether to prepare for a visit, prepare a logistics routes or even teaching a new language will be able to see the map and use it in their local tongue.
According to a report issued by the World Health Organization, there is a growing demand for products and services by people with disabilities. Open Street Maps can facilitate this by helping to map facilities which are wheelchair accessible as well as being able to map ramps, steps, elevators and specify inclines (more information at the disabilities page) in Thailand there are presently 383 entities tagged with wheelchair which means there is still much work to be done in order to make Open Street Maps useful for the disabled.
Points Of Interests and other facilities are generally what one would use a map to locate. I wanted to see what kind of facilities have been covered by OSM in Thailand. The top 5 most popular amenities tagged in Open Street Maps are places of worship (4504), restaurants (3086), schools (2125), Petrol Stations (1959) and Parking Facilities (1557) other interesting entities include 622 ATM machines, 603 toilets and 11 vending machines. These are interesting enough but just to get a sense of how much work there is left, assuming that most of the places of worships are Buddhist temples, only about 10% of the temples have been identified.
The top category of shops, unsurprisingly are 7-11s which has about 800 entries out of the 6,773 stores which according to Wikipedia existed in 2012 .
Open Street Maps in Thailand has come a long way since it’s beginnings but there is still a lot of potential left to be harnessed to make it an even more powerful tool for visualizing, referencing and analyzing the physical space in Thailand. I hope I have left the reader with some food for thought and if you’re interested in exploring OSM further, you can always email me, reach me on twitter or head over to learnosm.org
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