DHAKA: Google on Monday urged governments to get better at sharing information to allow citizens and first responders to make better use of the Internet during natural disasters.
At a conference in quake-prone Japan, Rachel Whetstone, the firm’s senior vice president of public policy and communications, said some countries hesitate over disclosing data.
She said this prevents civil society from creating new services to help citizens in need, reports daily Hurriyet.
‘We certainly have found access to data has enormously improved many of our products, including maps’, she said at Google’s ‘Big Tent’ conference, designed to discuss issues related to the Internet and society.
Roughly 430 participants gathered for the first ‘Big Tent’ in Asia, held in this northern city, which was badly hit by the deadly earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
‘We are still seeing quite a few governments globally who are quite closed with their data. If we could have... greater access to that data, I think we could do even more amazing things’, Whetstone said.
Tokyo was criticised for not publishing data it had as reactors at Fukushima went into meltdown, spreading radiation over a large area and forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.
Public officials have said they were worried about sowing panic with information that was not readily understandable.
Engineers at the Google event also complained how Japan initially released radiation contamination data in PDF format, making it difficult for scientists around the world to easily edit and analyse them.
The global rush to access the data also caused the science ministry’s servers to crash, prompting private IT firms and academics to scramble to help disseminate the data in easy-to-use formats with English translations.
‘Scientists were very eager to attack this data if it could be organised’, Brian McClendon, Google vice president of technology.
Google strengthened its disaster response operations after Hurricane Katrina hit the southern United States in 2005.
BDST: 1927 HRS, JUL 2, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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