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Child- and youth-friendly cities: How does and can crowdmapping support their development?

A case study using OpenStreetMap in the Austrian City of Salzburg
Sabine Hennig


To develop child- and youth-friendly cities, data on infrastructure relevant for this subgroup of society is an important asset. The data can be obtained by crowdmapping approaches like OpenStreetMap (OSM). Even though OSM is used for many purposes, the question is whether it is a valuable source of data on child- and youth-relevant urban infrastructure. And, if so, how OSM can support the call for child- and youth-friendly cities. This was examined in the Austrian city of Salzburg. Based on a specially created list of urban features, OSM was analyzed for tags that would be useful to describe the relevant elements and for data available on these elements. The results show that tags exist to describe the majority (80%) of the about 40 element types identified. Although OSM holds abundant data on the elements, data gaps exist. Comparing the OSM data to Open Government Data (OGD) revealed that both OSM and OGD, together deliver a more complete picture of the relevant elements. To increase young people’s contributions to OSM and to make better use of the potential of OSM (e.g. availability of child- and youth-specific information) the following measures are needed: increase OSM’s publicity, address their motivation to add data, support them in mapping, and build their spatial literacy skills.

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Introduction and research question

1Children and youth are an important but vulnerable segment of society. They are the decision-makers of tomorrow and the future of each society. Particularly in the urban environment the quality of life of young people has been impacted significantly negatively during the last decades. Reasons, for instance, are growing urbanization, more ecological problems (e.g. due to global warming), increasing income disparities, and changes in family patterns (McMillan 2013, UN-Habitat 2004). Here, the society and the public authorities have the responsibility to create an environment where young people can grow and reach their potential, which is supported by the call for the development of child- and youth-friendly cities (Bartlett 2002, Cushing 2015, Malone 2001, Saridar Masri 2017).

2UNICEF (2017) defines child- and youth-friendly cities as local systems of good governance committed to fulfilling young people’s requests (1) to influence decisions about their city, (2) to express their opinion on the kind of city they want, (3) to participate in family, community and social life, (4) to receive basic services such as health care and education, (5) to drink safe water and have access to proper sanitation, (6) to be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse, (7) to walk safely in the streets on their own, (8) to meet friends and play, (9) to have green spaces for plants and animals, (10) to live in an unpolluted environment, (11) to participate in cultural and social events, and (12) to be an equal citizen of their city with access to every service, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or disability.

3For the development of child- and youth-friendly cities, a profound understanding of the target group is essential. This includes knowing which infrastructure, facilities, and services are requested and preferably used by young people, as well as which of the elements are available and which are missing. Until recently, such insight has mainly been given by authoritative data (see, e.g., Frank 2006).

4Due to advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) and the high Internet user penetration rate, new possibilities and modes of data collection have emerged. This includes crowdsourcing applications which allow people to contribute digital content voluntarily (Crowstone and Fagnot 2008, Dodge and Kitchin 2013, Esmaili et al. 2013). The benefits of data crowdsourcing are manifold. Thus, for instance, since it is usually less expensive and labor-intensive, it is seen as a promising solution to handle the shortage of budget and staff that many projects face (Esmaili et al. 2013, Nov et al. 2011, West and Pateman 2016).

5One type of crowdsourcing is crowdmapping, where people voluntarily produce and update spatial databases (Dodge and Kitchin 2013, Quattrone et al. 2016). Of the currently existing crowdmapping applications, OpenStreetMap (OSM; is one of the most famous and successful products (Forghani and Delavar 2014, Neis and Zielstra 2014), and it currently holds the largest public collection of spatial data (Neis and Zipf 2012, Schneider et al. 2011). Today, a variety of initiatives spanning from research, spatial planning, and disaster management to applications like web maps and navigation apps use OSM data (see, e.g., Mahabir et al. 2017, Neis and Zielstra 2014, Neis and Zipf 2012, Tietz 2018). But, studies are still rare which evaluate the usefulness of OSM to support decision-making in spatial planning and which analyze the extent to which OSM holds data on infrastructure that reflects the needs and perspective of different societal segments (see, e.g., Dodge and Kitchin 2013, Herfort et al. 2015, Tietz 2018). The question is whether, and to what extent, OSM can be considered a valuable source of (spatial) data on child- and youth-relevant urban elements (compared to authoritative data). Which benefits of OSM are particularly useful regarding the creation of child- and youth-friendly cities? And how can the benefits of OSM be increased? To answer these questions, the Austrian city of Salzburg served as a case study area. The work presented in this paper is based on results of the youngClues project (funded by the University of Salzburg; 2017).

