Putting AI to Work: Creating a Digital Base Map of Lusaka, Zambia


At the turn of the 20th century, the building of colonial railroads and the discovery of minerals was the key driver for urbanisation in Zambia—formerly known as Northern Rhodesia.

The railway line was used to transport minerals from the Copperbelt Province in the north—through Lusaka—to the border town of Livingstone in the south. The growth of the mining industry led to the development of settler, administrative and mining towns along the North-South “line of rail”.

Currently, the population is concentrated in the urban centres along the “line of rail” with Lusaka City being the largest urban centre. The lure of better economic opportunities, infrastructure and services, and natural population growth drives the increase in Zambia’s urban population.

Zambia’s Urbanisation Challenge

This urban growth is not without challenges, among them a strain on the existing infrastructure. Other challenges include:

  • City boundary encroachment on agricultural and customary land
  • Proliferation of informal settlements
  • Environmental degradation

Zambia’s urban population is on the rise and will reach 12 million by 2030—double its urban population as of 2015. Furthermore, in 2018, the UN Habitat reported that 40% of the Zambian population are in urban areas with an estimated 70% living in informal settlements. 

While significant social, economic and environmental problems characterise informal settlements, they’re also centres of economic activity and employment. Considering that Zambian cities account for 80% of the GDP, urbanisation should be viewed as an opportunity for economic growth rather than a challenge.

To this end, the International Growth Centre (IGC) has been working with UN-Habitat to support the Zambia Ministry of Local Government to promote prosperous and inclusive urban settlements. They’re working to ensure that Zambia’s towns and cities are resilient to support economic growth.

Political map of Zambia (Source)

One way of addressing the urban growth challenge is by adopting efficient urban planning practices that allow for expansion. Urban planning should be based on up-to-date quality data and information. Unfortunately, Zambia faces a digital map gap. There is a lack of sufficient spatial data needed for better planning for urban expansion and public service delivery. 

The other problem is that traditional data collection and mapping techniques cannot keep up with the high rate of urban sprawl in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. 

Therefore, how might we best address these obstacles and improve the availability of mapping data for better spatial planning in Zambia’s towns and cities?

Addressing the Digital Map Gap

Luckily, with advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, mapping can now be done at a higher speed, and more cost effectively. Indeed, mapping that would normally take months—if not years—can now be done in weeks. 

With this in mind, Ordnance Survey collaborated with the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA) to create an inaugural digital base map of Lusaka from aerial imagery. The base map—which focuses on the identification of informal settlements—will help to:

  • Identify the size of informal settlements
  • Compute an estimate of the number of people living in informal settlements and the population density—based on the number of buildings
  • Identify access to roads and public services within formal and informal settlements
  • Predict the growth of informal settlements

Furthermore, the base map will find application in poverty reduction, land management, housing, basic and social services, infrastructural development, and coordination of large-scale investments. It will also help to avoid future disasters resulting from unplanned urban growth.

Creating the Digital Base Map of Lusaka, Zambia

In this project, Ordnance Survey (OS) used AI to map an area covering 420km2 of Lusaka, Zambia

To do this, they first obtained aerial imagery from the Zambia Survey Department in the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources. The aerial imagery had a spatial resolution of 20cm. They then identified different feature classes on the imagery, i.e. buildings, roads, trees, grass, water, natural surface, sealed surface, etc.

Next, they preprocessed the aerial imagery and determined the best training method. After that, they labelled the imagery to be used as training data and then trained the model. Afterwards, they applied the trained model to the rest of the imagery covering all of Lusaka City for classification. 

Lastly, they post processed the resulting map to clean up any major issues e.g. enforcing building corners at 90 degrees.

Statistical Overview of the Base Map

Screenshot of the Base Map (Source)

Here’s a statistical overview of the resulting base map:

  • Buildings occupy 11% of total area mapped
  • The number of individual building features captured was 256,480
  •  82,389 other structures were mapped—including buildings under construction. These cover 1.5% of the total area mapped
  • Trees cover an area of 74.4km2  (18% of the total area mapped)
  • 4,067km of road links were mapped 
  • The length of rail links mapped was 34km 
  •  65.1km2 or 6% of the mapped area is covered with grass 

A Look at the Challenges  

The African urban landscape differs significantly in makeup and appearance from urban areas in America, Europe or Asia—which also have more data on which to train AI models. 

