How Google is using Maps for Good

Google does good – even with maps. Specifically, through Google Earth Outreach.

At the Social Good Summit, Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager of Google Earth Outreach & Earth Engine, shared how Google is using their maps for good. A more detailed bio of Rebecca is at the end of this post.

Google Earth Outreach gives nonprofits and public benefit organizations the knowledge and resources they need to visualize their cause and tell their story in Google Earth & Maps to hundreds of millions of people.

There are many interesting urban applications, but Moore decided to focus on the rural and environmental in her presentation. For example, there is a spot near a remote shore of Australia where a rare type of Coral Reef was discovered and reported. It was discovered right before the area was opened up to oil mining, and because of this discovery, the mining was stopped.

A very detailed example of how Google Maps and Earth can be used for good (above image) took place a few years ago when Moore received a notice at her house from a logging company. The notice was about an area they were going to be harvesting timber. It was presented on a horrible map, on a black and white photocopied page. Moore used Google Earth to explore the area in more detail and figure out what it meant. She was able to map out the entire area, routes of the logging vehicles and much more – to show politicians in her community that the logging machinery and tools would be very, very close to local schools and daycare centres. Her mapping of this was even shared on the news as a video to explain to the public why this would be harmful to the community – and actually illegal. This stopped the proposal altogether.

Sine then, a ton of people – including celebrities and municipalities – to prevent developments that would harm environments and communities, all through Google Earth. There are many others using Google, including Aboriginal tribes, to defend land, animals, natural resources and more.

This video highlights more of what is being done through Google:

Rebecca Moore is a computer scientist and longtime software professional. At Google, she conceived and leads the Google Earth Outreach program, which supports nonprofits, communities and indigenous peoples around the world in applying Google’s mapping tools to the world’s pressing problems in areas such as environmental conservation, human rights and creating a sustainable society. Her personal work using Google Earth was instrumental in stopping the logging of more than a thousand acres of redwoods in her Santa Cruz Mountain community. Rebecca also initiated and leads the development of Google Earth Engine, a new technology platform which supports global-scale data-mining of satellite imagery for societal benefit. Rebecca received a bachelor’s degree with honors from Brown University in Artificial Intelligence, a master’s degree from Stanford University, and is currently on leave from the Stanford Ph.D. program in Computer Science.