The World Bank – Google collaboration seems a brilliant idea; key to its success is how national government react. But if even some cooperate . . . .
Lack of knowledge of social infrastructure like schools and hospitals makes it more costly when natural disasters strike, setting back recovery efforts, sometimes by months. And lack of data, in general, makes it harder — both in government and in the community — to argue for improved services or increased funding.
The answer? A good start would be scaling up the use of modern mapping technology with crowdsourcing. It’s just this potential that’s been the driving force behind a new partnership between the World Bank and Google. Under the agreement, the bank and its development partners — developing country governments and U.N. agencies — will be able to access Google Map Maker’s global mapping platform, allowing the collection, viewing, search and free access to data of geoinformation in over 150 countries and 60 languages.
Simply put, it means that up-to-date maps of social infrastructure used by nearly a billion people around the globe can be created using crowdsourcing tools, partnering with volunteer mappers using GPS enabled phones and other devices.
Success will hinge on using local expertise to break new ground — finding an active community of passionate citizen cartographers from civil society organizations, local governments, public service providers and universities who can plug in the data that makes its way to publicly available online maps.