Mapper of the month: Donat Robaux (France)

- Pierre Parmentier

His homepage and his contribution page.

Hello Donat. Would you like to briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I am a 37 year old man. I am originally from Nancy in Lorraine, France. I have been living near Paris for 10 years. I work in human resources in a hospital environment.
How and when did you get to know OpenStreetMap?
I don’t remember at all. What I can say is that I have always been a map lover. I used to fall asleep flipping through the pages of a Michelin guide or a map from the Institut Géographique National (IGN). When I was younger, I won a competition where the prize was an IGN map of mountain bike routes. I was very proud.
How do you use OpenStreetMap?
I mainly use OpenStreetMap to contribute and quite a bit for utility purposes. I use uMap regularly for crisis mapping with the VISOV association (International Volunteers in Virtual Operational Support).
What kind of contributor are you and in which area do you map?
I’m more of an armchair mapper but on holiday I do a lot of fieldwork taking photos which I then process. I have mapped dozens of villages. At the beginning of my discovery of OpenStreetMap I was mapping mainly in the region where I come from and that I know very well and then as time went by I expanded my contributions on more and more subjects. For some years now, I have been mapping everywhere in France, including overseas. When you look at my heat map, you can see that no area of the country is “spared”. I have also mapped a few times in other countries, especially on humanitarian activations.
What are you mapping? Do you have a specialisation?
I map a bit of everything but I really specialise in everything to do with health and safety: civil, public, and all health and social infrastructures. I am developing all this mapping so that the emergency services discover and take into account all the riches of the OpenStreetMap project, but it is not easy. This is due to the fact that in France, we still have quality geographic data, notably via the IGN, and that OpenStreetMap is not really expected. We are seen as aliens by the public authorities. And when they seem interested, there is no follow-up. As a Catholic I also map the churches and God knows there are many in France. It is important to me that every church has its name, even when everyone has forgotten it.
What is your greatest achievement as mapper?
I am very proud to have set up a Project of the Month ( with Noémie concerning gendarmeries and that all of them have been mapped in just one month, that is to say about 3 500 gendarmeries and 400 police stations. This project was set up with the digital mission of the Gendarmerie Nationale’s General Directorate, and what I was most pleased about was that the gendarmes in the field contributed. This project is directly useful to them because the gendarmerie uses a modified version of OsmAnd.
What are you mapping? What motivates you?
I have a very “public service” conception of OpenStreetMap. What motivates me at the moment is to have a great homogeneity on the whole territory concerning certain data of public interest and in the long run to be able to make the link with the State’s reference systems. I also appreciate the fact that I can offer information that other data providers don’t have and that OSM is a support for many different initiatives,
Do you have any ideas to expand the OpenStreetMap community, to motivate more people to contribute?
At my level, I’m very involved in democratizing OpenStreetMap, especially in terms of getting to know the tools. I propose remote sessions of JOSM for those who want to learn how to use it and thus facilitate the contribution to OpenStreetMap. I hope to spread experienced contributors everywhere who can help newcomers close to home. At the moment, a contributor who is just starting out is usually on his own. This can also help reduce the number of errors and therefore time-consuming corrections that no one wants to make.
I also have a more audiovisual project in the pipeline ( to democratise knowledge of the OpenStreetMap project. In the age of tutorials, I think that we can’t ignore this medium of communication, which seems to me to be much more relevant than the wiki and the static blog pages that don’t allow a complete appropriation of the project. And finally I have another project in progress with two friends, but I won’t say more. It will be a surprise!
Do you have contacts with other mappers?
Yes, I have contacts with contributors from all over France. I’ve been involved in the OpenStreetMap France association for several years and have been on the State of the Map France organising committee since 2015. The French community is still very active even if it relies on a small number of very committed contributors. In my opinion, OpenStreetMap remains a very solitary activity insofar as everyone maps in their own corner. I’m still a bit frustrated that we don’t manage to get more people to stick around. The community is also very difficult to understand as a whole, and there is little interaction between contributors beyond the forums and social networks.
What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?
For me it’s its community. As I said, the French community is very active and is teeming with projects. We have a very small and valuable team that maintains the French servers and the many associated services. Not to mention the projects that have crossed borders: uMap, Osmose, CyclOSM, etc.
What is the largest challenge for OpenStreetMap?
For me, the biggest challenge for OpenStreetMap is still to make itself known, especially by the general public. It is still too common to meet people in the street who have never heard of it. I think that this is the main instrument for the development of our project, at least in France.
The project also remains fragile in terms of its governance and its model. I think that this whole beautiful project cannot rely entirely on volunteers, but that raises other questions.
How do you stay on top of the news with OpenStreetMap?
I look forward to the French WeeklyOSM every weekend. I look at the international discussion lists quite frequently but as most of the exchanges are in English it doesn’t make it easy for me to understand the issues and discussions although I would like to give my point of view there.
To conclude, is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Have fun mapping!
I have one more small question. You mentioned VISOVs. I understand that VISOV is part of VOST. Could you tell us more about how OpenStreetMap is helping them in a concrete way?
The VISOV association is indeed part of the VOST movement, but everyone does what they want in their own country. There is no federation or anything else.
The mapping on uMap allows us to geolocalise the feedback from citizens via social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, … (photo of destroyed bridge for example). It thus enables raw information to be transformed into formatted information for public authorities (prefectures, emergency services) and therefore more usable for geographical phenomena that would not otherwise be visible. Mapping also allows us to inform citizens about the places of reception: community hall, gymnasium and to publish this on social networks.

Thank you, Donat, for this interview.

Translated from French by Pierre Parmentier with the help of