From rural suburbs to urban areas, Lusaka has a diverse and rapidly changing landscape. It has varying vegetation cover and building types, ranging from informal settlements to large commercial and industrial buildings. When training the model, the training data had to represent this diverse landscape, which was a challenge. 

Additionally, while the model correctly identified walls and other permanent structures, it failed to identify buildings which were under construction because they were roofless. Nonetheless, these were classified under ‘other structures’. 

What Comes Next?

Leveraging on the lessons learnt in this project, Ordnance Survey will improve the model, making it more applicable in mapping other regions.

“This programme will promote the value associated with accurate and relevant spatial data. The rapid delivery of a scalable and replicable national digital base map is not only relevant to cities such as Lusaka, but also has far reaching benefits at national and regional scale. OS data will provide the evidence and information to support critical decisions when upgrading existing informal settlements and planning future infrastructure to promote economic prosperity.” Andy Wilson, Africa Region Director, OS

Need more information about this project? Please email internationalenquiries@os.uk

View the base map: Commonwealth Data Platform Experience – Lusaka (arcgis.com)



Map of violence and threats to health workers during COVID-19

The number of security incidents affecting healthcare workers globally has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Incidents include the arson of COVID-19 testing facilities, the targeting of health workers on their way home from clinics, and violent responses to mask requirements.

The scale of the problem has been highlighted in an interactive web map. The user-friendly map aims to provide those concerned with the protection of health care with global insight into threats and violence against health care providers. This can then be used to support better protection measures. As such, the map promotes the aims of the Safeguarding Health In Conflict Coalition.

Screenshot of interactive web map entitled 'Attacked and threatened: health care at risk'

The user-friendly map was developed by Insecurity Insight, a non-profit which works to examine threats facing those living and working in dangerous environments, and international humanitarian mapping charity MapAction.

It details 443 acts of pandemic-related violence and threats to health workers and services around the world since 1 January 2020, out of a total of 1,484 incidents. Because not all incidents are reported or recorded, the actual number is likely to have been significantly higher.

To create the map, MapAction’s volunteer team needed to consolidate the data available – which is often in indigestible formats and from multiple sources – understand the geographical context and visualise it. MapAction brought its considerable experience in humanitarian mapping, information management, and solution design to the project. The team ensured the information architecture is a stable platform that is easy to manage, while allowing for future adaptations and enhancements to be seamlessly integrated.

Christina Wille, Managing Director, Insecurity Insight, said, “We are working with MapAction to expand the map’s functionality and develop a similar tool for the education sector and other areas, as well as a map on security incidents affecting aid operations in Mozambique.”

The Mozambique aid security map is viewable here.

Use your professional skills to save lives

4 MapAction volunteers in field clothing smiling to camera. Text reads MapAction's annual volunteer recruitment window is open to 25 July 2021. MapAction logoGlobal humanitarian need currently outstrips resources. Expert geospatial and data analysis can help stretch those resources for maximum impact. Many professionals want to donate their energy and skills to help.

MapAction is the bridge that enables them to do so effectively.

MapAction is a non-profit organisation that collaborates with partners around the world to help anticipate, prepare for, and respond to humanitarian emergencies.

We are a t team of around 100 people, mostly expert volunteers. We strive to ensure governments, regional, and local disaster management agencies and humanitarian responders have access to the information and analysis that they need to make key decisions, at the right times, to save lives and alleviate suffering.

We are always seeking improvement; developing new technologies and approaches to ensure the data, maps and tools that are essential in humanitarian crises are prepared ahead of time and made available as quickly as possible.

We are currently looking for specialists in Data ScienceData Engineering and Design.

We’re looking for motivated and skilled people to help enhance and strengthen our internal data infrastructures and flows; further develop our geospatial analytics and data science capacity; redesign some of our processes and tools to make our products and services more effective and human-centric, and provide first-class external support and advice to partners.

