The Mis­placed Bil­lion

Newsweek - - NEWS - LOIS PARSHLEY @Lois­parsh­ley

early on a re­cent morn­ing, woodsmoke

wafted above the mur­mur of vil­lage life in Go­rama, Sierra Leone, as Ru­pert Allen sat sweat­ing in the shade of a con­crete ve­randa. A mem­ber of Miss­ing Maps—a hu­man­i­tar­ian project that maps parts of the world vul­ner­a­ble to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, con­flicts and dis­ease—allen tapped away on a small lap­top next to a black goat and a small, tame mon­key. Con­nected by a smart­phone hot spot, Allen was in charge of map­ping the nearby area.

This sum­mer, the Miss­ing Maps team spent months trav­el­ing to re­mote parts of Sierra Leone by mo­tor­cy­cle to chart them for the first time. De­spite the ubiq­uity of Google Maps, there are many places on Earth where peo­ple and the ter­rain they live on haven’t been mapped. Glob­ally, over a bil­lion peo­ple are un­ac­counted for—lit­er­ally not at­tached to a phys­i­cal ad­dress in car­tog­ra­phy or data­bases, which means they of­ten don’t re­ceive ba­sic ser­vices. That num­ber is grow­ing; by 2020, there will be 1.5 bil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in slums, the ma­jor­ity of whom are un­mapped. Ac­count­ing for th­ese peo­ple is im­por­tant not just to bet­ter un­der­stand our world but also be­cause there’s a di­rect link be­tween peo­ple be­ing not ac­counted for on maps and the risk of catas­tro­phe for them—and, as the Ebola out­break demon­strated, for the rest of us.

Ivan Gay­ton, the founder of Miss­ing Maps, says his crew ven­tured so far into the bush in Sierra Leone this sum­mer that even lo­cal team mem­bers were some­times as­ton­ished when they came across vil­lages where their maps had showed blank spa­ces. “You’re watch­ing light dawn in their eyes, as they see no one has ever been here—no one has ever cared enough to come here,” he says. “There’s just peo­ple liv­ing in the for­est hack­ing their own roads with ma­chetes, es­sen­tially un­known to any­one.”

Gay­ton first be­came in­ter­ested in car­tog­ra­phy in 2010 when he was bat­tling one of the worst cholera epi­demics in his­tory in post-earth­quake Port-au-prince, Haiti. Then a field lo­gis­ti­cian for Doc­tors Without Bor­ders, Gay­ton and the other medics in Port-au-prince asked all the pa­tients who walked in where they lived. But be­cause the

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