6Several studies have been conducted on the quality (including spatial accuracy) of OSM data. They show that in many cases, their quality is comparable to authoritative and commercial data (see, e.g., Fonte et al. 2015, Haklay 2010, Mahabir et al. 2017). Hence, the quality of OSM data was not considered in this study.

7After providing some background information on OSM (section two), the methods used to assess OSM regarding the provision of data on child- and youth-relevant urban infrastructure are described in section three. The results are presented in section four, and in section five different benefits related to the use of OSM are discussed. While in section six different aspects relevant to increase the benefits received from OSM are stated, in section seven, actions that have been, or can be taken in the territory of Salzburg are outlined. The paper finishes with a conclusion and an outlook (section eight).

Background on the OpenStreetMap project

8OpenStreetMap (OSM;, which is based on the Wikipedia model of crowdsourcing is a crowdmapping project and platform with the aim of collecting spatial data on real-world features (Herfort et al. 2015, Neis and Zielstra 2014). The result is a living, free, editable map of the world (Forghani and Delavar 2014). Besides the map itself, the generated data is considered the primary output of OSM. The data is freely available for everyone and for all kinds of purposes (including commercial ones) under the Open Database License ODbL (OSM n.d.).

9Since launching in 2004, the number of registered users has steadily increased. Meanwhile, about 4.3 Million OSM users are registered, while the number of unregistered users is many times higher (OSM 20181). While unregistered users can access and use the OSM map and data in different ways, registered users can actively contribute new data or edit the existing data (Neis and Zipf 2012).

10There are three main ways to add data to OSM (Budhathoki and Haythornthwaite 2013, Forghani and Delavar 2014): collecting data from scratch by performing systematic ground surveys (using GPS-enabled mobile devices, handheld GPS units), satellite imagery tracing, and importing existing datasets. Different OSM editors can be used to add data to OSM, such as iD and Potlach (online, web applications), JOSM (offline, desktop application), as well as Vespucci and OSMand (mobile apps). To store the data, OSM uses a topological data structure with three data element types: nodes, ways, and relations (Table 1).

Table 1: OSM data elements (OSM 20171)

Table 1: OSM data elements (OSM 20171)

11To define attributes, the data elements (nodes, ways, relations) are described by tags consisting of a key and a value (form: ‘key=value’). Schools, for instance, are described as ‘amenity=school’. Here, OSM permits the users to provide an unlimited number of attributes (i.e. tags) to describe a feature: Users have the freedom to assign to a feature as many tags as they like. In general, primary tags are used to describe what the feature is, and they define the feature type. Additional tags (i.e. secondary tags) are added to describe further properties. While ‘amenity=school’ is considered a primary tag, secondary tags to characterize schools are, e.g. name, operator, addr (postal address), capacity (number of pupils taught at the school), grades (grades the school provides), or fees (OSM 20182). Keys can be further qualified with prefixes (e.g. ‘abandoned: building=residential’) or suffixes (e.g. ‘amenity=social_facility:for=juvenile’). This allows forming super- or sub-categories, or a namespace (OSM 20171, OSM 20172).

12The tags used to describe a feature depend on the perspective of the user, how he or she perceives and uses an element. Even though the OSM community agrees on certain key-value combinations which serve as informal standards, users can choose any (primary or secondary) tag or tag combination to describe a feature. Public Internet access, for example, can be described using the primary tag ‘amenity=wlan’ or the secondary tag ‘Internet_access=yes’. This attributive heterogeneity is a peculiarity of OSM and the main difference to authoritative data, which usually follows strict specifications (Loidl et al. 2014). If an element cannot be described by the tags available, users have the possibility to propose new ones. The proposals are discussed and are then either rejected or accepted (OSM 20183).

13The OSM data is stored in a PostgreSQL database with one table for each data primitive (nodes, ways, relations). Individual objects are stored as rows. All edits occur in this database. For data transfer, database dumps (planet.osm) are created, which can be downloaded. Data can also be queried from the OSM database using, e.g. the OSM application programming interface (Overpass API) and the OSM-specific query language (Overpass QL).

Workflow, methods and tools used

14Assessing OSM regarding its usefulness to support the development of child- and youth-friendly cities relied on a workflow with several steps (Figure 1), in which all results are based on material (e.g. literature, Internet resources, data and tools) available until end of 2018.

