Geospatial Technologies Supporting Economic Development | Miriam Karthika Daniel, VP and GM, Google Maps
In today’s rapidly digitizing world, geospatial technology is fast becoming one of the defining forces for shaping global markets. Google Maps is committed to creating a rich, deep, and detailed understanding of the world, enabling people to explore, businesses to attract and connect with customers, third-party apps and websites to make the most out of location experiences, and NGOs and governments to tackle real-world challenges.
Maps help people move around and find local businesses faster and more efficiently. Not only do digital maps reduce travel time, but they also suggest alternate routes based on traffic & carbon emissions and help save time by making it easy to find and connect with local merchants. By helping people plan & track routes in areas they aren’t familiar with, and checking live busyness at places, maps also help improve public safety.
In India, Google Maps has mapped the length and breadth of the country (roads, localities, places, buildings, natural features) and made them easily accessible for free. It has amplified benefits by incorporating tailored, high-fidelity experiences like real-time traffic and public transport to the unique needs of Indian users. Features like two-wheeler mode, landmark-based navigation, offline mode, Maps in 9 Indian languages, real-time transit info, and more have scaled the impact of geospatial technologies to hundreds of millions of Indian users.
Maps help make small and large businesses more visible, productive and profitable. By providing useful facts such as location, store hours, contact information, photos and reviews, maps help drive sales without incurring additional advertising costs. Geospatial services also play a strategic role in helping companies in sectors covering approximately three-quarters of the world’s GDP raise revenues and/ or diminish costs.
Today in India, more than 30 million small businesses have a digital presence through Google Maps for free — connecting with their customers, finding new users, listing their products/services and growing their operations. Every month, Google drives >700 million direct connections between merchants and consumers in India. Google Maps Platform API solutions have enabled hundreds of startups and Unicorns (eg. Licious, Dunzo, OYO Hotels) to develop their products, optimize their business operations, and grow their revenue.
Finally, maps have massive positive spillover effects on the environment and societies worldwide —creating jobs, reducing CO2 emissions through more efficient vehicle trips, and conveying alternative transportation options. Geospatial technologies also play a significant role in emergencies and disaster response. Partnering with governments, NGOs, and research organizations is a key enabler to maximize the benefits of geospatial services for society at large.
In India, Google Maps is proud to have partnered with the government on a range of critical initiatives — i) driving social campaigns like Swachh Bharat Mission by mapping >57,000 public toilets in >2,300 cities, ii) amplifying covid-response efforts by surfacing food & night shelters, vaccine & testing centres, hospitals & beds availability, and containment zones, iii) aiding disaster response through initiatives like flood forecasting helping protect >200 million people across the country, iv) partnering with traffic authorities for real-time road closures and restrictions.
In addition, Google has made various geospatial data and tools publicly available to help solve India’s most pressing problems — i) Google Earth Engine has enabled the publication of 30+ scientific papers on nationwide topics such as tiger habitat preservation, rivers and waterbody monitoring, forest cover mapping ii) Google Earth Engine Apps have helped startups and research organizations build operational GIS dashboards to inform water and nature conservation efforts on the ground, iii) Google Earth has facilitated livelihood research on sustainable living for indigenous communities and has helped consumers visualize the impact of climate change on our surroundings.
Geospatial technologies are expected to unlock opportunities across multiple sectors including agriculture, healthcare, finance, logistics, transportation, and technology. They will be a critical enabler in realizing the country’s vision of a $5 trillion economy. And Google is continually looking for ways to add value. We want to push the boundaries of people’s perceptions of what a map can do for them, and the tasks we can help with, and drive the next generation of geospatial innovations in India.