Uncharted Territory Not Yet a Thing of the Past

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Why you should care

Because no country deserves to fall off the map.

OZY and JPMorgan Chase have partnered to bring you an inside look at how entrepreneurs and their good business are helping the communities around them. Enjoy the rest of our special series here.

Our phones can give us seven alternative routes to the nearest ATM, so it’s hard to imagine an unmapped part of the world. Yet a whopping 70 percent of the planet remains insufficiently mapped, and cities of more than a million people in developing countries get by every day without accurate maps.

The problem? This poses a serious threat to communities vulnerable to natural disasters — landslides, tsunamis, earthquakes. The lack of basic maps can hinder rescue and relief crews, slowing response times and recovery efforts. Concerns have given rise to the Missing Maps program, an unprecedented collaboration between the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and OpenStreetMap.

A whopping 70 percent of the planet remains insufficiently mapped

This work includes holding “mapathons” in which supporters like JPMorgan Chase employees create digital maps for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable areas. “The work we’re doing really helps to build more resilient communities and, ultimately, helps to save lives,” says JPMorgan Chase business operations executive Kathy W. [Note to JPMC: We need Kathy’s last name]


First steps include viewing satellite images on OpenStreetMap and then using a point-and-click tool to digitally trace the outlines of streets, buildings, lakes and mountains over the satellite image to build basic digital city maps. These initial maps, which still lack street and landmark names, are then shared with local residents and Red Cross volunteers, who do deep dives into the communities to verify and label everything in the local language. 

JPMorgan Chase’s teams, for example, have helped put Iquitos, Peru, on the map, thanks to efforts by staffers who have traced 22,000 buildings in support of a Red Cross resilience project. The completed maps are then added to OpenStreetMap, where government and humanitarian organizations like the American Red Cross can freely access the information to help communities prepare and deploy relief if and when disasters strike. 

Digital volunteers have already helped the Red Cross map the homes of 8 million people and respond to disasters like the Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan of 2013 and the Nepal earthquake of 2015, by providing responders with detailed information so they could respond quickly and efficiently.

But this work does more than just aid disaster relief. Maps created by the Missing Maps program will ultimately serve as a resource that drives urban planning and economic growth in these developing countries.

Recently, JPMorgan Chase was honored by winning the American Red Cross’ Corporate Leadership Award. On receiving the award, Steve Cutler, vice chairman at JPMorgan Chase, emphasized that our partnership with the American Red Cross remains vital to the company. So far, our employees have already held 22 mapathon sessions in Brooklyn, New York; Wilmington, Delaware; Washington, D.C.; Manhattan and Columbus, Ohio, to help put vulnerable communities on the map in South Africa, Vietnam, Colombia and Peru. Future mapathons will be held at many of our sites across the globe, and apart from the employees who volunteer their time, JPMorgan Chase has donated nearly $5 million to the American Red Cross over the past five years.

To learn how you can get involved, be sure to visit here.