Figure 1: Workflow, methods and tools as well as data used to assess OSM regarding its usefulness to support the development of child- and youth-friendly cities

Figure 1: Workflow, methods and tools as well as data used to assess OSM regarding its usefulness to support the development of child- and youth-friendly cities

15In the first step, the target group was defined and characterized. Infrastructure, facilities, and services (i.e. element types) relevant for young people living in cities – and, in particular, in Salzburg – were identified. Findings are based on a literature and Internet review: Different resources, such as scientific articles, reports, textbooks, as well as (project) websites, blogs, forums, and online maps were analyzed for information on child- and youth-relevant urban elements. Since it was essential to identify and understand the specific demands of young people regarding urban elements, the focus was on projects and initiatives in which close cooperation with children and youth played a key role. This includes activities in which the target group – following the IAP2’s public participation spectrum (IAP2 International Federation 2014) – is engaged in different ways: to provide feedback (‘consult’), to directly take place in the working process (‘involve’), to partner in decision-making and in the development of alternatives (‘collaborate’), or to make the final decisions (‘empower’). Examples for such projects and initiatives are the ones presented, for instance, by Böhm et al. (2015), Ferber et al. (2016), Hennig and Vogler (2016), and Millard (2015).

16Using the list of child- and youth-relevant infrastructure created in step 1, OSM was analyzed to ascertain whether tags exist to describe the different elements. The identified OSM tags were examined regarding their suitability for the proposed purpose (step 2).

17In step 3, using the identified OSM tags, the OSM database was queried for data on child- and youth-relevant elements with a spatial focus on the city of Salzburg. In a fourth step, authoritative data on child- and youth-relevant urban infrastructure was identified using Open Government Data (OGD). OGD refers to data (non-personal, not infrastructure-critical) that is made accessible on the Internet by government agencies. OGD can be accessed and used by anyone without any restriction on free usage, dissemination, and re-use (Eibl et al. 2013). For the city of Salzburg, OGD is available on two platforms: Stadt Salzburg OGD (city of Salzburg;​) and OGD Land Salzburg (state of Salzburg;

18The identified OSM data was compared to the existing OGD on child- and youth-relevant urban infrastructure (step 5). The comparison revealed whether data exists for the various element types and how many features have been mapped for each of the different element types. For several reasons, the data (OSM, OGD) was not cleaned. For instance, decisions on removing (seemingly) inaccurate and wrong records might be based on incorrect assumptions and missing knowledge on the target group and their perspective on urban infrastructure.

19In step 6, the advantages of using OSM were analyzed, and measures that may increase young people’s interest and contribution to OSM were discussed. Actions that have been taken in Salzburg or can be taken are outlined.


Children and youth and their demand on urban infrastructure

20By many definitions, children and youth are described as being aged 3-24 (EC/CE n.d., UN DESA n.d.). In the following, the terms ‘children and youth’ or ‘young people’ refer only to selected subgroups of this societal group: young children (aged 3-5), mid-range children (aged 6-8), older children (aged 9-12), and teenagers (aged 13-18). Emerging adults (aged 18-24) are excluded. This is, among other reasons, because emerging adults are in many respects similar to adults (e.g. their physical and mental development, being of legal age, having entered into higher education and/ or the workforce). In Table 2, the subgroups of interest in the context of this work are briefly described, together with selected infrastructure demands.

Table 2: Children and youth: relevant subgroups and their characteristics including selected infrastructure demands

Table 2: Children and youth: relevant subgroups and their characteristics including selected infrastructure demands

Source: ACT n.d., CNV4ME 2014, Haimovici et al. 2015, Saridar Masri 2017

21There is a considerable amount of information on child- and youth-relevant urban infrastructure. For the city of Salzburg, some literature and online resources exist that provide insights into the target group’s needs with regard to urban infrastructure. An example is the results gained in the YouthMap5020 project (see, e.g., Hennig 2014, Hennig and Vogler 2016) as well as in a number of child- and youth-related initiatives of the Salzburg municipal authorities (see, e.g. MSS 2017, web city map Salzburg:

22Based on Chawla (2002, 2016), UNICEF (2017), and White (1997) child- and youth-relevant urban infrastructure can be divided into seven categories that relate to different groups of activities and demands: (1) education & care, (2) mobility, (3) play & sport, (4) cultural activities, (5) meet & hang out, (6) safety-related elements, and (7) being digitally connected. Table 3 lists a selection of element types belonging to these categories.

Table 3: Selection of child- and youth-relevant types of urban elements, focusing on the city of Salzburg

Table 3: Selection of child- and youth-relevant types of urban elements, focusing on the city of Salzburg

Source: Einfalt 2013, Hennig 2014, Hennig and Vogler 2016, Humphry and Pihl 2016, Leden et al. 2006, Thomson 2013, UNICEF 2017

OSM tags

23Most types of the identified child- and youth-relevant infrastructure can be described by the tags available in OSM (80%; Table 4): Tags exist to describe all types of elements belonging to the categories education & care, mobility, and safety-related aspects, while tags are missing for some of the element types belonging to the categories play & sport, cultural activities, meet & hang out, and being digitally connected.

