The World Bank has confirmed that it will not support the use of Google Map Maker for citizen-mapping efforts unless it gives users free access to the map data they create.

The World Bank and Google have launched a project using crowd-sourcing to populate maps with the locations of public services in the developing world – a resource which could be used by many different groups in humanitarian and longer-term development work.

At present, all data which is input into Google Map Maker becomes the property of Google, and will not be freely available via any other channel. However, the Bank recently requested access to the Map Maker data for NGOs, humanitarian groups and other non-commercial groups, and has now clarified that it will not support the initiative unless there is a change in Google’s terms of service for user contributed information:

“…the World Bank only supports citizen-mapping efforts that give users free access to the map data they create. While citizens are free to choose the projects and tools that best meet their goals, our guiding principle is simple: if the public helps to collect or create map data, the public should be able to access, use and re-use that data freely.”

The World Bank should be applauded for its leadership on aid transparency and for responding to concerns of the open data movement. If the information input into Google Map Maker is made accessible to all, the added value and contribution it could make to development efforts will increase considerably.

Read the World Bank’s statement here.