World Bank Comments on Google Arrangement

27 January 2012

By Nathaniel Heller

Heller is Managing Director of Global Integrity, a Washingon-based nongovernmental organization, and this was posted Jan. 23 on the Global Integrity blog. A Jan. 20 Heller post describes his conversations with Bank officials on the topic.

Last week we covered the unfolding debate over the World Bank’s decision to make Google Map Maker available to partner governments and multilaterals. (See previous posting.)

Some observers view the deal as a bad thing given the somewhat restrictive Terms of Service imposed by Map Maker that lock up user-submitted geo-data in a distinctly non-open data way.

Today the Bank published a short post explaining its decision to go with Google as opposed to a more open mapping platform such as OpenStreetMap (though the Bank does work with OSM in other contexts). If you are pressed for time, just skip to the last two paragraphs in the post for the Bank’s (non)comment on their thinking behind the Google deal (the rest is fluff):

Our agreement with Google enables governments, UN, and non-profits agencies to leverage our partnership to expedite access to raw geo data like the location of schools, water points, and health facilities. In the case of natural disasters and humanitarian crises for example, we know that timing is critical for effective response. Our non-exclusive agreement seeks to improve access to useful geo data for humanitarian response and development planning.

The agreement is focused on non-commercial use of geo-data but we believe it represents a very important step in expanding access to information. Governments, UN agencies, and non-profits will now have better access to a richer set of geospatial data to address development challenges including humanitarian response. We will continue to strive for all data being open and freely accessible and look forward to engaging with others and advancing the broader conversation to make development more effective and inclusive.

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