Friday, 20 January 2012

Google Maps teams up with the World Bank

Google and the World Bank announced a collaborative deal, where Maps would be used for disaster preparedness and development in countries around the world. This agreement will make the World Bank a vessel for governments around the world to receive Google Map Maker data more easily. This data will be used in the event of disasters as well as improvement in management and monitoring of public services. The data allows citizens to create their own maps of the areas they live in with the knowledge they have. Once contributions are approved, they will appear on Google Maps and Google Earth for users around the world to see.
A community mapper in Kampala
A community mapper in Kampala

The Map Maker Data has detailed maps of 150 countries and regions and identifies features like hospitals, roads and water points, which are usually important for relief workers when a disaster has happened. The data will also help governments make infrastructure more transparent to citizens, NGOs and researchers. Governments will need to contact the World Bank to have access to the information. World Bank country offices in Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Moldova, Mozambique, Nepal, and Haiti plan to pilot the Map Maker agreement.

There is criticism against this coalition from various organizations, including Global Integrity. They point out that the coalition might empower Google a little too much. According to the terms of service, Google can collect data collected by the World Bank from governments and citizens and do, essentially whatever it wants to with the data. The data can only be contributed to and used within Google's own system, which gives Google a monopoly of sorts over essential information. Furthermore, it has not been disclosed how, in any given scenario, will the two companies decide who gets access and what will be the terms and conditions of that access.

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