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B.C. first in Canada to give Google its maps

Internet service will provide full aerial views
Marke Andrews, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, July 19, 2008

An overhead view of Port Alberni illustrates what can happen when government works with an Internet mapping service.

The right side of the image on this page depicts what Google Earth and Google Maps showed before entering into an agreement with the B.C. provincial government: Streets are identified, and you can make out green space and built-up sections, but the map is vague on details.

On the left side of the image is what you can see with the government's help: A high-definition view in which houses and commercial buildings can be picked out and, zooming in, you can make out individual trees in all that green space.

On Friday, Agriculture and Lands Minister Stan Hagen announced GeoBC, a government organization, will provide 24/7 access to the province's geographic database in partnership with Google. This information will be available online at geobc.gov.bc.ca and from Google Earth.

This makes B.C. the first government in Canada to supply Google with access to its information.

At the touch of a computer button, residents and tourists can check out an area before hitting the road, and industry executives and entrepreneurs can scout a location to see if it's a viable place to set up shop.

A mining executive wanting to check out an area in northern B.C. can get aerial and 3-D images of the area, and also find information from GeoBC's provincial geographic warehouse about such things as mineral potential, the existing road network and transmission lines, as well as existing constraints on land use, such as wildlife habitat, first nations treaty settlement issues, and the existence of trap lines.

"A question we get asked quite a bit is, 'Where are the power lines?' " said Mark Zacharias, acting assistant deputy minister for GeoBC. "If you're going to have a development, you will need access to the grid, so this gives you that."

Zacharias said that by making this available on Google Earth, "not only will you be able to zoom in on an area and get a high-resolution view, you'll also be able to download about 600 different themes from the provincial [geographic] data warehouse."

In a statement, Hagen said that this information "is essential for decision-makers, and we hope to see this information drive innovation and new business opportunities in B.C."

Zacharias said having this information on Google "will make it that much easier for citizens, business interests, environmental groups or anyone interested in coming here to be able to look at B.C., query what they want to look at and get the answer they want."

He also said that GeoBC hopes to have 200 of the themes posted by the fall, with the full 600 themes available in early 2009.

While Friday's announcement is the first partnership between a Canadian government and Google, digital mapping expert Ron Lake expects more will follow.

"I think we'll see something like this all over the world," said Lake, CEO and chairman of Galdos Systems Inc. and an organizer of next week's GeoWeb conference, Monday to Friday at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

"With the introduction of high-resolution aerial photography, 3-D city models and ground-level photography, you can see things at a scale that matters for urban planning or urban development," said Lake.

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