Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Digital Maps---Petaluma to Peshawar and Kashmir

After painfully watching the heartbreaking scenes of carnage in Pakistani provincial capital of NWFP on TV screens, it came as a pleasant surprise to see the New York Times mention Peshawar in a different context; volunteer cartographers contributing to digital maps "from Petaluma to Peshawar". It particularly caught my attention because I have had the pleasure of visiting both of these fine cities, and I currently live not too far from the one in California.

"From Petaluma to Peshawar, these amateurs are arming themselves with GPS devices and easy-to-use software to create digital maps where none were available before, or fixing mistakes and adding information to existing ones", said the NY Times, referring to the volunteer mapmakers contributing to digital maps offered by Google, OpenStreetMaps and others. While both Google and OpenStreetMaps are community created, the main difference between the two is that OpenStreetMap provides its map data under a Creative Commons license and the maps created by users of Google Map Maker are the intellectual property of Google.

Open Street Map (OSM) is a geo project that lets anyone update it. Volunteers donate time and energy uploading GPS tracks, building supporting software, and editing the core data. OSM is growing quickly. As an open data project, OSM makes its data freely available to anyone. This enables custom mapping applications like the OSM Cycle Map. It is also being used commercially by a real estate site Nestoria and by VC-funded startup Cloudmade.

Google Maps has varying levels of coverage of the entire globe (as do its competitors like Microsoft Bing Maps and Yahoo! Maps). Most of the data that is used by Google Maps and displayed comes from Tele Atlas (owned by TomTom) and NAVTEQ (a wholly owned subsidiary of Nokia). More than year ago Google released the ability to move addresses or add a new place. With this feature any logged in user can make an edit; you can even watch the edits in a realtime viewer. If your change is accepted it will show up in Google Maps. Road geometry and address changes derived from Tele Atlas data will be sent back to Tele Atlas to help improve its information. The updated data will eventually make it into new-owner Tomtom's GPSs and potentially Google's competitors who also use Tele Atlas. The data collected via MapMaker will not be shared with Tele Atlas.

Google is gradually dropping its dependence on the traditional commercial map vendors like TeleAtlas and Navteq. Instead, it is relying on unpaid volunteers to create digital maps of 140 countries, including India, Pakistan and the Philippines, that are more complete than many maps created professionally. One such volunteer mentioned in the NY Times story is Faraz Ahmad, a 26-year-old programmer from Pakistan who now lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He took one look at the map of India and decided he did not want to see his native Pakistan left behind by its traditional rival. So he began mapping Pakistan in his free time, using information from friends, family and existing maps. Faraz Ahmad is now the top contributor to Google Map Maker, logging more than 41,000 changes.

India-Pakistan rivalry took on a new dimension when Faraz tried to work on Azad Kashmir, and he found that Map Maker wouldn’t allow it. He said his contributions were finally accepted by the Map Maker team, which is led by engineers based in India, but only after a long e-mail exchange.

At his request, Google is now preventing further changes to the disputed region, after people in India tried to make it part of their country, Faraz told the NY Times. “Whenever you have a Pakistani and an Indian doing something together, there is a political discussion or dispute.”

In addition to Faraz, there is a whole community of Pakistani volunteer programmers and mapmakers currently adding roads, streets, businesses, crossings and various points of interest (POIs) for areas for which there are no maps defined yet. Then other users approve or disapprove the additions and changes. Eventually, the maps are posted to Google maps and Google maps mobile. Fairly detailed Google maps for mobile are available today for Pakistan. Such searchable, navigable and routable digital maps are expected to help grow real estate, travel, transportation, retail, financial services, healthcare and emergency services and other service sectors.

