Google Maps North Korea With Crowd-Sourced Data

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Google today updated Google Maps with more detailed maps for North Korea.

The search giant can’t exactly deploy its Google Street View cars to Pyongyang, so it used a “community of citizen cartographers” via Google Map Maker, who added things like road names and points of interest.

“This effort has been active in Map Maker for a few years and today the new map of North Korea is ready and now available on Google Maps,” Jayanth Mysore, a senior product manager with Google Map Maker, wrote in a blog post. “As a result, the world can access maps of North Korea that offer much more information and detail than before.”

Google acknowledged that the maps are “not perfect,” and it encouraged the community to continue improving the maps. “From this point forward, any further approved updates to the North Korean maps in Google Map Maker will also appear on Google Maps,” Mysore said.

A before and after shot of Pyongyang (click above) shows a much more full-featured overview of the North Korea capital, with intersecting highways and other major roadways. Previously, the map had no roadway detail at all.

Google Map Maker has been around since 2008 and lets cartography enthusiasts update the areas with which they are familiar. Add or edit a place, add a road, or review edits made by other users. This is particularly important in North Korea, an extremely isolated country that tightly controls its citizens and any outside visitors.

“While many people around the globe are fascinated with North Korea, these maps are especially important for the citizens of South Korea who have ancestral connections or still have family living there,” Mysore wrote.

The update comes shortly after Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt visited North Korea with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. Schmidt penned a Google+ post upon his return, in which he said that “overall, the technology in North Korea is very limited right now.”

“Once the Internet starts in any country, citizens in that country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do one thing: open up the Internet first,” Schmidt said.

By Chloe Albanesius, PCMag


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