The recent horrific factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh drew renewed attention to the link between global garment industry brands and the working conditions of garment factory employees at the far end of the supply chain.
School of Data, an effort by the Open Knowledge Foundation to provide training to journalists, advocates, and the general public on modern data analysis techniques, used the interest generated by the tragedy to organize a data training event around the issue of global garment supply chains. Teams around the world focused on a range of issues including recommended standards for the release of factory information to visualizations of retailers global connectivity and revenue.
In New York, a team lead by Alyssa Wright and Andrew Salzberg gathered to understand the role that OpenStreetMap might play in the effort to better understand global supply chains. The New York City team was composed of representatives from related projects, including Open Cities Project and Sourcemap. Together they offered introductory training to other international School of Data teams on how OpenStreetMap can be used as a tool for data collection, sharing, and analysis.
After a hands-on tutorial on editing building footprints in JOSM the Bangladesh team noticed that a large number of factories in the database were located in the Chittagong Export Processing Zone in Chittagong. To help understand the physical fabric of this zone, the NYC team focused their efforts on mapping the complete set of building footprints for the area.
The data collected through OpenStreetMap data was only a small first step. While the database revealed that the zone houses factories from H&M, Levis, Timberland, and Varner-Gruppen, the NYC team struggled to tie individual businesses to actual physical buildings. Ultimately, that work will require on the ground work or additional data sources to address individual buildings and link them to other databases. Such work will continue under the Open Projects’ Bangladesh initiative where open data is helping to empower resilient communities.
If the Bangladesh factory collapse revealed anything, it underscored the link between global supply chains and the physical fabric of the global garment industry. In the future, as data on global supply chains is improved and expanded, OpenStreetMap can provide a way to link together information on building condition, ownership, and inspection dates. To get there it’ll take more than a day of hacking, but linking the OpenStreetMap and School of Data communities was a great way to get things started.
New York Team: Jeff Ferzoco, Chrys Wu, Alyssa Wright, Andrew Salzberg, Leonardo Bonnani, Ruthie Nachmany
New York Team Remote: Sara Farmer, Rob Stupay, Jasmine Du