Google Maps is now listing public food shelters and public night shelters across 30 cities on its platform in India. The new feature that is aimed to help citizens during the COVID-19 outbreak, is initially available in English. However, Google is working towards enabling the experience in Hindi as well. Users just need to have the Google Maps app on their smartphone to search for their nearby public food shelters or public night shelters. Alternatively, the enhanced searching is also available through Google Search or the Google Assistant available on smartphones and KaiOS-based feature phones such as the Jio Phone.
To surface results for food and night shelters, Google is working closely with state and central government authorities. The government's citizen engagement platform MyGov revealed the latest update through its Twitter account on Sunday. Google also confirmed its presence by releasing a press statement on Monday.
Users on Google Maps, Google Search, or Google Assistant can search for public shelters by simply searching for “Food shelters in [city name]” or “Night shelters in [city name]”. The feature is initially available in English, though it will also soon go live in Hindi.
Since most of the users who'll need to search for their nearby public food or night shelters aren't likely to have a smartphone, Google has also enabled the experience for Jio Phone users through the available Google Assistant access. The search giant is also working on expanding the experience to other Indian languages and adding additional shelters in more cities across the country over the coming weeks. Google also doesn't seem be offering night or food shelter details via its Google Assistant Vodafone Idea Phone Line service that could actually be very useful for people who don't have a smartphone. We have reached out to Google to find out when it is planning to add the same feature to Phone Line service.
Additionally, Google has plans to bring access to the search feature through quick-access shortcuts that will appear beneath the search bar of the Google Maps app, shortcuts on Google Maps on KaiOS feature phones, and food and night shelter pins appear on the map by default when the Google Maps app is first opened.
“Highlighting the locations of food and night shelters on Google Maps is a step to make this information easily available to the users in need, and ensure they can avail the food and shelter services being provided by the government authorities,” said Anal Ghosh, Senior Program Manager, Google India, in the statement. “With the help of volunteers, NGOs, and traffic authorities, we hope to convey this important information to the affected people, many of whom may not have access to a smartphone or mobile device during this time.”
In late March, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced the development of a custom map on Google Maps to highlight the location of Hunger Relief Centres run by the Delhi government. These Centres offer free lunch and dinner between 12-3pm and 6-9pm on a daily basis.
To help fulfil food home delivery requirements of the masses, Google Maps also added a Delivery option that sits next to the existing Petrol, and Coffee shortcuts. Users can access the Google Maps app on their smartphones to view the nearby takeaway-supporting restaurants, grocery stores, and chemist shops during the nationwide lockdown.