Google Earth and Maps officials have encouraged scientists, divers, government agencies and anyone willing to share their data to help improve their new free feature on oceans so people can get better access when they explore the deep over the Internet.
Google’s new Ocean feature has rich images and sharp resolution of the seabeds in select areas only, including the waters off the US and Japan, thanks to the cooperative data sharing from governments of the two countries. But only a handful of images and videos of the waters in the coral triangle, including Indonesia, have been submitted by scientists and NGOs. Some of the images and data include the famous Mola-mola fish off Nusa Lembongan Island near Bali, contributed by the Nature Conservancy (TNC).
“We’d love to see more people contribute photos, data and video to give *the feature* a lot of content. We’d totally appreciate that,” Jenifer Austin Foulkes, business product manager of the Ocean feature at Google, said Monday during a workshop on exploring the Ocean feature for research. The workshop, attended by more than 100 participants, is one of many sideline events being held during the World Ocean Conference (WOC) and Coral Triangle Initiatives (CTI) Summit in Manado from May 11 to 15.
Foulkes said the Ocean feature, still in development, had little data on rivers and roads in Indonesia, including on Sulawesi Island. She added Google did not have the data as it was just a plat-form for people to share their research, photos, videos and other information. Dirhamsyah, a coastal management official at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences’ (LIPI) Oceanography Research Center, said he understood why the data sharing from Indonesia was difficult to get. He said data transparency policy should be better publicized to the people in the country.
“As long as it doesn’t concern the country’s security, I think all data should be accessible by the public,” he said, adding data sharing within government agencies was often a complicated process. Dirhamsyah also said he often bumped into problems when trying to obtain data from other government institutions. “When I need to get data for my research at LIPI, for instance, I have to look for it at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry office, because the data is in hard copy rather than soft copy,” he said. “It often turns out the data differs from that in the provinces.”
During the process of creating the Ocean feature, Foulkes said Google got key support from more than 100 partners, including the National Geographic Society, satellite operators, scientists, government agencies, NGOs and individuals.
“Much of the contribution comes from the United States, basically because we have a lot of contacts there,” she said on the sidelines of the workshop. “We also have many contributions from people in Hawaii and the Bermuda Islands.” She added the Ocean feature was launched on Feb. 2 after some inspiring chats between Google’s chief technology advocate Michael Jones and National Geographic explorer Sylvia Earle. The Ocean project was initiated after Earle told Jones he was missing the ocean, which accounts for two-third of the Earth’s surface, Foulkes said.
Source: The Jakarta Post – May 12, 2009
By Indah Setiawati