Last week, the World Bank and Google announced an agreement aimed at improving the ability of developing countries to access a web-based community mapping tool and data to help better monitor public services, and improve disaster and humanitarian response efforts. Most developing countries do not have basic local data about where schools, hospitals, or water points are located, and the data they do have is often out of date or incorrect. One way to collect this information is to ask citizens directly, and crowdsource the locations of public infrastructure.
Under this agreement, Google will provide the World Bank and its partner organizations – including governments and UN agencies – with access to Google Map Maker underlying geospatial data that includes detailed maps of more than 150 countries. Through this tool, citizens are able to directly participate in the creation of maps by contributing their local knowledge, and those additions are then reflected on Google Maps and Google Earth. These maps include locations like schools, hospitals, roads and water points that are critical for relief workers to know about in times of crisis, and will help NGOs, researchers, and individual citizens to more effectively identify areas that might be in need of assistance.
Crowdsourced mapping platforms have the potential to move beyond mapping individual projects, as in the World Bank Mapping for Results Initiative, which has mapped 2,500 projects in more than 30,000 geographic locations in all 143 partner countries. By combining the locations of all social infrastructure and citizens’ feedback, all development partners could better track the contribution they are making towards improving local public services and disaster preparedness in developing countries.
This agreement also builds on previous joint mapping efforts. In April 2011, more than 60 members of the Southern Sudanese Diaspora joined a World Bank and Google event to help map schools, hospitals and other social infrastructure in this new country.
“The remarkable success of the South Sudan ‘Mapathon,’ and our new collaboration with Google Map Maker represents an unprecedented opportunity to harness one of the most sophisticated mapping technologies. Being able to crowdsource data of schools and hospitals will create both transparency and accountability for citizens,” said Sanjay Pradhan, Vice-President of the World Bank Institute.
Initial World Bank country offices that plan to pilot the Map Maker agreement include Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, DRC, Moldova, Mozambique, Nepal, and Haiti. These countries are where governments have a strong interest in supporting the use of technology and data for decision-making and community monitoring, and in encouraging projects that support government and citizen engagement in geospatial mapping.
The World Bank-Google collaboration is complementary to the Open Aid Partnership (OAP) which is being facilitated by the World Bank Institute and has been endorsed by the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Estonia, and Finland. The OAP’s goals are to develop a joint Open Aid map to visualize all donor-funding programs at the local level to enhance aid transparency; pilot its use in certain countries to better monitor the impact of development programs on citizens; and empower citizens to provide direct feedback on project results.