MapAction team photo taken outdoors in rural environment

What we offer:

  • A chance to put your skills to use to save lives and relieve suffering
  • Access to our unique and close-knit network, and the opportunity to work closely with a group of like-minded professionals from all types of sectors
  • A comprehensive and ongoing training programme
  • Opportunities to learn and develop new skills and leadership qualities
  • Opportunities to travel
  • All related expenses covered

Here’s a three-minute video that gives a flavour of what it’s like to be part of our team, as described by some of our volunteers:

You can find more information about volunteering with us here. The deadline for applications is 25 July 2021. As we value in-person engagement and training, we can currently only accept applications from people based in or near the UK. If you have any questions and would like to speak to one of the team, please contact us.

Win Free Satellite Imagery with UP42’s Copernicus Masters Challenge

The field of Earth observation and applications for EO data are expanding rapidly. However, developers and data scientists who possess the next big idea for using EO data often face a major roadblock: limited funds and resources.

Luckily, the 2021 Copernicus Masters Challenges are here to support tech-savvy innovators as they bring their ideas to life. Copernicus Masters is a set of global challenges asking participants to use EO data to improve and preserve daily life. Through the challenges, participants compete for prizes to back their work such as free data and cash winnings.

UP42, a global provider of geospatial data through its platform and marketplace, is offering a Copernicus Masters challenge as one of the program’s partners. The company is calling on researchers, companies, and students to develop an image augmentation algorithm to address common issues hindering EO analytics. 

Copernicus Masters Challenge by Up42

To qualify, these algorithms must use generative adversarial networks (GANs)—an innovative deep learning approach that is becoming an industry standard for its ability to produce higher-resolution imagery from low-resolution data input.

Participants will focus their algorithm on solving one of three issues:

  1. Unsupervised change detection—GANs can be used to generate better coregistered images via synthetic image generation.
  2. Clouds and shadows in optical satellite imagery—these obstacles affect almost all land, water, and atmosphere applications.
  3. Super-resolution satellite imagery—increasing the resolution can widen the range of objects detected from a given data set.

To develop an algorithm, participants will have access to very-high-resolution imagery from UP42’s content partner Airbus and data from all Sentinel missions via the sobloo platform. 

UP42 chose to offer this challenge because it ties in with the company’s core mission of democratizing access to Earth insights. By offering access to data and the tools to innovate with Earth observation, the company hopes to inspire more change-makers to think beyond what’s currently being done in the industry to solve real-world challenges like climate change and food insecurity.

Winner Takes All for UP42 Challenge

To determine the challenge winner, projects will be judged on four criteria: scientific value, product and business value, quality of implementation, and ecological impact.

The winner of the UP42 challenge will receive three rewards to support their work:

  • OneAtlas Prize: a voucher to access commercial satellite data from Airbus
  • UP42 Prize: a voucher to access geospatial data and algorithms from the UP42 marketplace
  • Satellite Data: up to EUR 10,000 worth of commercial datasets from the Copernicus Contributing Missions

Copernicus Masters will also have an overall winner who will take home a EUR 10,000 prize—a solid investment for turning their project into a full-fledged business.

To compete for these prizes, be sure to register, choose the UP42 partner challenge, and enter your project details into the secure database by 19 July 2021. Submissions will be evaluated by October, and challenge finalists will be notified by November. In December, an awards ceremony will recognize the Copernicus Masters winner. 

Need a little inspiration before starting your project? Check out the past winners’ Hall of Fame to see what’s possible in the Copernicus Masters Challenges.

Hexagon Luciad Platform (and Hexagon office) – Inside Out

Join Nele Coghe as she takes us on a virtual visit to the Hexagon office where the Luciad platform is developed.

Introduction to LuciadRIA for developers

Robin Houtmeyers and Glenn Croes from Hexagon explain all the ins and outs of LuciadRIA platform in this video.

Introduction to Satellite Image Augmentation with Generative Adversarial Networks

UP42 is looking for algorithms that leverage generative models (GANs) in the context of Earth Observation (EO) to provide new ways of performing EO analytics. The startup is calling on researchers, companies and students to develop algorithms for these types of image augmentation. Learn more about this challenge – head over to the Copernicus Masters website.

