Mapper in the Spotlight: Jinal Foflia (India)

- Marc Gemis


Jinal Foflia is living in Bengaluru, India. In her free time you’ll see her playing with words which she turns into poetries, she is an amature baker and is always trying to make something creative out from the waste. Jinal is engineer and works currently at Mapbox as a Data Analyst.

When and how did you discover OpenStreetMap?

I heard about OpenSteetMap from a friend, there was a discussion about how precise can a map be and that’s when my friend pointed out to OpenStreetMap and stated that ‘you can make this map as precise as you want it to be’. I was curious about it and tried to research about it. Coincidently, after a while I joined Mapbox where I was given a broader perspective about OpenStreetMap and also got a chance to meet some very interesting folks who have immense passion towards OpenStreetMap and have been contributing for years. With all the guidance I started my mapping journey.

What do you map?

I begun by adding points of interests in Bengaluru, then eventually jumped into tracing roads and understanding their hierarchy and classifications. It was very interesting to know that what we see in reality is no different from what we map. This gave me a lot of understanding about how cities are planned and how different each city is from the other in terms of planning and road networks. Currently I have started mapping turn restrictions and turn lanes. With my experience in OSM, I must say that relationships are complicated here too ;-)

How do you map?

I’m lucky that my profession allows me to map, other than the mapping that I do with the team, I go for field mapping using field papers in and around my neighbourhood, trying to collect ground data and add that to the map. We also started our first mapping party on the world environment day (5th June), currently there are just two members, but we are hoping for more people to get involved and be a part of it.

Which tools do you use to map (GPS, Apps, Editors, QA-websites)?

I have used OSM tracker for adding traces to the map. Also I make sure to use Mapillary app to capture images where ever I travel. Also MAPS.ME has been a handy application for adding some common POIs and addresses. I use JOSM editor for major part of mapping in OpenStreetMap.

Where do you map?

I map locally and quite often for HOT. It feels great that the data that is added to the map, pre or post disaster can be of such great use. Nothing can be better than contributing for saving lives.

What is your biggest achievement as mapper?

It has just been a year since I started mapping, I feel that I don’t have anything in particular that could be mentioned but looking forward in making the best out of it.

What motivates you?

OSM has become an integral part of my life. The whole idea of a map being open source was the thing that attracted me towards it. I was reluctant at first to add anything to the map as I realised that all these edits would go live in sometime, but this is what makes OSM a special map! This gives me an opportunity to understand different people and the cities they live in. It’s astonishing to see how each city is different from the other but yet the same. Also working with people who have some great experience with OSM makes my learning experience even better.

What is the most difficult part of mapping?

Mapping involves a lot of intricate work, like understanding the right combination of tags, as each city/country has it’s conventional way of tagging a particular entity. I often get confused with the current tag that is being used and the deprecated ones. Although each of them will have a good number of instances but choosing either of them is difficult. One fact that keeps me motivated is the OSM community, it’s amazing to see the passion and the enthusiasm that everyone shares to make this map, what it is.

What are your mapping plans for the near future?

Right now i’m very keen in mapping my neighbourhood - Basaveshwaranagara. Adding various POIs, trees, gardens, buildings and turn restrictions in this area.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

The OSM community is huge, it’s astonishing to see how everyone is connected to each other through OSM. I have had interactions with a lot of mappers since I started mapping. Notes in OSM are a great medium to ask for help or seek attention of a fellow mapper to an issue. OSM diaries is an amazing platform to communicate with everyone on what are we working on or seeking help for. I’ll be attending the SotM Brussels this year, this will be a great opportunity for me to meet and interact with the folks with whom I have interacted virtually. Looking forward to be a part of this.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself?

I use OSM for a lot of things like for my daily travel, to find places and to share locations. This is done using various applications like and OsmAnd.

The OSM community in India is growing. Through Mapbox and individually, we are making efforts to make this community stronger. We do this by conducting OpenStreetMap related workshops for small groups, colleges and universities across India. This is to introduce them to OSM and help them get comfortable with mapping.

I’m also a part of the English editorial team for the WeeklyOSM, a blog which gives a summary of all things happening in the OpenStreetMap world. There is great team behind this and it has been a very delightful learning experience in being part of this team.

I have started working in localising iD editor, that is translating various intructions of iD into my mother tongue, Gujarati using transifex. I plan to complete the core translations very soon.

To conclude, is there anything else you want to tell us?

I’m glad that i’m a part of such an amazing community which is always ready to help and support. It makes me feel proud to be doing my bit in contributing to the making of the best map in the world! There is one thing that I would consciously do is to encourage women to participate and start contributing to OpenStreetMap. It would be great to see a diverse OSM community :)

Thank you for reading it :)

##Thanks a lot for the interview, Jinal.