The reason why mobile maps have come first is because of the large user base of about 80-90 million mobile phone subscribers. Pakistan has a vast data network over GSM/GPRS/EDGE and EVDO and there are no alternative street navigation systems, with the exception of fairly expensive car navigation systems costing tens of thousands of rupees. Google has a database of cell Towers in Pakistan, and with the help of these towers it identifies the location of the user in real time, within about 10 to 20 meters and sometimes up to 3000 to 4000 meters, depending upon the density of cell towers in a given area. If the mobile phone has data service enabled, the user can download the Google mobile map application from m.google.com/maps. After downloading the application and installing it, it is available in the applications folder of the mobile phone.

A number of GPS enthusiasts have also developed Garmin compatible navigation maps for Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and a few other cities in Pakistan. But it's rare to see car navigation systems in Pakistan.

As painful as it is to watch the constant media coverage of blood and terror in the streets of Pakistan, the NY Times story of volunteer cartographers and the recent Karachi Fashion Week illustrate that there is more to Pakistan than meets the eyes or reaches the ears of the passive consumers of the western and Pakistani news media.

I am glad that there are enough volunteer programmers and amateur cartographers in Pakistan to attempt to build detailed digital maps and maintain them in their spare time--without the assistance of commercial vendors like Tele Atlas and Navteq who did the same for North America and Europe at huge costs. The main contribution of the government under President Musharraf was to invest in the growth of the telecommunications, higher education, and the Internet infrastructure, a pre-requisite for online volunteer collaboration in projects such as map making. It shows what the Pakistani people are capable of doing with just a little help, in spite of the continuing institutional failures in Pakistan. As I have said before, and I repeat here again, it is better to light a candle than curse darkness.

Here's a video clip explaining Google Maps for mobile:

Related Links:

Life Goes On in Pakistan

Pakistan's Multi-billion Dollar IT Industry

Routable Maps of Karachi, Pakistan

Online Maps: Everyman Offers New Directions

Mapping Pakistan

Digitizing Pakistan

Google Maps Come to Pakistan

EVDO Pakistan

GPS Automotive Navigation in Pakistan

SatNav in Pakistan

Pakistan Cartography Wiki Project

Light a Candle, Do Not Curse Darkness


Babar Bhatti said...

Good summary article. I also recently wrote about WiMAX coverage maps at http://telecompk.net/2009/11/10/interactive-map-showing-wateens-wimax-coverage/

Riaz Haq said...


Thanks. I, too, find your blog very informative.

I visit it once in a while to keep up with telecom related developments in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

I am glad there are enough volunteer programmers and amateur cartographers in Pakistan to attempt to do something about building detailed digital maps and maintain them in their spare time....without the assistance of commercial vendors like Tele Atlas and Navteq who did the same for North America and Europe at huge costs. It shows what the Pakistani people are capable of in the face of institutional failures in Pakistan.

Shani said...

Great post! Informative and btw, keep it up :)

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan has been rated a ‘Rising Star’ in research multiple times over the last couple of years by ScienceWatch.com, a Thompson Reuters website which tracks trends and performance in research by analyzing its database of scientific papers and citations. The ‘Rising Star’ rankings are published every two months to acknowledge new entrants, by identifying the scientists, institutions, countries, and journals which have shown the largest percentage increase in total citations. In the May issue of the ratings, Pakistan was named a ‘rising star’ in two areas, ‘Materials Science’ and ‘Plant & Animal Science’. Amongst other countries of the region, Bangladesh was also listed as a rising star in ‘Computer Science’ and ‘Pharmacology & Toxicology’. Iran was named in four categories, and Qatar and UAE in one category each.

This is not the first time that Pakistan has been named in these ratings recently. In fact, Pakistan’s record has been very consistent since March 2008, the earliest ratings that are available on the website. Here’s a listing of Pakistan’s mention in the ‘rising star’ ratings:

* March 2008: Engineering, Mathematics
* May 2008: Materials Science
* July 2008: Engineering
* September 2008: Computer Science, Engineering, Materials Science, Mathematics, Plant and Animal Sciences (5 areas!)
* November 2008: Engineering
* January 2009: Computer Science
* March 2009: Computer Science
* May 2009: Materials Science, Plants and Animal Sciences
* July 2009: None

Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, the country’s top university in terms of the number of publications per year, has also been recognized as a ‘rising star’ institution, in Jan 2009 and July 2008 issues, both times in the area of ‘Engineering’.

