Mikel Maron posted a great followup to my web2.0 expo talk, explaining the extent of the problem in more detail as well as discussing what is being done to fix it.
The example I gave in my talk was how the Red Cross couldn’t navigate after Katrina because they depended on Google Maps, which was (and still is) out of date. The bridge was destroyed, but Google (and Yahoo, and your mapping GPS, etc) all say it’s still there.
“It’s not just Google, but every major web mapping provider that’s out of date. Here is Yahoo giving directions over the bridge. The issue is with the data providers, Navteq and TeleAltas, whose business processes insert huge delays between reality and its representation catching up. Yes, there are efforts right now to rebuild the physical bridge, but that doesn’t excuse a huge obvious mistake from persisting for over 1.5 years.
This model of collecting and distributing mapping data is fundamentally broken. Basic geo-information about this world is too important and changing too fast to be in the hands of closed off corporations. Of course, there is another way, where the loop between users of data and contributors of data is closed (in an open way), and where the time data was collected and updated is transparent.”
I highly recommend checking out his blog!