The FINANCIAL — Google Map Maker, a Google Maps service which allows users to add or edit features such as roads, businesses, parks, schools is now open for editing in 4 new countries including Georgia.
Georgia is still shown as a white desert on Google Maps, as the company says it has no reliable data on Georgia, a claim that angered users in Tbilisi recently, forcing them to appeal to the giant company.
A group of Georgians collected about 400 signatures recently and mailed a petition to Google’s administration, demanding official explanation for why Google Maps does not provide map details about Georgia. The group is called Georgia on Google Maps by facebook users who have created a page dedicated to that issue. Users against Google say Georgia’s international image is suffering from a lack of information on Google Maps. Authors of the petition say they did not get an answer even one month after the letter was sent.
“I tried to find a road in Georgia on Google Maps the other day and found an empty space with no roads, just cities. It’s strange when there are roads mapped for the neighboring countries, like Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. And in the middle – Georgia, with no roads,” complains Merab Okruashvili, internet user.
“Can anyone explain why the Google team has overlooked Georgia?” questions another user, Okruashvili.
“Being present on Google Maps with detailed information is important for our country, as we all know how popular this service is worldwide,” Mamuka Monavardisashvili, Owner of ITDC, Information Technology and Services industry, told The FINANCIAL.
Georgia’s Google story appeared in the world’s headlines soon after the military campaign in South Ossetia started in 2008. The media reported that data from Georgia was stripped from Google Maps.
In 2008 Google said it never filled in the maps of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan because it wasn’t satisfied with the map data available. But some bloggers said they saw detailed mapping for the country before the war started.
Google Maps, Bing.com Wiki and other companies use the same images from satellites. It provides clear views on street and cities, but map information is very limited on each website. All services use a similar programme enabling users to contribute their knowledge, filling maps with roads, highways etc.
“In my view, to create detailed and confirmed information of Georgia on Google Maps is up to the activity of the local internet society. The reason for the absence of detailed information of Georgia on Google Maps is due to the passivity of Georgian internet society,” Monavardisashvili declares.
“You cannot find a person abroad who does not use this service for different goals. The first step to solve this problem is first of all to create geo-informational sources about Georgia’s map, with Google map standards. I think the last step will be just supplying Google map.”
“Google’s service and also Google Maps are de-facto standards of virtualization of reality. However, it does not mean that negotiation with Google should be a priority of Georgian officials. We should also not rely on volunteers, when talking about the popularization of Georgia in the world web. The fluent supply of information about Georgia to Google Maps could be in the interests of the Department of Tourism and Resorts of Georgia, but it is by their free-will,” says Konstantin Stalinsky, Director of Info Tech.
To access Google Map Maker, visit http://mapmaker.google.com Use your Google login and password to sign in. If you do not have a Google account you can sign up.
Once you have signed in, Google Map Maker is displayed in your web browser. The service appears similar to Google Maps, but displays a set of tools that allows you to mark locations and add information.
Recently Google announced a Google Map Maker Global Competition in cooperation with UNESCO. “From December 15, 2009, to January 31, 2010, improving the maps of places can give you the chance to become a local hero,” the company said.
Organizers asked users to add local universities, schools, hospitals and medical clinics with high quality info into Google Map Maker. A prize of 50,000 USD will be donated to the country chosen by the winning participant. Winners will be invited to attend the Google Super Mappers 2010 conference. A few Georgian users are taking part in the global competition. If they win, money will probably be donated to Haiti or another poor country, as Georgia was not included in the list of countries authorized to receive the UNESCO prize. This gap was fixed last week. Two days before the deadline.
The winner will be announced by February 15, 2010.