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Volunteers Helping Google Map The World

April 1, 2011

Google Inc. announced Thursday that volunteers from around the globe are using the search giant’s mapping service to help it map out the world, which includes previously inaccessible areas.

The citizen cartographers from various areas around the world travel to remote places to map out the areas before uploading their work to Google Map Maker, the Internet search company said at a conference in Singapore.

Google Map Maker allows users to add or edit features, such as roads, businesses, places of interest and schools, and can also offer detailed information about specific locations.

“You are now the mapping agency of the world, and many of the mapping agencies are recognizing that fact,” Google’s geospatial technologist Ed Parsons said at the Google Geo Community Summit.

“The large, top-down approaches to making maps that traditionally the industry has followed for many thousands of years are changing very rapidly,” he said. “They now go from a bottom-up approach, where local experts, people like yourselves are making maps, they are updating the maps, because you are the experts in your local neighborhoods.”

Google maps have been significantly helpful to relief efforts during natural disasters, such as in the recent catastrophe that struck northern Japan on March 11, said Parsons.

CNR Nair, a retired Indian native, spends up to two hours per day updating map information on India. He travels throughout the country checking to see how accurate the maps follow the land, even checking to see if latitudes tally from the ones on Google Map Maker.

But Nair says mapping out his country is not all that easy. Working without government approval, he has been threatened with arrest by local police.

“Google Maps should serve the community,” Nair told AFP.

“During the Indian (Ocean) tsunami, we mapped all these tsunami affected areas so that in the future at least people should be aware to get (people) evacuated from the possible tsunami affected areas or flood areas,” he said.

Volunteers from Moscow, traveled to Siberia by rail, filming their journey from the train’s window and uploading it to Google Map Maker, according to one person at the conference.

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