Filipino mapmaker wins Google contest

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By Lawrence Casiraya

MANILA CITY, METRO MANILA — The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has agreed to spend $50,000 on local projects in the Philippines, thanks to the efforts of Wayne Manuel with a little help from Google.

The 23-year old software developer won Google’s first global Map Maker contest, beating a field of more than 700 mapmakers worldwide and clinching the Unicef donation for the country.

Using the Google Map Maker tool, Manuel, who works at the National Telehealth Center in UP Diliman, single-handedly mapped out more than 1,500 public schools, evacuation centers and other public institutions to help guide relief operations in the event of natural disasters.

Google Maps was useful in the aftermath of last year’s Typhoon Ondoy when a group of volunteer mapmakers used it to document flood updates and provide details on the location of missing persons.

The Google Map Maker Global Competition was launched to encourage the use of technology for community development by asking users to map universities, schools, hospitals and medical clinics in their home countries.

The goal was to help humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF better deliver services, respond to crises, and adapt to change in the countries they operate by enabling access to accurate digital maps.

Local mapmakers like Manuel improve on Google’s online maps by adding more details such as roads, establishments and other points of interests. Aside from aiding disaster relief, online maps also provide other useful information for travelers and tourists.

To illustrate, this Youtube video shows how contributions from mapmakers were able to enhance an online map of Davao City.

Manuel, meanwhile, has been reaping the fruits of his labor since using Google Map Maker some two years ago. His map edits can be viewed here. He is now known globally as one of the top 10 all-time mappers, and was invited to attend a global Map Maker User Conference last year in Bangalore, India.

He’s getting the recognition he deserves while helping create a better view of the Philippines for people all over the world — on the Internet, at least.

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