Avoidance Mapping: What It Is & Where It Fits in the Cartography Cube


“… we all try to steer clear of certain places and people, whether we’re aware of it or not.” (Source)

Currently, my preferred route home is through a residential estate. Its definitive characteristic is close-knit houses, children playing outside and a few ‘vibandas’ (makeshift stalls). Perhaps it’s the sense of community that draws me here. Or maybe it’s because after so many years, the place remains unchanged.  

Unlike me, not everyone prefers this route. Some avoid it despite—or perhaps because of—the things that draw me. While our routes change based on different circumstances, the common ground is that they’re determined by the things we’re trying to avoid. 

Mapping the Things We Avoid

What if we could create a map of the routes we follow and the people/ things we avoid? 

Well, that is what members of the Perfect City working group did. At a workshop, they asked people living in New York City (NYC) to draw maps of what, whom, or where they avoided. The result? Avoidance Maps.

I first heard about avoidance mapping on episode 034 of Isn’t That Spatial podcast.

The idea of creating maps based on people’s experiences with navigating the city intrigued me. For some reason, it made me think about the cartography cube, and the space avoidance maps occupy therein. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Why Produce Avoidance Maps?

Maps help people see what isn’t obvious from tables/ text. But what would make someone spend their time and effort producing avoidance maps? 

In this case, creating avoidance maps made the participants understand who they were in NYC in a new way. Specifically, the avoidance maps were:

  1. Useful in seeing how the ability to navigate a place successfully depended on knowledge of the place and the feeling of belonging
  2. Provocative because they showed that what/ whom you avoid says as much about you as avoidances themselves
  3. Creative because they led to formation of new narratives about the city from different points of view

Above all, the maps helped to see how gender, race, class, and geographic backgrounds inform “belonging” in the city.

“It turns out mapping what we avoid also shows us where we feel we belong.” (Source

Understanding the Cartography Cube

In response to the divergent definitions and views of visualization by cartographers, Professor Alan M. MacEachren formulated a graphic representation of visualization. It was based on treating cartography as a cube, hence ‘cartography cube’. 

MacEachren’s cartography cube

The cartography cube deals with kinds of map use—and not kinds of maps. Therefore, based on how a map is used, it may occupy any space within the cube. 

“The fundamental idea is that map use can be conceptualized as a three-dimensional space. This space is defined by three continua: (1) from map use that is private (where an individual generates a map for his or her own needs) to public (where previously prepared maps are made available to a wider audience); (2) map use that is directed toward revealing unknowns (where the user may begin with only the general goal of looking for something “interesting”) versus presenting knowns (where the user is attempting to access particular spatial information); and (3) map use that has high human-map interaction (where the user can manipulate the map(s) in substantive ways – such as effecting a change in a particular map being viewed, quickly switching among many available maps, superimposing maps, merging maps) versus low interaction (where the user has limited ability to change the presentation).” (MacEachren 1994, p. 6-7)

There are two extremes in the cube. Geographic visualization on one corner and cartographic communication in the other. While all maps contain both visualization and communication, the major difference is the emphasis on visualization or communication at various locations within this space. Emphasis is determined by the primary use of the map—which affects the approach to map design.

Where Does Avoidance Mapping Fit In the Cartography Cube?

Looking at where the avoidance maps by NYC residents fit on each axis of the cartography cube:

Private vs public map use

I would say that avoidance maps occupy the private map use space. This is because the maps were used to help individuals/ small groups of individuals to think spatially. In this case, the maps helped residents, urban planners and architects think spatially about belonging in the city.

Map use directed towards revealing unknowns vs presenting knowns

The avoidance maps were meant to show what it looks like steering clear of certain places and people. It was an exercise designed to lead to conversations about gentrification and displacement, safety and perception. It’s a lens through which to look at bias, belonging, and other subjects. 

By mapping the things people avoid, the maps reveal how different people experience and access urban space. Therefore, avoidance maps are directed towards revealing unknowns.