The ratings are based on the largest percentage increase and not the absolute numbers, and therefore, cannot be used to quantify research productivity in absolute terms. However, they definitely demonstrate the trend of a substantial increase in international publications from Pakistan compared to previous years. It is very healthy that a number of different areas are covered in these past two years, showing an across the board enhancement of research productivity.

While there has been a lot of debate on the effectiveness of HEC’s reforms in higher education, at least one thing is clear: the increased emphasis on research, largely due to HEC’s programs, has started to bear fruit. These are hard numbers here, based on data by the company that maintains the largest scientific citation index in the world, and cannot be easily refuted by the nay-sayers.

Riaz Haq said...

It seems the Kashmir Google maps wars are still raging between India and Pakistan. Here's a Times of India report from Aug 2010:

NEW DELHI: The search engine Google has amended its maps to show the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India.

The correction came in response to the notice issued by minister of state for communications and IT Sachin Pilot to Google Inc for showing Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as part of the neighbouring country.

After Pilot noticed the lapse, the ministry wrote to the website that maps available through www.google.com/insights showed certain parts of J&K as part of a different country. The notice said that wrongful depiction of Indian map could attract action under Sections 69A and 79 of the IT Act.

Sources said the website had corrected the maps in its memory though a few pages would take some time to upload.

It sets right what is a sensitive issue in the country. The showing of PoK as part of Pakistan had attracted strong comments from various sections.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's WSJ blog on Indian claims to Kashmir:

OK, so everyone knows that India, like Pakistan, claims the divided region of Kashmir in its entirety.

Everyone also knows that the seven-decade stalemate that has split the Himalayan territory between India- and Pakistan-administered portions is unlikely to change any time soon.

So, why does India get so upset every time a government, company or international body fails on a map of the region, however small, to show India’s territorial claims over the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir?
India’s Ministry of External Affairs lamented the “gross inaccuracies” in the map and said it had conveyed its displeasure to the Embassy. The whole of Kashmir is an “integral part” of India, it said, and maps “should depict the boundaries of our country correctly.”

It’s one thing for a customs official insisting on black-penning the Indian version of the border onto a child’s imported globe (yes, this happened.) But for it to reach the level of official, public MEA statements is absurd.

India has become increasingly militant over its cartographic claims. Editions of The Economist magazine, including the current one, have been held up by Indian customs over objections they showed the effective borders in Kashmir rather than only India’s claims.

Why India believes other countries and international publications must show its territorial claims and not the situation on the ground is unclear, and not matched by how map-makers deal with other disputed borders.

Take the 38th Parallel, for instance, the cease-fire line that has divided the Korean peninsula since 1945. Fighting between North and South Korea ended in 1953, but the border has never been formalized. Yet South Korea doesn’t yell publicly when Google Inc.’s maps show the 38th Parallel as the nation’s effective border with North Korea.

When Google did the same thing with India last year, showing its de facto rather than claimed border with Pakistan-administered Kashmir, it caused a furor here. (Google relented and, today, if you access its maps in India, you’ll confusingly see India sharing a border with Afghanistan, which might be India’s claim but is not reality.)

It is now customary to mark a map of Kashmir with dotted lines with labels that say “controlled by Pakistan and claimed by India” and “controlled by India and claimed by Pakistan.” (China controls a part which is claimed by India, but that’s another story.)

But the U.S. State Department map, part of an A-Z of thumbnail sketches of countries with whom America has diplomatic relations, was by no means meant to show this level of detail.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi acknowledged there were “inaccuracies” and said the State Department had removed the map. But he added it “was not meant to represent the same precision and intricacies of a scientific map.”

