I saw some tweets about this last week and an odd op-ed in the Times (Directions Worth a Click), but now the offical word is out. Google announced the partnership on its Google Lat Lon Blog and the World Bank put out a press release. Sadly, there is already some really confused coverage of the topic (I'm looking at you ReadWriteWeb!) so let's get the facts. From the blog post:
Under this agreement, the World Bank will act as a conduit to make Google Map Maker source data more widely and easily available to government organizations in the event of major disasters, and also for improved planning, management, and monitoring of public services provision.
World Bank partner organizations, which include government and United Nations agencies, will be able to contact World Bank offices for possible access to the Google Map Maker data for their various projects. World Bank country offices in Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Moldova, Mozambique, Nepal, and Haiti plan to pilot the Map Maker agreement.
Now, let's address some possible confusion. The data is Google's. It's not open to the world under a free data license like OpenStreetMap is. Google makes its data tiles available via its APIs (with have their own restrictions and sometimes, fees). The Map Maker data is not open source (because that license is for software). Oh, and Google's mapping APIs are not open source either!
What i'm curious about it how the World Bank will decide if a requestor can have access to the data. Is it only during an emergency? Or when one is expected? Or is is for longterm planning for such emergencies? In either case, with a positive decision, I guess data would be delivered in KML. It's my recall that in the past there were times Google directly made that data available to certain responders during an emergency. I see this an an extension of that good deed.
The other thing I'm curous about is under what sort of terms (license) Google/The World Bank will hand over the data. WIll it be sharable to NGOs? To citizens? Can it be used on say Esri software?
Now, all those questions are moot if these countries choose to use OpenStreetMap, now in transition to an ODBL license, but with a very open one (Creative Commons) now. I'd prefer The World Bank go with a more open solution like OpenStreetMap so even more people can help in building these maps and using them for good. But, the Bank went another way. Maybe one day Google and/or The World Bank will chose an opener solution.