Map use that has high human-map interaction vs low interaction

According to MacEachren, map use can’t take place without some level of interaction. Furthermore, while the use of a computer increases the level of human-map interaction and hence visualization with maps, it isn’t always necessary. Maps can be interactive if they’re drawn in a way that aids visual thinking/ mental visualization. Nevertheless, computer tools expand the possibilities for interaction and hence visual thinking.

Even though the avoidance maps were two-dimensional images hand drawn on paper, they were nonetheless interactive in the sense that they enabled one to mentally visualize the things/ places being avoided.

Note that I don’t dispute that if the maps were represented on a computer, they would be more interactive—and even allow for integration of additional data such as imagery. What I’m saying is that their display on paper doesn’t make them non-interactive.

Other Thoughts…

Photo by MA7EO on Unsplash

When I first read about avoidance maps, my first thought was how great it would be if everyone shared their avoidance map publicly. What would we learn about urban spaces? Would we discover issues we didn’t know existed before and therefore deal with them?

On further reading, I realised that while mapping represents reality, it also affects how we construct this reality. Sparke called this the proleptic effect of mapping which he defines as: “the way maps contribute to the construction of spaces that later they seem only to represent.”

Making me pose the question: “If people in my (your) community publicly published their avoidance maps, would this affect the things and places I (you) avoid?” My answer is yes. I’d avoid things and places avoided by the majority—a case of a map affecting the reality it represents. What would this mean for urban spaces?

What does your avoidance map look like? Where would you place it in the cartography cube and would you be for or against publicising avoidance maps?


This article has also been posted on Geohub blog.

Supply Chain in the Earth Observation sector

The Earth Observation community is growing and people are starting to find each other on online social platforms. That is why, in March 2021, Steven Ramage, Keiko Nomura and Flávia Mendes opened a room at ClubHouse platform in the Earth Observation club to discuss EO for good from the private sector perspective. The result was very interesting and it led to more topics that the community would like to discuss. Therefore, we had the idea to continue it, but this time on Spaces/Twitter APP. In this second meeting, we discussed supply chains in the context of Earth Observation. This meeting’s expert guests were Arjen Vrielink (Satelligence), Bernardo Rudorff (Agrosatélite) and Sarah Middlemiss (Ecometrica) and shared their experiences and views on the subject.

A nice, informal chat sprouted. In addition to the guests’ examples of the use of Earth Observation in supply chains that mostly work in the commodities sector in developing countries, listeners also chipped in by raising technical and commercial aspects.

On the technical side, the challenges of centralizing high accuracy data into a single database are ample. The Global Forest Watch (GFW) [1] data has a spatial resolution of 30 meters and is available all over the world.  In this case, it is necessary to consider the possible generalization errors; especially in transition zones that have a great floristic variability, this can ‘confuse’ algorithms in the identification of forest or non-forest. For this, local data such as the PRODES [2] deforestation data of the Amazon processed by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) can contribute to overcome this challenge, since the algorithms are trained specifically with the floristic variability of this specific region, such as the Amazon Forest. Additionally, PRODES data are very useful in monitoring the conversion of native vegetation such as in the case of the Soy Moratorium [3]. This discussion leads us to another aspect of the technical challenges: what is deforestation? Is deforestation clear cut, forest disturbance, selective logging or plantation replanting? The definition of these terms by each institution or company influences analysis results.

Apart from differences in datasets and definitions like between PRODES and GFW, vegetation mapping faces other challenges. Take, for example, the case of cocoa mapping. Influence of the overlap of larger trees in relation to the canopy cover challenges mapping cocoa plantations. Some ideas to overcome this challenge have emerged, such as the use of ‘fuzzy’ gradients rather than sharp boundaries resulting from probabilistic algorithms.

If we think about the commercial aspects that may drive the use of Earth Observation in the supply chain, we can start with the incentives why a company should or should not do this type of analysis. Government regulations? Fines? Marketing&PR (green washing)? Stockholder value? Changing consumer behavior? Or a combination of all these options? It is important to realize that EO companies should understand the pains and gains of supply chain stakeholders that their products or services address.

