Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Director Chen Shou-Chiang, who leads the Information Management Office of DGH. Read their full story here, learn about the six ways Maps are Going Google and see what other organisations that have gone Google have to say.

Taiwan is prone to natural disasters. Earthquakes, typhoons, landslides and heavy rainfall are very common, especially during the monsoon season. As the authority in charge of Taiwan’s land transport infrastructure, the Directorate General of Highways needs to ensure the safety of road users across 7,000km of highways, 4,000 bridges and 200 tunnels.

We used to rely on civilian drivers or news media for updates on road conditions. This did not allow us to respond fast enough to emergencies. We want to be able to predict crisis situations so that we can alert motorists and the general public. We also want to know when we need to dispatch rescue teams immediately.

We were already using the free version of Google Earth for our existing web-based platform known as thb-GIS (Geographic Information System). The platform consolidated important weather and environment information across 19 government agencies and private companies. The agencies accessed the platform for safety management and disaster prevention.

However, these databases could not provide us with intelligence that we could use directly. It took time to join the data before we could use it. We wanted a solution that could overlay images, terrain and vector data over the map of Taiwan to quickly identify areas that are likely to be affected by a weather crisis.

We ran comprehensive tests to trial Google Earth Enterprise and were confident that it met our requirement for stability, performance, security and user-friendliness. Google Earth Enterprise allows us to define access rights for different groups of users. This is an important requirement if we want to share the intelligence with other agencies and the public. Our next step was to develop SafeTaiwan, a platform that overlays crucial data used in emergency response to a map of Taiwan. This gives us a rich visual dashboard that immediately provides insights for better decision-making and risk management.

With Google Earth Enterprise powering SafeTaiwan, we are now able to monitor real-time conditions on the ground. To further complement available data, we installed 2,800 CCTVs across the country, streaming live images that help us to accurately assess and prioritise our responses during emergencies. The solution improved emergency response time tremendously. Previously, it took us hours to determine the magnitude of any disaster. Today, it only takes us minutes. More importantly, it allows us to analyse historical data to help in predictive disaster management. For example, rainfall readings collected at ten-minute intervals are displayed on Google Earth Enterprise’s dashboard to forecast an approaching typhoon or flash flood. Warning signals are then sent out through SafeTaiwan to alert the public and agencies concerned.

The positive feedback we received from our employees and the public has spurred us on to continue developing the platform for greater use. We have a vision to expand the boundaries of SafeTaiwan to share data from around the region. Eventually, we want to promote greater cooperation in disaster preparedness and recovery efforts across borders. We are confident that with Google Earth Enterprise we will be up for this challenge.