There was much gnashing of teeth in the Indian press. One Times of India report even went so far as to claim these cartographic missteps are starting to anger not only officials but also journalists.

It’s clear that India will have to move beyond this kind of petty griping if it’s going to take the lead in a peace deal with Pakistan, an unstable country that is fast losing the support of the U.S.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made peace with Pakistan a key plank of his administration, and a settlement on Kashmir will be key.
Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, contacted by the Times of India, went as far as to say the map showed a “pro-Pakistan cartographic tilt.”....


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on Google chairman Mike Schmitt's visit to Pakistan:

Schmidt said that the demographic composition of the Pakistani population was a great national asset and the Pakistani youth was talented and eager enough to get acquainted with information technology, often on their own.

He assured the Prime Minister that his company was willing to help Pakistan to spread information technology throughout the country. He said that improved connectivity facilitated the youth in getting themselves gainfully engaged, which in turn was critical to combat extremist tendencies in society.

Partnering with Google

The Prime Minister said that he recently announced a Venture Capital Fund of US $10 million and would like Google Inc. to also contribute to it besides its Social Innovation Fund.

“I have, recently, directed the establishment of Universal Service Centers at Union Council level across Pakistan. The aim of these centers is to provide Government to Citizen and Government to Business services acting as an IT hub in rural areas. I would also like your support to make these centers successful,” the Prime Minister added.

Schmidt said that it was also important to formulate an economic development strategy.

Google has faced action from Pakistan, including threats of being blocked if it failed to cooperate in restricting access to objectionable content available on Google and its various services including video sharing social network YouTube, which was blocked in 2010. Pakistan has also sought cooperation from Google to clamp down on accounts operated for and by terrorists.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece on proposed Pak legislation to ban private maps:

The government of Pakistan is about to propose a law that would make it illegal for independent bodies to engage in mapping. The Land Surveying and Mapping Bill 2012, proposed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), transfers all mapping authority in Pakistan to Survey of Pakistan (SoP), which reports to the MoD and takes its orders from General Head Quarters (GHQ).

SoP is the national organization responsible for surveying and mapping requirements of the Armed Forces and civilian departments — in that respect, at least, its origins are similar to those of the United Kingdom's Ordnance Survey. Over the past decade, however, the advent of computer-aided cartography and the availability of satellite imagery have radically changed the realm of maps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Easy access to this kind of technology has helped individuals and organizations to support their own efforts at social and relief work.

For instance, after the floods of 2010 that devastated huge swathes of the country, relief workers created and used their own mapping resources to allocate aid efforts more effectively, thus saving many lives.

This year Umar Saif, MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 award winner, used mapping technology to detect the spread of Dengue fever in Lahore. Early detection prevented the virus from becoming an epidemic.

The Punjab government initiated an Innovation Punjab campaign with the help of Google. The campaign brings inexpensive Internet access to rural youth, with the goal of empowering the next generation of tech innovators.

During the 2010 crisis, several NGOs and relief workers mapped information using Ushahidi. If the proposed bill is passed, Google Maps and Ushahidi would be banned from Pakistan. All the hard work invested by local and international relief workers, volunteers and organizations would be in vain.

The MoD's position is that in the absence of a national law and regulatory authority for mapping, it is impossible to keep a check on unlawful activities — especially in sensitive areas. They claim that the purpose of the poposed bill is to limit potential risks to sensitive information — to prevent duplicate mapping, which they say would be a financial burden for the state and to transform the SoP into a national mapping agency. Since mapping data can be obtained easily from non-governmental sources, this undermines the logic of the MoD's case. There is also the question of whether a ban on mapping can prevent "unlawful activities in sensitive areas."

Online maps and satellite imagery, GPS-enabled devices and in-car navigation are all easily accessible in Pakistan.

If the bill passes in to law, the SoP will be the regulatory body controlling all mapping activities. Any other body wishing to create a map will have to apply for permission to do so — and can expect to have their activities and their outputs controlled as a result.