Table 4: Status quo on OSM tags to describe types of child- and youth-relevant elements

Table 4: Status quo on OSM tags to describe types of child- and youth-relevant elements

24For the majority of the element types, for which tags are missing, tag proposals exit. They are presented and/ or discussed by the OSM community in the OSM Wiki or in different forums (e.g. slackline facilities: OSM 2013). Only for two of the element types (river promenade, free access to power/ mobile devices) no proposals and discussions about potential tags can be found.

25As is specific to OSM, there are a number of possibilities to describe a feature: using primary tags, secondary tags or tag combinations. For about one fourth of the element types, different tags are used to describe the same element type (Table 4).

OSM data

26Regarding the city of Salzburg, the OSM database does not hold data on all the types of child- and youth-relevant elements identified (Table 5). So far, no data has been added to OSM for approximately 30% of the element types. This, first and foremost, is due to the lack of (suitable) OSM tags (slackline facilities, parkour park, open air stage, street art, meeting/ hang out spots, plaza/ square, river promenade, free access to power/ mobile devices). But there are also a few element types for which tags exist, but no features have been mapped in OSM (BMX parks, concert hall, abandoned houses).

Table 5: Availability of OSM data and OGD (city of Salzburg, state of Salzburg) for the different types of child- and youth-relevant elements in Salzburg

Table 5: Availability of OSM data and OGD (city of Salzburg, state of Salzburg) for the different types of child- and youth-relevant elements in Salzburg

dark gray: greater number of features; light gray: lower number of features; many: ++++; several: +++; some/few: ++; very few: +

1 No differentiation is made between indoor and outdoor sport facilities.

27When comparing the number of features mapped in OSM with the number of elements located in Salzburg, it appears that for 34% of the element types, many of the features located in Salzburg have been added to OSM, for 12% several, for 22% some/few, for 5% very few, and for 27% no features. It must be underlined that this comparison is highly qualitative. It is based on literature, different (online) data sources, maps and expert knowledge since ground truthing is in many cases not possible due to the nature of the different element types (e.g. number of features, elements only known to the target group). However, to provide, at least a rough assessment of the existing OSM data regarding the infrastructure situation in Salzburg, it was decided to add this information – even though this information is certainly not 100% accurate.

Discussion on the usefulness of OSM

Supporting urban governance and planning

28In many domains, crowdmapped data is seen as an alternative to authoritative data (Haklay 20132, Herfort et al. 2015, Tietz 2018). Depending on the area, OSM data might not be inferior to authoritative data; being more detailed and accurate it might even surpass authoritative data (see, e.g., Fast and Rinner 2014, Loidl et al. 2014 Mahabir et al. 2017). It is also stressed that in some cases, OSM data and authoritative data complete rather than compete with each other (see, e.g., Elwood 2012, Mahabir et al. 2017, See et al. 2016, Wannemacher et al. 2018).

29This is confirmed when comparing OSM data with authoritative data (i.e. OGD) on child- and youth-relevant infrastructure in Salzburg: As shown in Table 5, for 44 % of the element types both OSM data and OGD is available, for 29 % only OSM data, for 2 % only OGD, and for 24% neither OSM data nor OGD exists. Thus, together, OSM and OGD deliver a more (but still not fully) complete and more comprehensive picture on the elements under consideration. How both supplement each other is outlined in more detail in the following.

30OGD focuses on types of infrastructure reflecting the interests of the general public (e.g. sports facilities, footpaths, bike paths, police, ambulance services; see, e.g., Eibl et al. 2013). This also includes some element types relevant to the target group (e.g. kindergartens, schools, child/ afternoon care, youth centers, playgrounds). However, these features are of interest to young people from the point of view of adults such as parents, planers and other administrative authorities and organizations. This is in line with findings from Frank (2006), who states that official sources make few references to young people beyond the description of child- and youth-oriented aspects of cities, such as kindergartens, schools, child/ afternoon care, youth centers and playgrounds. They do not reflect the many other ways in which children and youth interact with their environment and communities, i.e. taking into account their specific perspective and needs. Hence, it is not surprising that Salzburg OGD provides only limited data on elements relevant for young people from their point of view (e.g. regarding trend sports activities like slacklining, BMX riding; street art; spots to meet and hang out, i.e. quads). An exception is data on legal graffiti walls, the implementation of which is a focus of the Salzburg youth program (MSS 2017)

31Aside from different element types being considered, there are also differences between OSM data and OGD in terms of the features mapped within a certain element type. OGD typically refers to officially designated features. These features are usually mapped quite completely. Thus, for instance, the Salzburg OGD on free WiFi-hotspots refers to WiFi-hotspots exclusively installed and maintained by the city of Salzburg; other free WiFi-hotspots are not considered (Figure 2 A).


