Earlier this year, Microsoft Bing team announced its plans to tap the potential of local businesses in developing nations like Brazil where maps are not available in the way they are available in countries like the USA, UK, etc,. A Microsoft team in Brazil has started a project to start building out this mapping infrastructure in the town of favelas and the team is seeking to build the necessary infrastructure to enable the many parties necessary for the communities to fully participate in the digital town square in ways that many of us in the developed online world take for granted. This project has been named ‘Na Area’ and officially kicked off from today.
200,000 people live in Vidigal, Complexo de Maré, and Manguinhos. There are approximately 863 million people, or 1/3 of urban dwellers, that live in informal settlements around the world – much like the favelas of Brazil. As is the case in many countries, the Brazilian favelas are often right in the middle of major metropolitan areas, yet their increasingly vibrant attractions, landmarks, civic buildings, restaurants, clubs, and hotels, are opaque to people from outside the area, because these spots aren’t indexed by search engines. The goal of the project was to help bring these communities to the web to open up a vast number of opportunities for them to fully participate in their national economy and the broader global economy.
This is an immense effort, requiring many partners and players to make it a reality. We’re very pleased to report that the project is moving forward and is now bearing fruit. Through partnerships with Instituto Municipal de Urbanismo Pereira, Nós do Morro, Vidigalo, and Observatório de Favelas, Bing has been able to work with these communities themselves to begin capturing data. We have gathered thirty times the points of interest previously reported on Bing in our pilot favelas. Details on those locations are now appearing on local searches on PCs and mobile in the Brazilian market.
This project is truly a community effort. One element of the project that we’re excited about is a project with Nós do Morro in Complexo de Maré, which worked with a group of youth to teach them photography on some Nokia Lumia phones, so that these youth could capture the parts of their neighborhoods that are important to them. It is this combination of Bing’s technology with the local knowledge and pride in local communities that makes the prospects of this effort so promising.
Read more from Bing blog.