CAMBRIDGE BAY, Nunavut – Stephen Harper’s not the only one who wants to put the Arctic on the map.
As Harper’s northern tour touched down in Nunavut, a team from search engine giant Google was already on the ground.
They’re working with residents of Cambridge Bay to add elements of their community to Google maps while at the same time fixing past mistakes.
The team was invited to the tiny community by a local technology expert who had attended a Google mapping seminar in Vancouver.
They’d hoped to use a specially-created tricycle to navigate the communities roads in order to take images for the maps.
“We very quickly realized both last September and during our planning that the base map of Google wasn’t very good for these communities,” said Google’s Karin Tuxen-Bettman.
“They were incomplete or the roads were wrong — the canvas we had to work on was very limited.”
So the team recruited teenagers and community elders to help fix the problems while at the same time adding places that may not have otherwise made it onto the map, like a visitor’s centre or an old stone church.
The tricycle will head out today to take the pictures.
“Images bring so much to life about a place, both from environmental and cultural perspectives,” she said.
The prime minister met briefly with some of the youngsters taking part in the project before they began a group mapping session.
Google says it’s the farthest north in the Arctic their team has ever travelled and the logistics proved to be a challenge.
Materials had to be shipped in by air and the weather has been unpredictable. The trip was planned rain or shine.
The company is also donating a set of computers so other communities in the Arctic can be trained on how to update their own maps.
Chris O’Neill, the search engine giant’s managing director in Canada, says they’re proud to be able to show the world a part of Canadian culture few have ever seen.
“We think that to establish a sense of place for a community, it’s really vital in a digital age that you’re actually on the map,” he said during a photo opportunity with the prime minister.
Google says the updated maps will be available in the next few months.
The company’s Street View maps have attracted controversy.
Two years ago, Canada’s privacy commissioner said the company broke privacy laws when it collected personal information from unsecured wireless networks in neighbourhoods across the country.
Google said collecting the data was a mistake.