Figure 2: Examples of OSM data and OGD on child- and youth-relevant elements in Salzburg complementing each other

Figure 2: Examples of OSM data and OGD on child- and youth-relevant elements in Salzburg complementing each other

A) WiFi-hotspots, B) skateboard sites, C) playgrounds, D) soccer fields

33In contrast to OGD, crowdmapped data represents people’s individual perception, value, and use of infrastructure and their interaction with their surroundings (Herfort et al. 2015; Mahabir et al. 2017, Quinn and Dutton 2014). It is based on (local) people’s specific local (spatial) knowledge, including aspects such as previous experience and contemporaneous knowledge, as well as subtleties of people’s behavior, local cultural and institutional structures (McCall et al. 2015). This refers, for instance, to data on untraditional places of interest – which are not available in authoritative databases (Neis and Zielstra 2014), elements not officially designated, and aspects related to feelings of safety, and informal data one acquires from close interaction with infrastructure and a space that is personal and adapted to the context (Warner 2015). Moreover, in the event of changes, crowdmapped data can be updated more promptly than authoritative data (Esmaili et al. 2013, Quinn and Dutton 2014, Goodchild 2007). In summary, data that is usually not considered in authoritative databases can be found in crowdmapping databases (IFAD 2009, NOAA OCM 2014, Vogler et al. 2017, Warner 2015).

34Accordingly, OSM has the potential to hold data on child- and youth-specific elements reflecting different perspectives. This includes not only the element types that adults consider central for young people (e.g. kindergarten, schools, social advisory services), but also features which are seen as important by the young people themselves, such as urban green, shopping malls, and specific spots where they like to meet and hang out. Furthermore, while OGD holds data on officially designated features, e.g., to play and practice sport (often facilities with restricted access such as school facilities or sports clubs), OSM also holds data on elements which are not officially designated and which are generally not foreseen to be used for playing or for practicing a certain sporting activity, but which are accessible (for free) and used for such purposes (e.g. sites used for skateboarding, pitches suitable to play soccer, areas which attract kids to play without installations like a sandbox or a swing; Figure 2 B-D).

35In crowdmapped data sources, such as OSM, new trends are reflected more promptly. Since young people are often trendsetters for activities related, for instance, to trend sports or street art (Chawla 2002), OSM can be used to detect and monitor new trends. This is made viable by, amongst other things, the possibility to propose and discuss new tags.

Engagement in participation processes

36Capitalizing on the potential of the public’s knowledge has a variety of implications for planning and local governance. By enabling the wisdom of the crowd, shared awareness and understanding of community assets are generated. This serves as a focal point for discussions; it is a valuable input to support decision-making and the search for optimal solutions (Murgante et al. 2011, NOAA OCM 2014). In addition, by allowing the public to represent themselves spatially, crowdmapping is a medium of empowerment and an opportunity for the public to achieve greater control (IFAD 2009, Fast and Rinner 2014).

37Hence, participating in crowdmapping can foster and increase citizen engagement. It can help to stimulate local communities and their members to engage more in participatory activities, including decision-making. This is underlined by the fact that crowdmapping platforms – like other web-based environments – establish a democratic place where everyone can express him- or herself. Crowdmapping platforms overcome the typical limitations of traditional public participation, which is often synchronous and location-based, and they encourage people who are not open to expressing their knowledge, preferences, opinions, and ideas directly, face-to-face in a large group (Murgante et al. 2011).

38Today’s children and youth are called digital natives (see, e.g., Amador et al. 2016). Since they grew up with the use of ICT and the Internet, they are incredibly aware of technology and enjoy using it (Cornu 2011, Downey et al. 2007). In this context, it is widely accepted that the use of ICT is a way to increase young people’s interest in fields and activities that they generally consider less attractive. Thus, for instance, in the case of environmental education, geocaching is seen as a means to attract children and youth to nature and environmental topics (Zecha 2012). When it comes to public participation, using ICT and letting young people see how the data they contributed is used and taken seriously is an important motivator. It can increase young people’s awareness and positive attitude towards the environment and public concerns, and it can trigger further contributions to OSM as well as interest in other kinds of public participation (Bonney et al. 2009, Cohn 2008, Newman et al. 2012).

