11 March 2010

Pinoy Wins Google Map Maker Tilt

Pinoy Map Maker
A Pinoy software developer has won Google first ever Map Maker Global Competition, which encouraged users around the world to map universities, schools and hospitals in their home countries to help humanitarian organizations do their jobs better.

Wayne Dell Manuel, a 24-year-old developer at the National Telehealth Center of the University of the Philippines, bested over 700 contestants from countries around the world in the first-ever Google Map Maker Global Competition to win a US$ 50,000 donation from UNICEF for projects that empower Filipino youth through technology in the Philippines and an all-expense paid trip to the Google Super Mappers 2010 conference in Switzerland.

Manuel will also receive a VIP tour from UNICEF officials of the projects that will benefit from the US$ 50,000 donation.

"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," added Manuel.

Manuel is recognized as one of the top 10 all-time mappers globally with over 35,000 edits. The win just adds to his reputation as one of the best. Manuel made a total of more than 1,500 qualifying edits in Google’s online mapping application to win the cash prize and the all-expense paid trip. Unfortunately, his visa to Switzerland to participate in the Google Super Mappers conference was denied by Philippine authorities, according to his Twitter post on 26 February 2010.

"My shattered dreams and broken heart," he tweeted.

The Google Map Maker competition, which ran from 15 December 2009 to 31 January 2010, required contestants to map geographical areas in their homeland like universities, schools, hospitals and medical clinics currently not on Google Maps. The online map will help humanitarian organizations like UNICEF do their jobs better navigating around a country.

For example when Typhoon Ondoy hit the Philippines, volunteer groups used Google maps to map distress calls and facilitate rescue operations and Manuel played a part in helping them.

"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.

Manuel began to use Google Map Maker in 2008. He initially began editing streets, establishments, and municipalities in Tuguegarao and Baguio City. He then edited most of the roads in Tarlac City, Tarlac; Angeles City, Pampanga and Tacloban City, Leyte.

"Maps have always interested me because they help me get acquainted with places I’ve never seen before," Manuel explained. "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."

Jennifer Mazzon, Community Organizer for Google Maps, said Manuel's contributions to the Philippines’ online map are invaluable to everyone.

Many people from tourists to humanitarian organizations rely on accurate online maps for geographic information, she said.

She encourages more Filipinos to participate mapping their homeland.

"Even though the contest period is over, the mapping effort for the Philippines is only beginning," said Mazzon. "There are still many places that are in need of accurate details and we hope that even more Filipinos will use Google Map Maker to share their knowledge about their hometowns with the world."

Manuel says he'll continue to edit in Google Map Maker even after the competition because there are still many unmapped areas in the Philippines.