The bill also assigns responsibility for various parts of the mapping infrastructure (such as survey markers) to regional and district administrative bodies. Those who remember the woeful ineffectiveness of those bodies during the floods of 2010 may wonder whether such a transfer is either wise or practical. In addition to installing itself as the single point of control for all mapping activity, the MoD will also delegate to the Pakistan Army responsibility for enforcing the bill.

Thus, we have the MoD undertaking to do something it did not do before, the local administrations having to do things they did not do before, and the Army having to keep track of it all on the ground. ....


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a World Bank report on digital youth summit in Peshawar, Pakistan:

"In Peshawar?" was a common reaction by confused members of the Pakistani and international technology community when told about the location of the country's first Digital Youth Summit (DYS). The city's reputation is often unfairly dominated by insecurity, yet over 300 young men and women from across Pakistan showed up to the two-day conference this week, making it the largest youth tech conference in the country and marking Peshawar's emergence as a hub of innovation and technology.

More than 60% of Pakistanis are under the age of 30 and while unemployment is rising, it is not possible for the government to provide jobs in the public sector to this huge mass of youth. On the other hand, a youth-led national and organic movement is growing, changing perceptions about "secure" public sector jobs and creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurship, freelance jobs, and technology. Peshawar is at the helm of this change.

Starting with a civic hackathon in January 2014, 150 young techies from across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP) demonstrated their energy and creativity for solving prevalent civic issues through technology. Twelve winners of the hackathon became fellows at the government of KP’s Information Technology Board (KPITB) and began developing their own civic startups. Their prototypes from the hackathon are now turning into full-fledged apps. "Traditionally we wait for governments to solve citizens' problems. This helps citizens solve government’s problems, which hurt all of society," said Muhammad Ibraheem, one of the fellows. His team’s app, No Kunda, allows citizens to take pictures of electricity theft they see in their community and report them to authorities. Another, DocSeek, aims to be a “Yelp for government health facilities in KP”, enabling residents to easily find nearby government health facilities, complete with user reviews.

The fellows presented their apps and experiences at the Digital Youth Summit as one of the summit’s 28 sessions over two days. Over 66 speakers from across Pakistan and the world converged to engage with local youth on topics of fostering innovation, startups and freelancing jobs through the digital economy. The participants included innovators, entrepreneurs, and an exciting group from emerging startup communities. Youth interested in building digital livelihoods heard from investors on how to attract funding, practical tips on writing proposals, and the opportunities available to become part of a global digital economy, such as through micro-work. Along with the sessions, there was an expo of digital innovators showcasing their products. The attendees cherished the opportunity to meet successful entrepreneurs, with sessions consistently running out of time for questions, and speakers swamped after the sessions by aspiring young innovators.

Many of the attendees (as well as some speakers) were university students, and common questions touched on the practical tools and networks required to set up their own ventures, particularly in an environment where many people do not consider freelancing and digital work to be ‘real jobs’. One session, on enterprise planning proved so popular that it was repeated for those who could not attend the first time. In addition to youth meeting inspirational role models, they also met each other to share ideas. Madiha Hassan founder of Pakistan’s first ridesharing app, Savaree, and described as a local digital ‘rock star’, said, “I attend tech conferences around Pakistan where I see amazing people, but it’s always the same, established people.” The DYS she said, allowed her “to see entrepreneurs my age and connect with them.”


Riaz Haq said...

On Digital Divide:

On this uneven landscape (averaging two years of quarterly data from 2010-2011), Israel produced almost as many edits (215,333) as the rest of the region put together (254,089).

Graham and Zook have also tried to measure information density in the geoweb by looking at what Google indexes about a place (after all, this is Google’s mission statement: to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"). The process is a bit meta. "We just ask Google Maps how much it knows about any particular place," Graham says, "and it returns that information." The researchers essentially set up a computer script that visits hundreds of thousands of points on the world’s surface, conducts a search for indexed content related to that point on Google, then stores the results in a database.