Improving the benefits of OSM

39‘Young people and participation’ is a topic still left behind in many ways: First, in much of the research carried out on participatory governance and planning, children and youth are not taken into account. Second, little of the work on young people’s participation appears to be informed by research on participation (Shier 2009). Third, even though an increasing number of projects and initiatives are focusing on engaging children and youth in public interests (see, e.g., Ballard 2014, Frank 2006, Saridar Masri 2017), young people are still largely excluded from public participation and they do not have the same access to decision-making processes as adults (UN-Habitat 2004). Their capacities and potentials are not being utilized, even though their participation is a crucial aspect of the development of child- and youth-friendly cities. Here, UNICEF (2017) stresses young people’s right to influence decisions about their city and to express their opinion on the kind of city they would like. Many practitioners agree that taking this leap is of paramount importance (see, e.g., Cushing 2016, Shier 2009). Further, creating a city that is successful for children and youth means having a successful city for all people – a city from which not only young people will benefit, but the whole urban community (Cushing 2015, Malone 2001, 2002).

40Crowdmapping approaches create new possibilities for giving a voice to the public, including young people (Fast and Rinner 2014). Thus, efforts to increase their engagement with OSM can help to close existing data gaps and to better exploit the opportunity to increase the interest of children and youth in participation.

41This is especially true with the following in mind: Even though mapping in OSM is anonymous (avatar accounts), several studies provide insights as to the mappers’ sociodemographic characteristics. It has been shown that only 4 % of the OSM mappers are younger than 20 years of age (Haklay and Budhathoki 2010, Neis and Zielstra 2014). So, while OSM has the potential to hold data from young people’s point of view, they are still only using it to a limited extent. Because it is the adults who mainly contribute, in this aspect, OSM does not differ much from OGD. However, the data delivered from young people is considered to be very beneficial (Chawla 2002): Adults are often not aware of the importance of certain infrastructure for children and youth. Not only do young people consider different elements as relevant than adults do, but they also use outdoor space and the given infrastructure differently, and not always in the manner in which it was intended (Acar 2013, Bartlett 2002, Hennig and Vogler 2016, Moore 1991, Thomson 2013).

42The possibilities of the different subgroups (Table 2) to contribute to OSM are very different. Regarding young children, the input from adults like parents, educators, or people otherwise in close contact with them is critical. The older children become, the more they are able to contribute by themselves. But even for mid-age children, the adults still play a critical role in supporting and guiding them in adding data. Despite this, in the following, the main focus is on selected aspects to increase the engagement of young people to contribute to OSM.


43Closely related to the success of participation is the degree of publicity of the corresponding project among the target group. Several authors underline the importance of informing the public (Crowstone and Fagnot 2008, King and Brown 2007, West and Pateman 2016): Only if the public knows about an initiative, can they contribute.

44Accordingly, informing children and youth about OSM is crucial. Apart from traditional (e.g. flyers, stickers, word of mouth, newspaper articles) and web-based methods and elements (e.g. social media, blogs, forums, newsletters), presenting, using and discussing OSM in school education and during child- and youth-centered events (e.g. holiday program; youth club activities) can increase its publicity among the target group.


45Most human behavior, including voluntary contribution, is driven by people’s motivation. As stressed by Goodchild (2007), individuals must be motivated to act voluntarily. Abundant research has been carried out on why people start and continue volunteering. Generally, two types of motivation have been distinguished that account for participation (see, e.g., Budhathoki and Haythornthwaite 2013, Neis and Zielstra 2014): intrinsic (interest, pleasure etc.) and extrinsic ones (benefits, reputation etc.). Going into more detail, six motivational categories can be distinguished, as presented in Table 6.

Table 6: Motivational categories and selected methods and components

Table 6: Motivational categories and selected methods and components

46Of the different motivational categories (Table 6), some are more important than others for children and youth: For young people to learn something new, to have fun, and to be excited are central motivations (Geoghegan et al. 2016). Even though to work with spatial data and related products is per se considered to be fun and exciting (Budhathoki and Haythornthwaite 2013, Hennig and Vogler 2016), motivational factors need to be considered (more). Addressing these aspects is important, on the one hand, when working with young people using OSM and, on the other hand, when developing material such as OSM editing applications, tutorials and manuals.

Appropriate support for contributing

47People who are not trained to work with spatial data present several challenges for crowdmapping projects (Spielman 2014). One way to address these challenges is the provision of editing applications with high usability for lay users (Crowstone and Fagnot 2008, King and Brown 2007, Nov et al. 2011). But current desktop and mobile applications to add/ edit data in OSM are not necessarily easy and intuitive to use for lay users and OSM newcomers (Vogler et al. 2017).

