According to the Google LatLong blog, which posts news and notes from the Google Earth and Maps team, a collaborative agreement aimed at improving disaster preparation and development efforts globally has been reached between Google and World Bank.
Under the agreement, the World Bank will act as a conduit in order to make sure the Google Map Maker service becomes more accessible and is available without difficulty to government organisations facing major environmental disasters.
It will also be used in relation to public services, as a means to improve and monitor planning and management structures. A key element of this free mapping tool is the fact that citizens are able to contribute, by contributing to the creation of maps via their local knowledge -- acting as 'on the ground' participants.
The Google Map Maker data includes detailed maps of more than 150 countries and regions, and pinpoints locations including schools, hospitals, roads, settlements and water points. This can be a critical tool for relief workers, NGOs, researchers, and individual citizens -- as it allows effective identification of 'problem areas' before disasters potentially hit a region.
The World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili indicated this new collaboration could be key in empowering developing countries:
"Today's technology can empower civil society, including the diaspora, to collaborate and support the development process. This collaboration is about shifting the emphasis from organizations to people, and empowering them to solve their own problems and develop their own solutions using maps."
Any World Bank partner organization, including governmental agencies, will be able to request access to the Google Map Maker data for their various local projects.
The pilot run of this scheme is planned to take place in the World Bank offices based in in Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Moldova, Mozambique, Nepal, and Haiti.
Google says that the World Bank Institute (WBI) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) will be taking control of the mapping efforts. The pilot scheme will be building upon previous, singular efforts in order to "create comprehensive maps of schools, hospitals, and other social infrastructure" in developing countries.
A previous example is that of April 2011, where members of the Southern Sudanese Diaspora participated in a series of community mapping events organized by World Bank and Google to create comprehensive maps of schools, hospitals and other social infrastructure in the country.
Crowdsourced platforms allow individual projects to gain an element of continuity and will no doubt improve accessibility to this data across the globe.
Interestingly though, it is not yet available in the United Kingdom.
Image credit: Google
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