Google, govt map food and night shelters for public during lockdown

Topics Coronavirus | Google Maps | Lockdown

Homeless people and daily wagers eat food at a government shelter during the nationwide lockdown amid coronavirus pandemic, near Nigam Bodh ghat in New Delhi | Photo: PTI
MyGov, the crowdsourcing platform of the government, Google India and the Smart Cities team have mapped public food shelters and public night shelters in 31 cities on Google Maps, in an attempt to make access to these facilities easier for the public.

To find a shelter, a user can search on Google or Google Maps for "Food Shelter Near Me" or "Night Shelter Near Me" to find the closest roof. 

The feature is likely to roll out in Hindi in a couple of days, and other languages a little later. 

"Over the last few weeks, we have seen crises like daily wage workers as well as migrants leaving cities and struggling for food and shelter on the way to their hometowns," said Anal Ghosh, Senior Program Manager, Google India.

Google worked closely with Central and State governments, coordinating with a global team to roll out the feature within a week's time, said Ghosh. 

“As the Covid-19 situation develops, we are making a concerted effort to build solutions that help people during these times of need. Highlighting the locations of food and night shelters on Google Maps is a step to make this information easily available to the  users in need, and ensure they can avail the food and shelter services being provided by the government authorities. With the help of volunteers, NGOs, and traffic authorities, we hope to convey this important information to the affected people, many of whom may not have access to a smartphone or mobile device during this time,” he added. 

In the next few weeks, Google will add features like quick-access shortcuts that will appear beneath the search bar on the Google Maps app, shortcuts on Google Maps on KaiOS feature phones, and food and night shelter pins appearing on the map by default when the Maps app is first opened.

One thing that Google had to work on was not duplicating locations on Maps, given that many shelters have been set up at already existing places on Google Maps, such as schools, Ghosh said.

Late last week, Google made available anonymized location data on the movements of people in 131 countries as a guide for public health officials during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

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