48To provide user-centered applications (i.e. meeting the requirements of children and youth), the peculiarities of the target group must be taken into account. Even though today’s young people are called digital natives, several problems arise when they use ICT. This is related to some typical characteristics of young people (BGCA 1999, Diwosch 2009, Loranger and Nielsen 2013): (1) overconfidence in their (digital) skills, (2) reduced attention span, (3) low patience level, and quick to judge, (4) low willingness to read texts (even guidelines, manuals or tutorials), (5) low willingness to explore unknown functionalities, and (6) having problems getting and maintaining an overview. To guide the development of child- and youth-centered web (map) applications – taking into account these peculiarities – a variety of recommendations exist (see, e.g., Boswell 2013, Downey et al. 2007, Gilutz and Nielsen 2008, Loranger and Nielsen 2013, Nielson 2010): a simple registration-/ login-process, a well-arranged, easy to understand and intuitive to use user interface with flat organizational structure, no information overload, a colorful design, use of vocabulary and language suitable for young people (e.g. no technical terms), and the integration of excitement factors (e.g. gamification elements, satellite images). An OSM editor easy and intuitive to use for children and youth was developed by the German University of Münster. Attention was paid to create an enjoyable tool that addresses the target group by expressing emotions and praising when finishing a job as well as supporting the tagging process by avoiding complex and unclear tags (Kisfeld and Carillo 2012).

49Apart from applications with high usability, the provision of appropriate supportive material to contribute to OSM is key. Information on how to tag and add features to OSM is provided by various online sources. The main source is the OSM Wiki (​wiki). Vogler et al. (2017) state that to contribute to OSM in a competent and capable manner, particularly lay users and OSM newcomers need (more) guidance. This must be tailored to their knowledge level and skills. Instructions must be clear, easy to understand, not too demanding, compact and contextual, with an appropriate level of detail, and accessible when they are needed. Information that needs to be read should be avoided since children and youth often refuse to read tutorials or any kind of information. Videos are more likely to be used (Fonte et al. 2015, Haklay 20131, Loranger and Nielsen 2013).

50The proposal of new tags is a complex and work-intensive process. Apart from the process outlined in the OSM Wiki (OSM 20183), multiple other ways exist to propose new tags. To have children and youth take part in this process, it needs to be simplified. The workload must be reduced, and an easy to understand guideline (best: video) or tool should be provided.

Building spatial literacy skills

51Spatial data products like online maps are omnipresent on the Internet today. They are very popular among the general public (Thielmann et al. 2012). But using spatial products such as online maps in a competent and capable manner requires specific spatial skills on the part of the user. These spatial literacy skills include digital skills as well as the ability to handle spatial data and spatial data products (Vogler and Hennig 2013). Gryl and Jekel (2012), as well as Ferber et al. (2016), discuss the relevance of competences in order to get actively involved in citizenship tasks such as participation: They enable people to critically discuss, comment, communicate, exchange and collaborate using spatial data and maps. Spatial literacy skills still need to be established across society (Vogler and Hennig 2013). Here, educational settings like schools give, in a first instance, the opportunity to build such skills across the target group. The use of spatial data and spatial data products (e.g. OSM) in schooling can foster spatial awareness and spatial literacy skills (De Luca et al. 2014). This requires informing teachers about OSM and building their spatial literacy skills. This can be done by further education and training for teachers, teacher-oriented journals, conferences and events.

Potential and implemented actions in Salzburg

52The measures mentioned in the previous section are generally useful to increase young people’s contributions to OSM. In the city of Salzburg, a number of actions have been implemented and potential ones can be considered aimed at encouraging young people and experts working together in an educational or leisure setting. Some are presented below.

53Several types of events are conducted by the OSM community. They all aim to facilitate exchange on OSM, to do mapping together, and to introduce OSM to newcomers. Examples are OSM mapping parties, OSM Mapathons, OSM SummerCamps, and Hackathons (Hennig 2017, Neis and Zielstra 2014, OSM 2014, 2015, 2016). These events address the general public, and less attention is given to reaching children and youth. For instance, the Salzburg OSM community regularly hosts open, informal sessions, at least some of which should consider focusing on introducing OSM to young people and welcoming them (e.g. appropriate time, topic, and promotion). Moreover, other events for young people – in cooperation between the Salzburg OSM community, schools and other organizations such as the Salzburg city administration (e.g. the providing holiday programs, conducting special events like the youth congress or Salzburg children town) – should be organized. This can foster OSM publicity, address motivational factors, and build spatial literacy.

54The same is true for activities conducted by the University of Salzburg (e.g. Department of Geography, Department of Geoinformatics – Z_GIS, School of Education). Examples are the annual GIS day (​salzburg_allgemein.html) and educational offers at IDEAS:lab (​). Not only projects making use of OSM are presented, but also practical work with OSM takes place at such events.

