Part Three – Getting the Data Out There

07 December 2010

Author: jeff.hack

Part Three – Getting the Data Out There

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This is part three of a three-part series about online maps in Georgia. In my previous installments I covered the basic of online map providers and compared the maps for Georgia. So as I’ve tried to describe, there are a number of platforms out there where we’d like to see maps of Georgia. In this final installment, I’ll try to answer some of the questions that I am most commonly asked. Here it goes!

Why are you mapping Georgia?

The core objectives for mapping Georgia are simple enough. We want to create the most complete and up-to-date digital map that we can, using local people and local knowledge to do it. We want the resulting data to be widely available for people and businesses to use. This means that we want to see our data integrated into Google Maps, Bing Maps, OpenStreetMap, and accessible for any business in Georgia that wants to build something on top of this information. Beyond these goals, we want to collect all this information in a cutting-edge way, so that the process means as much as the data that comes out of it. We encourage participation, working with young and energetic folks around the country to explore their environment and better understand the world that they live in.

Why is this important for Georgia?

Tourism, economic development, research and analysis, education. How do you map? We have imagery and we have GPS devices, and we have lots of people who go out and identify street names, addresses, and places, and we have a wiki-style database that allows a lot of people to draw maps and share them all at once. Why isn’t Georgia on Google Maps? This is a complicated question. Google states that there has never been data in Georgia of a high enough quality to go on Google Maps. This is probably true. It is also likely that Georgia is not high on Google’s priority list. The same may be said of Microsoft.

Why doesn’t the government take care of this?

It has tried, and continues to try! In fact I think one problem is that it has tried too hard. I think, and I say this in an entirely politically neutral way, that there has been a bit of competition between government ministries to see who could make an agreement with Google first. It’s good that they all want to impress the people above them and work hard to do so, but ultimately it leaves Google with 8 different government ministries trying to have a different conversation. Fortunately, the National Public Registry of Georgia is carrying the conversation now on its own, and seems to be making progress. I can’t say enough about the professionalism and great work of the NAPR.

Will we have Google Street View in Georgia soon?

I seriously doubt it. What is crowdsourcing and why do you make maps this way? Crowdsourcing means getting a whole lot of people to contribute in small ways. For example, I can drive down every street in Georgia and make maps, but it would take me years to do this. If a thousand people do this, then it might only take months, and the end result will be better, because the information is created by people who know a lot more about their neighborhoods than I do.

Why can’t I search for addresses in Georgia?

Another tough question! I had to laugh the first time I saw some address information in certain Georgian villages – down one side of the same street I would see numbers go “1… 3… 5… 2… 37…. 9… 131…” and so on. I’d love to know how some of these numbers came to be. It’s difficult to make addresses searchable in Georgia because there aren’t very good addresses. However I’m aware of one pending project that would re-address the country during the next few years. OMC plans to experiment with a different approach, however, and we plan to build a tool into MapSpot where users can contribute the addresses of places in their neighborhood. That way we can hopefully crowdsource addresses that can then be searched.

How can people use maps on their mobile devices?

Soon (I would say in the next 2-3 months) our data will be imported into OpenStreetMap, so any application that uses OpenStreetMap data will be able to access these maps. And if we’re able to get maps on Google and Bing soon, then any applications that use these services will be functional as well. How can people get directions? As far as I know this is still a little ways off. Even after Google obtained maps in Armenia, it took at least a year for those maps to be routable, meaning for users to get directions. Routable maps require detailed data about one-way streets and turn restrictions at intersections. OMC is interested in testing this in Tbilisi or another small city, and if so we would make this service available on MapSpot.ge.

Does Google pay for these maps? Does the government pay Google?

No and no.