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Category: Tech

Google Map Maker aids disaster rescue efforts

Written on March 31, 2011 by R. Depp

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The Google Map Maker has discovered a humanitarian purpose. Its giving people updated information -- through maps -- on disaster-hit areas across the globe that need urgent relief assistance.

The is a service launched by Google in June 2008, primarily as an upgrade to the service initially offered by . The web tool was seen as a solution to mapping parts of the world where there is no available mapping data or commercial maps. Google relies on user contributions from local communities to mark out certain territories.

In an interview with ZDNet.com during the Community Summit in Singapore last Thursday, Andrew McGlinchey, ’s head of product management, said that the Map Maker is currently available in over 100 countries, mostly developing nations where quality maps are difficult to source.

I”ndia was the first country the Web tool was originally intended for,” he said. McGlinchey added that user contributions to the gradually increased, with large percentage of information coming from countries like Philippines, India, Pakistan and Vietnam.

The product management head noted that “Google didn’t have a humanitarian purpose in mind when it launched Map Maker”, but some events proved the effectiveness and efficiency of the tool in facilitating disaster response efforts.

Through user-contributed updates, someone would be able to access the base infrastructure of an area before it was affected by a disaster, or find out if there is still a passable road between the airport and relief centers. Such information can then be accessed by relief organizations to help give them a starting point,” McGlinchey added.

McGlinchey used the example of the Haiti earthquake in January last year.

“After Google posted satellite-updated images of areas affected by the devastation, people soon updated these maps which humanitarian and non-government groups, such as the United Nations, used to facilitate relief efforts,” he said.

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