"By aggregating all of that data," Graham says, "we can see interesting patterns about which parts of the world people are looking at and which parts of the world people aren’t looking at it."

The results show, for instance, that the Tokyo metropolitan region is more densely layered with digital content than all of Africa. ....

That picture raises the old question posed by those 19th century maps of Africa: What happens to the people who aren't on the map, or who are barely represented at all? "What I worry is that what this will start to do is simply reinforce the divides and the differences between the haves and the have-nots, the cores and the peripheries," Graham says. “It’s most worrying for the places that are essentially off the map – or not in the database.”

Think, for example, of a sandwich shop in a Detroit neighborhood on the other side of the digital divide that has no website, no Yelp reviews, no little red balloon on Google Maps. How do people find it? Surely this form of invisibility is bad for business. Graham offers up another example from his own research in East Africa, where he has studied how the Internet has impacted the tourism industry. He interviewed a Kenyan tour operator about why he recently started offering trips to Rwanda.

So what’s the solution to all of this? How do we avert a world where beneficial new digital tools perversely wind up reinforcing real-world inequality, obscuring some communities while portraying others in depth? Graham doesn’t know exactly what this might look like, but it might help, he suggests, if the platforms that we use to access information did a better job of telling us what they don’t know. Think, for instance, of all the Wikipedia pages begging for more information. What if the whole geoweb were populated with empty placeholders that announced "something belongs here about the Rwandan tourism industry, but no one has filled it in yet"?

"This isn’t a new challenge in cartography, to sort of represent the unknown," Graham says. "Mapmakers have been doing this for centuries. But we look to maps because we want to see what’s there, not what’s not there."


Riaz Haq said...

From Tuesday, Google is cutting user edits from its Maps after admitting that it simply can't prevent online tricksters from abusing the system.

Last month, the firm was forced to make some quick edits after a user noticed that someone had created a mythical park in Pakistan in the shape of the Android mascot robot relieving itself over an Apple logo. Another user spotted a similar bit of graffiti proclaiming "Google review policy is crap," and the firm has now decided to take action.

"A strong user in our community chose to go and create a large scale prank on the Map," said Pavithra Kanakarajan from the Google Map Maker team in a forum post.

"As a consequence, we suspended auto-approval and user moderation across the globe, till we figured out ways to add more intelligent mechanisms to prevent such incidents. All of our edits are currently going through a manual review process."

While manual editing appears to be solving the problem there's no way Google's engineers can keep up, he explained, and any new edits were just adding to a backlog of things that need to be checked. So no more edits will be accepted until Google has worked out how.

"While this is a very difficult, short term decision, we think this will help us get to a better state faster," Kanakarajan said. "More importantly, we believe it is simply the right thing to do to all of you, our valued users who continue to edit with the hope that your changes might go live as fast as you've been used to."

Plus it saves on embarrassing headlines, too. Kanakarajan didn't specify a deadline for resuming edits


Riaz Haq said...

Cartographers beware: #India warns of $15 million fine for maps it doesn't like. #Kashmir #Pakistan #China #Modi


Let's start with a basic fact: India claims much more land than it controls.

Thus, any map of India and its neighbors makes an inherently political statement based on how it depicts their borders. The issue is particularly thorny because the border disputes are with India's great rivals: Pakistan and China.

On Thursday, a draft law reflecting India's sensitivity over maps was uploaded by the government online before being swiftly removed for reasons unknown. The draft law would define how India's international borders are drawn once and for all, and punish offenders with up to seven years in jail or fines ranging from $150,000 to $15 million. It would also require all individuals and companies producing maps in India, and all Indian citizens doing so globally, to procure a license from the government.

