Aspiring to see public services information to be more reliable

THIS is a continuation of my letter ‘Authorities should utilise Google Maps to improve public services’ published in the Opinion page of the Borneo Bulletin on February 23.

With regard to taking advantage of Google Maps as means to improve location-based public services in Brunei, pertaining to the maps of mukims and villages, I would like to suggest to the Survey Department, which I believe holds the authority and complete information on such maps, to collaborate with Google Maps for the convenience of Bruneians.

Similar to ‘Google Transit Partner Program’ mentioned in my last letter, Google Maps also has ‘Base Map Partner Program’ where any prospective authoritative organisation can freely collaborate with Google Maps to improve its base map by submitting vector data to it.

Therefore, I think the department should take advantage of it to improve the base map of Brunei ie the maps of mukims and villages.

I believe many survey authorities elsewhere in the world have collaborated with Google Maps to improve the base maps in their countries.

Browsing through the maps of ‘developed’ countries such as France, Japan, Korea and Germany one would observe that their base maps are really comprehensive and accurate, which would be impossible to achieve without the contribution from the official survey agencies which have the complete map data.

At present, there are presence of mukims and villages on Google Maps but they are incomplete and can be erroneous or outdated.

Many of their labels and boundaries have been added through Google Map Maker.

Until its discontinuation a few years ago, Google Map Maker had been the platform where any user could contribute edits to improve map data on Google Maps.

As anyone can contribute to the map, I had once taken the opportunity to contribute edits to improve map data pertaining to Brunei.

However, there were limitations in Google Map Maker which hinder the map from being as accurate as intended.

Contributions relied on the local knowledge of editors, which are often informal and may not reflect accurately the actual information.

This means that there are villages which have yet to have their data on the map due to the lack of knowledge by users.

Boundaries had been drawn based on the inference of built-up areas that were visible on available satellite imagery on Google Maps, but such imagery may not be up-to-date.

There was also the issue for users who wish to edit, in determining the exact locations of the boundaries between two mukims or villages, or determining the correct names for them.

Because Google Map Maker had been discontinued a few years ago, interested users no longer have the access to improve such data.

Google Maps itself is editable but it is limited to editing information on businesses and public establishments.

The consequence is that the current base map data of Brunei on Google Maps is not really reliable and can be misleading.

For example, a simple search of ‘Kampong Penapar’ on Google Maps would reveal that the current label and boundary is by an offset of some two kilometres to the west from the actual location.

Meanwhile, the present location where the place marker is actually part of another village ie Kampong Bukit Udal.

This is misleading and can be particularly troublesome for map users or navigation software users who rely on such map services to search for particular locations or navigate in the area.

Nowadays for local businesses to establish their presence online and inform prospective customers of their locations, one of the simplest ways is to ‘add’ their presence or list on Google Maps.

However, based on my observation the addresses of many businesses on Google Maps tend to be incorrect when it comes to villages or area names due to inaccurate base map and Google Maps interface does not have the option to manually rectify administrative boundaries.

Google Maps only allow partners with the authority over map data on administrative boundaries to rectify any such problems on its base maps.

In the case of Brunei, this means that only the Survey Department is able to rectify the problems of inaccurate base map data on Google Maps.

This is needed as I believe many locals use Google Maps to find locations of desired places and even use it (or other Google Maps-based navigation apps) to navigate in the country.

With accurate base map data users can be correctly informed of addresses and thus ease finding locations through online map services.

I aspire to see information on public services in Brunei to be more reliable.

I hope the mentioned government departments and other relevant agencies strongly consider my suggestions as they are not just beneficial but crucial in today’s Internet-based lifestyle.

– Leez