Citizen Cartographers Map North Korea for Google

A group of "citizen cartographers" helped Google Maps launch its most accurate map of North Korea.

North Korea has been one of the places Google Maps has found challenging to chart. The limited data led to maps that were traditionally blank, but armed with information from several North Koreans, Google Maps is now launching comprehensive data, according to Jayanth Mysore, Google Map Maker senior product manager. From his blog post:

To build this map, a community of citizen cartographers came together in Google Map Maker to make their contributions such as adding 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. As a result, the world can access maps of North Korea that offer much more information and detail than before. 

Mysore is quick to say that the map isn't ideal because maps generally are changeable things, but with its number of users crowdsourcing in Google Map Maker, its accuracy will be improved. For those who don't know, Google Map Maker allows anyone to update maps of areas they know to improve detail.

Google didn't specifically say if the information came from within North Korea or from outside. Nonetheless, already the maps are gaining some controversy, as the New York Times argues that Google Maps is less detailed than maps bought in South Korea or a digital atlas.

Crowdsourcing content can be lucrative for online companies  -- because it's cheap, outsourced content that can garner eyeballs -- but no one conducting research is going to use the products without checking facts. So, in essence, Google has created a nice little product, but not one that is the best or most accurate.

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