55Taking part in (scientific) projects such as citizen science initiatives has increasingly gained the interest of schools in recent years (Ferber et al. 2016). Many projects focus on the use of spatial data and related products, including the use of OSM (see, e.g., MOZ 2017, OSM 20184). Being involved in such projects raises school students’ awareness of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. Several national and international funding programs support these kinds of projects (see, e.g., ERASMUS+: EU Programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport, FWF: TopCitizenScience, FGG Talente Regional). In Salzburg, the different university departments and schools – also involving other organizations (e.g. city administration) – are cooperating in a growing number of projects. Topics, for instance, are related to spatial citizenship and literacy, public participation and citizen science, offering the possibility, apart from commercial applications, to introduce and use open tools, i.e. OSM.

Conclusion and Outlook

56Crowdmapping data, including OSM, provides interesting possibilities for urban planning and governance. The potential of OSM to support the development of child- and youth-friendly cities was examined in the Austrian city of Salzburg. Based on a list of infrastructure that is relevant to young people living in Salzburg, first, the OSM available tags were assessed in terms of their usefulness to describe the identified child- and youth-relevant features. Second, the OSM database was analyzed in terms of the availability of data on these features. Existing data was compared to OGD data and the Salzburg infrastructure situation.

57The results of this study underline that the existing potential of OSM – on the one hand, the possibility to provide insights into the infrastructure that is relevant and specific to the target group, and, on the other hand, the possibility to increase the attention and interest of the target group in participation – is not fully exploited. Data gaps become obvious when e.g. comparing OSM data with OGD. Only OSM and authoritative data (OGD) together deliver a more (but still not fully) complete picture of child- and youth-relevant features in Salzburg; both complement each other. While OGD focuses on elements which are officially designated and which reflect the point of view of planers, administrative authorities and organizations (i.e. adults), OSM allows the public (i.e. young people) to add data on infrastructure, services, and facilities depending on their personal perspective, their use, and perception. However, this kind of data, representing young peoples’ perception, is still lacking. One of the reasons for this is that only 4 % of the active mappers are younger than 20 years of age. The low number of young, active OSM contributors also has an impact on the role of crowdmapping (i.e. OSM) as a medium for the public’s empowerment and raising people’s awareness of participation.

58Therefore, the awareness of OSM must be raised among young people. Children and youth need to be recruited and motivated to add data and propose missing tags. Appropriate, supportive material and user-centric editing applications can lower the entry barriers. The relevant skills (spatial literacy skills, including digital skills) need to be established across the target group to face hurdles to using and contributing to OSM in a competent and capable manner. For this, specific events, educational initiatives, and involving young people in project work are promising means.

59But not only the target group must be motivated and upskilled in the use of OSM; this also applies to planers and other administrative authorities and organizations. They must be aware of OSM and the related benefits, and they must have the necessary competencies to use OSM data. Thus, further efforts need to be made to enable the public (in particular children and youth) and authorities to use OSM.

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List of illustrations

Title Table 1: OSM data elements (OSM 20171)
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Title Figure 1: Workflow, methods and tools as well as data used to assess OSM regarding its usefulness to support the development of child- and youth-friendly cities
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Title Table 2: Children and youth: relevant subgroups and their characteristics including selected infrastructure demands
Credits Source: ACT n.d., CNV4ME 2014, Haimovici et al. 2015, Saridar Masri 2017
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Title Table 3: Selection of child- and youth-relevant types of urban elements, focusing on the city of Salzburg
Credits Source: Einfalt 2013, Hennig 2014, Hennig and Vogler 2016, Humphry and Pihl 2016, Leden et al. 2006, Thomson 2013, UNICEF 2017
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Title Table 4: Status quo on OSM tags to describe types of child- and youth-relevant elements
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Title Table 5: Availability of OSM data and OGD (city of Salzburg, state of Salzburg) for the different types of child- and youth-relevant elements in Salzburg
Credits dark gray: greater number of features; light gray: lower number of features; many: ++++; several: +++; some/few: ++; very few: +
File image/jpeg, 388k
Title Figure 2: Examples of OSM data and OGD on child- and youth-relevant elements in Salzburg complementing each other
Credits A) WiFi-hotspots, B) skateboard sites, C) playgrounds, D) soccer fields
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Title Table 6: Motivational categories and selected methods and components
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Electronic reference

Sabine Hennig, « Child- and youth-friendly cities: How does and can crowdmapping support their development? », Articulo - Journal of Urban Research [Online], Varia, Online since 01 October 2019, connection on 14 December 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/articulo.4296

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About the author

Sabine Hennig

Sabine Hennig, PhD in Geography and Applied Geoinformatics, University of Salzburg. She is a senior scientist at the Department of Geoinformatics – Z_GIS, University of Salzburg. She has been working and teaching at several universities and research institutions across Europe and Central Asia. Her main research areas are geo participation, design and development of user and task-centric GI-applications focusing on aspects such as usability and accessibility, special need user groups, and participatory design processes. Email:

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