SINGAPORE - Change is the only constant, as the cliche aphorism goes, and this can be especially frustrating in a bustling country like Singapore where each new development can render your map invalid. This was my experience several years ago, when a friend and I were navigating Stadium Drive only to find that the road ahead was closed for the construction of the Sports Hub. Our mapping tool, at that point, blithely instructed us to "go straight for 200 metres" across the construction site.
Such encounters should soon be a thing of the past with the Google Map Maker. Launched in 2005, the tool has been used to solve mapping problems in places where there is a lack of credible mapping data, and has even been used in parts of the world like Afghanistan and Iraq.
This community-based collaboration has also been used for crisis relief efforts such as the 2009 typhoons that struck Philippines. A user, Rally de Leon, mapped changes for the Philippine Red Cross during the crisis, adding details for health centers, government offices, gymnasiums and public schools used for evacuation.
Nine years and 200 countries after its initial launch, Map Maker is coming to Singapore.
Think of Google Map Maker as the 'Wikipedia' of Maps: users make edits and submit them for review. Once the edits have been verified by established mapping volunteers in the Map Maker community, the changes will be reflected on Google Maps.
Google Map Maker will allow users to add roads and even details such as shop names and their opening and closing hours.
"The more successful edits and reviews mappers make, the more trusted they become in the system, allowing them to make edits and reviews more easily," explained Andrew McGlinchey, Google's Senior Product Manager for Southeast Asia.
"We do also have a small team of Google reviewers across the globe that may review and moderate updates in Map Maker to ensure data quality," he said.
Explaining why Google finally decided to launch Map Maker in Singapore, Mr McGlinchey said: "There are many different elements that come into play as we decide to launch new features, such technical factors."
"We needed to make sure we'd got the data right before we invited the public to edit."
Mr McGlinchey added that military installations are treated as sensitive areas and edits are not allowed.
Start Mapping in Five Simple Steps
1. Sign on at www.google.com.sg/mapmaker.
2. Click the "Add New" button to add a road, place or natural feature. Pick a spot/location that is not currently on Google Maps - this could be your favourite new coffee joint or bookshop.
3. Click the "Edit" button to correct or change features already present on Google Maps.
4. Follow the onscreen prompts to add names, categories and other details to the places you map to help them display correctly on maps.
5. Click on "Save" to submit your edit. After you have submitted your feature, it is queued up for a review and once it is verified and approved, you will be able to see your edit live on Google Maps.