Pakistan and India both claim jurisdiction over the entirety of Jammu and Kashmir, an area that spans fertile plains, lush foothills, towering Himalayan mountains and the alpine barrens of the Tibetan Plateau. It is also the theater of India and Pakistan's defining conflict, which has led to three wars and once brought the subcontinent surprisingly close to the verge of mutual nuclear annihilation. Both nations occupy parts of Kashmir and station hundreds of thousands of troops there, mostly along the incredibly tense Line of Control (LoC) that serves as the de facto border.

China also claims — and controls — a sizable chunk of (what was once) Kashmir known as Aksai Chin, which it subsumed after handily defeating India in a 1962 war. The border there is slightly more definitive, which is reflected in the name India uses for it: the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China also claims almost all of another Indian state called Arunachal Pradesh, which stretches between Bhutan and Myanmar. China refers to it as "South Tibet." India administers the state, and Chinese incursions are very rare.

The map that India wants the world to see, of course, bestows it all these disputed regions. If it actually becomes law, it would certainly complicate the operations of technology companies that rely on maps, such as Google and Uber. Already, Google shows different borders to users in different countries. From the United States, India's disputed borders are shown on the website as dotted lines.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s first homemade #Digital Mapping Solution to be launched. #Telenor


Telenor Pakistan and TPL Trakker have joined hands to introduce Pakistan’s first homemade digital mapping solution.

According to local media reports, a Memorendum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the two tech firms, under which TPL Maps has been launched. “TPL Maps has been created using state of the art technology that will not only provide real time intelligent routing but also give users access to live traffic updates, turn-by-turn navigation and smart search options,” said the app description on Telenor Apps.

The app features smart search option that has over 1.35 million Points of Interests (POIs) which allows users to reach their desired destination by choosing the POIs from across Pakistan. The homemade TPL Maps covers over 500 cities and 800,000 distinct housing addresses, which are spread over a road network of 280,000 km.

Whereas, the Pakistani made TPL Maps also includes 2D models of over 55,000 POIs which helps users identify and reach their desired location in the shortest time period possible.

“We have developed Pakistan’s first comprehensive digital mapping solution via Pakistani talent and resources because we believe a localize, in depth mapping solution for Pakistan will define the future of digital payments, ecommerce, 3G/ 4G and social networking activities. TPL Maps, equipped with smart features, will offer services that will change the future of consumer behavior, navigation, distribution process management, advertising and many other areas alongside navigation and maps related services,” said Ali Jameel, CEO TPLTrakker.

The maps app allows any smart phone carrier to choose the best route on the back of latest navigation technology and thorough traffic information, which provides accurate, real-time traffic information from over 200,000 GPS equipped vehicles.

Riaz Haq said...

Google Maps #Pakistan Rival TPL Trakker to Expand in Three Countries: #Bangladesh #Iran #SriLanka http://bloom.bg/2csgtw1 via @markets

Pakistan’s largest tracking service provider is planning to expand its mapping service to Bangladesh, Iran and Sri Lanka within three years to cater to the under-served countries with a combined population larger than Eurozone.
“My short-term objective is not to look at maps just for Pakistan, but for all areas where people are not active,” TPL Trakker Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Muhammad Ali Jameel said in an interview in Karachi. “We will become a significant player in the mapping space.”
The company, which rivals Alphabet Inc.’s Google map business, is aiming to make its app one of the most frequently used mobile applications by providing services such as food delivery and e-commerce. Started in Pakistan last month, TPL’s maps will begin generating revenue in six months. The application will be free for users with the company planning to sell advertisement space.
“The objective is to have world class maps and have data that is semi-local, but will have better quality than anybody else,” said Jameel. “The objective is to get people hooked onto the maps because of the features.”
TPL Trakker’s stock rose 2 percent, the most in a week, to 12.3 rupees at close in Karachi on Friday. Shares have fallen 17.6 percent this year, compared with a 21 percent gain in the nation’s benchmark index.

