In recent crises, OpenStreetMap has served as more than a handy resource.
Along with the staggering loss of life, the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010 dramatically altered the country's geography, especially in the capital city of Port-Au-Prince. Buildings disappeared, refugee camps sprung up and streets ended in piles of rubble.
OpenStreetMap quickly became a go-to resource for disaster relief workers, who both relied on the map's real-time updates and contributed their own knowledge as they encountered changes in the city's terrain.
Whether mapping roads blocked by the Japan earthquake and tsunami or updating the location of new highways, stores or subway stations the day they open, Bennett said the responsiveness of crowdsourced maps to change represents a new way of charting the world: "OpenStreetMap can keep up with the pace of progress in a way that no other way of making maps can."
Marcus Wohlsen can be reached on Twitter: http://twitter.com/marcuswohlsen
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.