Centaur VGI: a hybrid human-machine approach to address global inequalities in map coverage

Jonny Huck, Christopher Perkins, Billy Tusker Haworth, Emmanuel Moro, Mahesh Nirmalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Downloads (Pure)


Despite advances in mapping technologies and spatial data capabilities, global mapping inequalities are not declining. Inequalities in the coverage, quality, and currency of mapping persist, with significant gaps in remote and rural parts of the Global South. These regions, representing some of the most economically and resource-disadvantaged societies in the world, need high-quality mapping to aid in the delivery of essential services, such as health care, in response to severe challenges such as poverty, conflict, and global climate change. Volunteered geographic information (VGI) has shown potential as a solution to mapping inequalities. Contributions have largely been made in urban areas or in response to acute emergencies (e.g., earthquakes or floods), however, leaving rural regions that suffer from chronic humanitarian crises undermapped. An alternative solution is needed that harnesses the power of volunteer mapping more effectively to address regions in most need. Machine learning holds promise. In this article we propose centaur VGI, a hybrid system that combines the spatial cognitive abilities of human volunteers with the speed and efficiency of a machine. We argue that centaur VGI can contribute to mitigating some of the political and technological factors that produce inequalities in VGI mapping coverage and do so in the context of a case study in Acholi, northern Uganda, an inadequately mapped region in which the authors have been working since 2017 to provide outreach health care services to victims of major limb loss during conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-251
Number of pages21
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • OpenStreetMap
  • VGI
  • humanitarian mapping
  • machine learning
  • mapping inequalities

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


Dive into the research topics of 'Centaur VGI: a hybrid human-machine approach to address global inequalities in map coverage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this