Additionally, there is the question of ethics and the limitations of products that EO companies can offer in the supply chain. One of the guests asked the relevant question: if your client is asking for a shiny map you could deliver but not at scale (temporal, spatial), do you deliver the shiny map? Unconditionally? Decisions like this are important as part of the work a society must do to reduce the impacts of climate change. Here we see that the challenges in the EO community are not only technical but also ethical, economic and maybe even political. How do you manage expectations? Not only in the short run, but also in the long run.

The discussion showed that much has been achieved, especially with regard to the volume of different earth observation data. However, there are also many challenges still to overcome related to the accuracy of Earth Observation and field data. Additionally, there has to be more communication between the beginning, middle and end of the supply chain. This communication could be facilitated by EO derived products and services to create an evidence based area of discourse.

Stay tuned on these twitter accounts (@Steven_Ramage @Keiko_geo and @flasmendes) for more information on upcoming meetings.


[1] https://www.globalforestwatch.org/

[2] http://terrabrasilis.dpi.inpe.br/en/home-page/

[3] https://abiove.org.br/en/relatorios/

Why Is It So Hard to Get the Geo Message Across?

Use these tips and practical challenges and see the way people look at you change dramatically


It's hard to get the geo message across


Remember your interview process for your “GIS Expert” position at the MNC you’re working at? 

An MNC! Sure, their main business isn’t GIS. Still. What an opportunity. 

… was it really that long ago…?

You were so hopeful and swore you’d change the way people think of geospatial. Everyone says it’s important and yet… it’s always an afterthought.

(Bit like copywriting, if you ask me. People realize they need words once they realize other things don’t seem to work.)

Are people even interested in what you’re doing? Why is your job an afterthought? Or a line item, at best?



Just because it’s your thing, it doesn’t make it other people’s thing too

Think back to the last time you went shopping for a bicycle pump. 

… if you haven’t needed one because you don’t have a bicycle, stay with me…

You go to Decathlon and face an entire aisle of pumps. You don’t want to buy the cheapest (who buys the cheapest, it’ll probably break after the first use?). You also don’t want to buy the most expensive pro-version, either. 

You only need it just in case.

So you ask a salesperson. He’s about 25 and he’s cool. He loves talking about bicycles and pumps. He goes into a 5-min lecture on the difference between models. 

Is it rude to stop him? I’ll never spend that much money on this.

You listen politely, afraid to admit he left you even more confused than before. 

I just wish there were only 3 pumps available. Cheap, mid-price and pro. Why is this so difficult?

In the end, you take the 2nd cheapest. 

I mean, who buys the cheapest? And you’re not a pro. 

So 2nd cheapest it is.

Do you see how people coming to you for geospatial stuff are like that version of you in the bike shop?

All they want is a quick map with all the hospitals in town and what do they usually get? 

A long list of things they can get from you because you can totally do that for what they’re looking for. 

Heck. You even give them more suggestions — you’re just helpful and you can see how those would help them even more.

Is it rude to stop you? All they wanted was a quick map…

So they stand there politely and thank you for your help. They’ll send you an email soon, but first, they have to go back to their desks and read through your list again. They never realized you do… all that? 

Not just maps on apps, symbols, and… data? Isn’t that what the IT people also do? Maybe they shouldn’t have asked you at all.

A couple of days pass and you get an email with their request — ignoring everything you told them.

All they want is a map.


Is this ever going to get better? 

What do you have to do to get your voice heard?



Educate your prospects

If you educate people around you, you’ll get better prospects walking up to your desk — better questions and relevant problems and less selling on your side.

Here’s the thing though. You’ll have to do the educating part yourself.

Even if that means stepping out of your comfort zone.




Are you even visible where you work? Apart from the GIS and IT departments, do people know who you are?

If not, how do you think they’d know what you do, for whom and why?

But I smile and say hello to everyone in the lift. Plus accept everyone on LinkedIn. I mean, I’m even connected with that marketing person, Kelly or Kelsey?

It can be uncomfortable, especially for introvert-type people, but you really do have to make a better effort. 

