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TEDIndia 2009

Lalitesh Katragadda: Making maps to fight disaster, build economies

November 9, 2009

As of 2005, only 15 percent of the world was mapped. This slows the delivery of aid after a disaster -- and hides the economic potential of unused lands and unknown roads. In this short talk, Google's Lalitesh Katragadda demos Map Maker, a group map-making tool that people around the globe are using to map their world.

Lalitesh Katragadda - Engineer
Lalitesh Katragadda builds tools that help groups of people compile information to build something greater than the sum of its parts. His latest fascination: collaborative maps. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
In 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar.
00:16
Millions of people were in severe need of help.
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The U.N. wanted to rush people and supplies to the area.
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But there were no maps, no maps of roads,
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no maps showing hospitals, no way for help to reach the cyclone victims.
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When we look at a map of Los Angeles or London,
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it is hard to believe
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that as of 2005, only 15 percent of the world
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was mapped to a geo-codable level of detail.
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The U.N. ran headfirst into a problem
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that the majority of the world's populous faces:
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not having detailed maps.
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But help was coming.
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At Google, 40 volunteers
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used a new software
01:00
to map 120,000 kilometers of roads,
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3,000 hospitals, logistics and relief points.
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And it took them four days.
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The new software they used? Google Mapmaker.
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Google Mapmaker is a technology that empowers each of us
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to map what we know locally.
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People have used this software
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to map everything from roads to rivers,
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from schools to local businesses,
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and video stores to the corner store.
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Maps matter.
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Nobel Prize nominee Hernando De Soto
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recognized that the key to economic liftoff
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for most developing countries
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is to tap the vast amounts of uncapitalized land.
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For example, a trillion dollars
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of real estate remains uncapitalized in India alone.
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In the last year alone,
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thousands of users in 170 countries
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have mapped millions of pieces of information,
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and created a map of a level of detail never thought viable.
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And this was made possible by
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the power of passionate users everywhere.
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Let's look at some of the maps
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being created by users right now.
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So, as we speak, people are mapping the world
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in these 170 countries.
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You can see Bridget in Africa who just mapped a road in Senegal.
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And, closer to home, Chalua, an N.G. road in Bangalore.
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This is the result of computational geometry,
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gesture recognition, and machine learning.
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This is a victory of thousands of users,
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in hundreds of cities,
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one user, one edit at a time.
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This is an invitation to the 70 percent
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of our unmapped planet.
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Welcome to the new world.
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(Applause)
02:46

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Lalitesh Katragadda - Engineer
Lalitesh Katragadda builds tools that help groups of people compile information to build something greater than the sum of its parts. His latest fascination: collaborative maps.

Why you should listen

Lalitesh Katragadda is a software engineer at Google, working on geo-data, machine vision, machine learning and space robotics. Before joining Google, Lalitesh founded a robotics startup that was acquired by Google. At Google, Lalitesh co-founded Google India and was its founding Joint Center Head for two years. He co-started several projects including Google Finance and Hindi Transliteration, and is now working on maps.

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