Pinoy cartographer wins Google Map maker contest

By GoodNews Pilipinas

Wayne Dell Manuel from the University of the Philippines bested 700 other contestants to become the winner of the first Google Map Maker Global Competition.

The 23-year-old “citizen cartographer” won a US$50,000 donation from UNICEF for the Philippines after adding more than 1,500 qualifying map features and made hundreds of moderations in Google Map Maker. His edits, which were primarily of local public schools, were judged to be the most numerous and accurate entries in the contest.

“I’m so excited to have won this global competition because it represents a win not just for me, but also for the Philippines,” said Manuel. “To be frank, I entered the competition to win the US$50,000 for our country, and I hope that my win encourages more Filipinos to contribute to making the online map of our country even better. We Filipinos are known for our spirit of bayanihan, and this is a great way for us to come together in the Internet era to make life better for our fellow kababayans by literally putting their communities on the digital map.”

The competition was launched to encourage the use of technology for community development by asking users to map universities, schools, hospitals and medical clinics in their home countries. The goal was to help humanitarian organizations better deliver services, respond to crises, and adapt to change in the countries they operate by enabling access to accurate digital maps.

Manuel, a software developer at the UP National Telehealth Center, started using Google Map Maker in 2008 and initially edited streets, establishments, and municipalities in his hometowns of Tuguegarao and Baguio City. Later, he added most of the roads in Tarlac City, Tarlac; Angeles City, Pampanga and Tacloban City, Leyte. He has been recognized globally as one of the top 10 all-time mappers with nearly 35,000 map edits under his belt.

“Maps have always interested me because they help me get acquainted with places I’ve never seen before. As soon as I heard about Google Map Maker, I immediately joined and found that its interface is very intuitive and user-friendly. I love the feeling of putting together something that would be useful to many people,” he said.

Jennifer Mazzon, Community Organizer for Google Maps, said Manuel’s contributions are invaluable for people who rely on geographic information, which is import during times of natural disaster.

Manuel said he will continue editing in Google Map Maker even after the competition because there are still many unmapped areas in the Philippines.

He also recalled how his contributions helped many people when Typhoon Ondoy hit the country last September. “After Ondoy, a volunteer group used Google Maps to map distress calls and facilitate rescue operations. I was so happy to see that the roads I helped place on Google Map Maker, later pushed to Google Maps, were used to locate fellow Filipinos who needed help,” he said.

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