When Maria Kottermair saw so many social media posts asking if certain restaurants, grocery stores and other public services remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, she knew she could help.

That's how www.mapguam.com came to be.

It's an online map that connects residents with public service agencies and businesses trying to survive in the COVID-19 economic climate.

It's a free service for the community, Kottermair said.

By simply clicking on areas of the map, residents can see which restaurant nearest their home is open for food delivery or whether their favorite grocery store, pharmacy or bank has new hours of operation.

There are more than 150 features in the map from about 50 different contributors, according to Kottermair.

"Some of the early contributors include the owners of McKraut's, Kadu and Mosa's restaurants, Rexall Drugs, Pay-Less and ABC Stores, to name a few," she said.

Anybody who wants to contribute can populate the map, Kottermair said.

"It’s free. All they have to do is fill out a simple form on the website with information about the type of business, location, hours, contact information etc.," she said.

Judging from social media, most people seem to be interested in restaurants and grocery stores, she said, but there is also an option for banks, service providers, and other types of services or businesses.

The map is similar to Google Maps but with up-to-date information on business hours and features, as well as roadblocks.

Passion, profession

Kottermair has lived on Guam for 20 years, and works for the Research Corporation of the University of Guam as a geographic information specialist.

"Mapping is my passion and profession," she said.

Victor Robert Hara Torres, a former geographic information specialist manager at the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans, assisted.

"What makes this map special...it is a snapshot in time of part of Guam's response to this pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus," he said.

The last pandemic that affected Guam was the 1918 Spanish flu, of which 5% of the population was lost, he said.

"Military transport ships brought flu-infected passengers to Guam. Archaeologists occasionally unearth remains associated with this pandemic," Torres said.

Fast forward to 2020, this online map provides the community with updated information on the availability of businesses, restaurants, and services available during this COVID-19 lockdown, he said.

With Torres and Kottermair's knowledge, expertise and willingness to help in this time of crisis, they got the Guam Community Map going. 

"It is a crowd-sourcing effort, so anybody can contribute information," Kottermair said.

Beyond COVID-19

The current map is only a start, Kottermair said.

"This map can be expanded beyond the shutdown and improved based on feedback," Kottermair said. "It really is a community initiative and up to the business and consumer community to take ownership of it."

Torres said the longer-term goal is to update the government's geographical information system map layers for future use.

"Right now, some of those data layers are not current," he said. "Especially with regards to businesses such as restaurants and convenience stores. This process would help update them."

Torres, who retired from GovGuam in 2013 but continues to keep up with mapping, land use planning and coastal management, said updating of map data layers must be a continuous process.

Community-assisted mapping that mapguam.com does, helps with that process, Torres said.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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