Navigation System
The company also supplies maps to cars sold by Toyota Motor Corp.’s Pakistan unit as part of its navigation system. TPL plans to add the service to another automobile company by June, Jameel said. The company is seeking to boost revenue to as much as 12 billion rupees ($114 million) in four years from 2 billion rupees, he said.
Google Maps which started over a decade ago as a desktop mapping service has become one of the search engine’s most-used smartphone global app products offering satellite imagery and street maps. The market leader provides live traffic data in 60 countries and constantly adds newer features customized to each location.

The U.S. company has run into hurdles with authorities of some nations. Google’s camera-mounted cars were to roam Indian cities collecting imagery from roads and public locations for its free Street View service but the nation’s Home Ministry rejected plans in June. Indian security agencies have expressed apprehensions as the country has had multiple terrorist incidents with attackers extensively photographing targets in advance.
“Mapping is a sensitive business,” says Jameel. “It’s a sensitive business that is not regulated but can be regulated.”
Jameel got permission earlier this year for Pakistan after applying eight years ago with the government’s mapping organization called Survey of Pakistan. The group also plans to start construction of a high-end residential building in Pakistan’s commercial capital in January after listing its property business, which includes an office building that fetches the highest rent in Karachi, according to Jameel. Property prices have more than doubled since 2012 in the coastal city that’s recovering from decades of sectarian violence, bombings and kidnappings.

Riaz Haq said...

For more than 70 years, India and Pakistan have waged sporadic and deadly skirmishes over control of the mountainous region of Kashmir. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict, including three just this month.



Both sides claim the Himalayan outpost as their own, but Web surfers in India could be forgiven for thinking the dispute is all but settled: The borders on Google’s online maps there display Kashmir as fully under Indian control. Elsewhere, users see the region’s snaking outlines as a dotted line, acknowledging the dispute.

Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information,” but it also bends it to its will. From Argentina to the United Kingdom to Iran, the world’s borders look different depending on where you’re viewing them from. That’s because Google — and other online mapmakers — simply change them.

With some 80 percent market share in mobile maps and over a billion users, Google Maps has an outsize impact on people’s perception of the world — from driving directions to restaurant reviews to naming attractions to adjudicating historical border wars.

And while maps are meant to bring order to the world, the Silicon Valley firm’s decision-making on maps is often shrouded in secrecy, even to some of those who work to shape its digital atlases every day. It is influenced not just by history and local laws, but also the shifting whims of diplomats, policymakers and its own executives, say people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss internal processes.

“Our goal is always to provide the most comprehensive and accurate map possible based on ground truth,” Ethan Russell, director of product management for Google Maps, said in a statement sent through spokeswoman Winnie King. “We remain neutral on issues of disputed regions and borders, and make every effort to objectively display the dispute in our maps using a dashed gray border line. In countries where we have local versions of Google Maps, we follow local legislation when displaying names and borders.”

King declined to make any Google Maps officials available for an interview.

Now 15 years old, Google Maps has become one of the most-used and recognizable products for the search engine giant. Maps are a big business for Google, in line to generate as much as $3.6 billion in annual sales by next year, primarily through advertising, according to RBC analysts. Google also licenses its maps to any number of location-based companies like Uber and Yelp, widening its particular vision of the world to even more people. As Google packs its maps with ever more information, subtle changes can alter people’s daily lives. Software algorithms that reroute drivers away from freeways can cause traffic jams in residential neighborhoods or drive desired foot traffic away from retailers.

Apple Maps is the second most popular among mobile users, according to estimates, with about 10 to 12 percent of the market. Bing Maps, a division of Microsoft, controls a diminutive slice of the online map market.

Apple is responsive to local laws with respect to border and place name labeling, said Jacqueline Roy, a spokeswoman. “We are taking a deeper look at how we handle disputed borders in our services and may make changes in the future as a result.” Microsoft defers to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations or academics, among others, regarding borders, or it otherwise indicates a border is disputed, according to its cartographic policy.