India Maps – Local Knowledge Power

Hyderabad, India roads and POI in Google EarthGoogle’s mission is to “…organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful“. And the Google Earth/Maps team’s mission is to add “geospatially” in front of the corporate mission. Google has the most complete global/international coverage in imagery, roads, directions, and many other points of interest data of any other 2D/3D mapping tools freely available on the Internet.
The information now available for India in Google Earth and Maps is of particular interest. According to Googler Michael Jones, Chief Technologist of Google Earth, they had a challenge in India. There basically was only one government controlled mapping dataset, and it was not available to license for publication online. So, Google developed some tools and processes to enable people living in a city to map the city and share their local knowledge with an online database. They piloted a process in India where people would mark locations with a GPS and input other data such as directions, locations of shopping centers, parks, gas stations, restaurants etc. Google used input from many different people and correlated conflicts to try and arrive at the best data. The current trend is to refer to this kind of approach to data collection as “crowdsourcing”.
If you go to India now in Google Earth (or Maps) the roads information for 50 of the cities in India came from local knowledge. You can turn on other points of interest layers in Google Earth such as these layers: Shopping and Services, Transportation, Geographic Features, Travel and Tourism, Parks and Recreation, and Community Services. For example, try searching for “Hyderabad“. You will see a variety of colorful icons all over the 50 cities in India where the data was collected. This data could be remarkably beneficial if you were visiting a city for the first time – or possibly even if you’ve lived in the area for a long time.
The process Google has been testing (which produced these results in India) is similar in many ways to efforts started in the UK by which also uses GPS input from people on the streets. Google has been developing a special “care package” of software, databases, and GPSes to help citizens in other countries make maps like the ones in India.
You can hear Michael Jones’ talk about the maps for India in a podcast recording of a speech he gave last week at Cambridge in the UK – thanks to for the recording.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Yeah, the maps in India are quite impressive. I was curious how they did that so well, considering how crazy (and often unnamed) the streets are. I hope they expand it to more cities in India… maybe I could print envelopes with a map to the destination on it so more of the letters/packages I send there actually get to their intended destination… (OK, maybe this doesn’t prevent people from picking off my mail en route)

  2. Timothy says:

    Do you know how to get involved in this as I would like to participate in helping google map Livingstone, Zambia as I doubt they will do it any time soon without input from local residents.
    My mum (a former local councilor) has been doing maps of Livingstone for council purposes (street maps, plot maps etc) for years.

  3. This “care package” is a very interesting thing for Latin America people. Please, Google people, make some more “noise” about this. There are many people in our countries waiting to do some local mapping job…=)
    Thanks! an congratulations for India!

  4. You don’t necessarily need to wait for Google to map your local area. OpenStreetMaps software is open source and free to use. You won’t get the GPS for free through the care package, but everything else is there to get started. Also you can take the data you create in OSM and view it in Google Earth with a quick KML conversion –

  5. Send some “care packages” to the Philippines, we (Filipinos) can use some help.

  6. I would like to participate in the google map India program. Is it possible to pay and get the care kit? If Yes how much does it costs?

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