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Open Source Mapping toolkit

How to make collective mapping using Open Source tools

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Part of colaborativa articles

Research articles, technical tutorials, case studies related to our projects and other collaborations.

At we have been using digital mapping technologies for many of our projects like #DisponibleEnCordoba or Creatives In Limerick. Our current toolkit includes a number of open source technologies like OpenStreetMap, Mapbox and OpenDataKit as well as few tools developed in house by ourselves.

We used this toolkit for our most recent mapping project: Vacant SAMA

Colaborativa’s collective mapping open source toolkit

Collective mapping is an important part of our research and analysis methodology so we have spent quite a bit of time putting together a toolkit based on Open Source tools and technologies. Right Now, we use four different technologies:

  • Open Data Kit Aggregate server to configure and collect the data.
  • Google App Engine to host the ODK aggregate server.
  • Open Data Kit Build to create the survey forms.
  • Open Data Kit Collect a mobile phone app to collect data.

There are dozens of tools out there but the majority of them are based on business models that keep your data captive or doesn’t give you enough flexibility on how to analyze and visualize the information.

Creativos en Cordoba

How to guide

Installing the server

There is a good tutorial on how to install your own server, please note that some technical experience is needed.

Our own server is this one please note that unregistered users can not see any stored data in our server.

Creating a form

Open data kit provides a great GUI for creating new forms, it is based on the xmlform standard so other tools could be use too. In order to create your own forms, you need to sign up first. Creating a simple form is quite straightforward process as ODK build provides a rich visual interface. ODK build is quite powerful though so conditional and other logic operations can be implemented in your forms.

uploading the form

Now that you have created your own form you need to import it to ODK aggregate server. Recent versions of ODK build have a simple command for that File > Upload Form to Aggregate.

The app will ask you for the address of ODK Aggregate app instance –in our case– and an user name and password with form management rights.

Collecting Data

The last piece of the toolkit is an Android app called ODK collect Just simply install it in your phone, connect to the ODK aggregate server to download the form –you might need to provide a valid username and password if your form has no anonymous access–

Open Data Kit Aggregate. Exporting data

Some advice for collective mapping sessions

  • Keep mapping session goals simple and easy to communicate.
  • Try to incorporate form building as part of the collective mapping process.
  • Empower communities by explaining the technical side too.


We are a design, technology and social action agency funded by Javi BuronGarcia and Magda SanchezMora. reactivates abandoned public spaces through the cultural sector. Our work spreads across the research of new governance models; the development of analysis and visualization and tools and the implementation and management of these models. Javi is also director at Fab Lab Limerick.