Next time you share a table with someone at the cafeteria, instead of mumbling about the weather or the latest sports as your best attempt at “visibility”, say,

“What are you working on these days?” 

Expect a stare.

“Just asking. I’m making June the month of “What can GIS do for you”. I’m asking everyone what they’re working on so I can pitch something mind-blowing I can do for them. My boss said to go ahead.”

This can go a couple of ways:

  1. If they’re willing, they’ll talk. 

Don’t offer to solve their problem. The purpose of the conversation is to… well, start a conversation. Don’t jump to conclusions or offer to solve their problem before they finish their lasagne and salad.

2. If they look at you weird, say,

“That’s okay if nothing comes to your mind right now. Just send me an email if you do have something you need brainstorming on.”

Tuck into your pasta and talk about the weather and sports. 

You’ve done well. You’ve gone out of your way.




Anyone can do this. 

Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Write a line of code. Follow someone on Twitter.

Go over to a Gdoc and write up a one-pager about it. 

Templatize. Make it fun. Add 3 screenshots.

Send it to all your team and your boss. 

Subject: “Something I learned from X. A 1-min read.”

Now go over to Twitter and post a few lines about your findings.

But I’m just a nobody. I don’t even know what I’m talking about.

Even if that’s true there will be people 10% behind you and what you’re saying is brand new to them. 

The people who already know what you’re saying will appreciate your efforts and will remember you.

The rest? 

You can’t please everyone. 

Welcome the rest, too; they’re teaching you an important lesson.



The Rule of 7 (formerly known as the Rule of 3)

Back in the 2000s, all respectable marketing books talked about the “Rule of 3.” 

People have to see you, your name or your picture three times before they feel they know you (even if they don’t personally do). 

All marketing campaigns were crafted with this rule until a couple of years ago.

When things changed. 

Everyone’s competing for attention in today’s new attention economy…

You now need to be on someone’s radar at least seven times before they recognize you — and you can move from cold to warm status.

The bad news is that it’s up from three. The good news is that they don’t have to talk to you seven times or reply to your Tweets and emails seven times.

They just need to see your name/profile picture seven times.

Challenge 1: Implement the Rule of 7. Post seven times this month on LinkedIn and tell me you didn’t make any traction, make new connections or start a single conversation as a result.

Seven little seeds this month and watch those plants grow…




Your personal Value Prop

Job title:

“Geospatial Analyst”

Sure. But what can you do for people?

Can you summarize it in two sentences? If you were a website, what would your hero section be?

John Smith

Geospatial Analyst

GIS stuff as and when you need it. 

Click here.

How would people know outside of your department what you do from this?




They’ll know when you tell them

Challenge 2: fill in this template and memorize it. Print a copy and display it at your desk. 

Watch people respond to it. 

It’s a conversation starter magnet. 

I do ………………. for ……………..

(geospatial jargons and phrases the rest of the world doesn’t know are not allowed).


I analyze data for environmental people who need a visual representation of it.

Good. Can we make it better?

I analyze data for environmental people who need a visual representation of it because it would be hard to explain to people otherwise/that’s the best way for that data set.

Longer, but better. Can we cut it down?

Data analysis for everything environmental. Hard-to-explain concepts in easy-to-digest visual forms.

Totally making this up — but you get my point. You just went from Geospatial Analyst to a concrete thing you can give to people without weighing them down with the how.

Challenge 3: Put this up in your cubicle/workstation and wait for people to ask about why it’s there. 

Make it your Zoom background.

Include it in your LinkedIn profile tagline.

Try to fit it into the very next email you write to someone.

Say these words when people ask you at family gatherings what it is you’re doing these days… again?

Bonus challenge: make it visual and use it as your banner on your social media.



What’s next?

When you’re comfortable doing all this, at your next weekly meeting suggest (yes, you!) that you’d like to be featured in the next company newsletter and talk about the department.

Offer to make a five-minute presentation on a passion project you’ve been working on.

Find a charitable organization that needs geospatial help and call upon people to join you.

Keep trying. Put yourself out there and remember, you can’t please everyone. But there will be some that you’ll impress along the way.