Digital maps on the internet are offering residents a convenient way of finding daily life information for work and leisure. A detailed location of public facilities, including leisure and recreational spots and other useful land-based information, is only one click away in the websites the Survey and Mapping Office provides as part of its improvement initiative. People can simply search for street and building names, addresses, places of interest such as shops and restaurants or property listings. Census statistics and photographs of scenic spots are also available online. The breakthrough was made in 1999 when the mapping office collaborated with its business partners, Centaline Property Agency and PCCW Directories, to launch two internet mapping platforms under its Mapping Information Services through the Internet (MISI) scheme. The office supplies up-to-date bilingual digital map data, address references and public services while each business partner builds a website to deliver the maps and other add-on information to the public online. The joint ventures enable flexible and quicker adoption of new technology to improve on the provision of seamless map services. Centaline and PCCW Directories also use their business and marketing expertise to respond to market needs. Simon Cheung Yick-wai, managing director of Centamap, which is a Centaline subsidiary, says the internet mapping platform provides a convenient and efficient service to easily access information. He says its website was first developed as a community map, based on digital data from the mapping office. Centamap includes property news such as transactions and project information to upgrade its online service. The project has helped raise Centaline's goodwill and exposure, he says. 'In the past four years, the website has attracted heavy traffic with average daily page views of about 170,000,' he says. 'The platform has become a very good marketing tool for Centaline Property to promote its core property-related business.' Aley Chang, business development vice-president at PCCW Directories, says the digital mapping platform offers a comprehensive range of services, such as public transport information. The average page view for ypmap.com is more than eight million per month. 'The SMO has been very supportive. In addition to the application of digital maps, PCCW Directories has sought advice from the Survey and Mapping Office to facilitate product development,' he says. Mr Chang says services will be enhanced as technology advanced, enabling applications such as wireless mapping next year. From their business and technology perspectives, Centaline and PCCW Directories have brought vast and useful applications of the government's digital maps to Hong Kong and the global community. With a commitment towards the project, seven types of data services have been incorporated - education, leisure, medical, public services and facilities, religion, transportation and tourism - in www.centamap.com and www.ypmap.com sites developed by Centaline and PCCW Directories, respectively. The two sites are designed with user-friendly interfaces, powerful location search functions and 24-hour services. Since the websites were launched in November 1999, they have been gaining popularity and are highly regarded by the public. Both companies strive to bring new features, yet different commercial functions, to their mapping websites through the adoption of different business strategies for the development of their sites. In April last year, PCCW Directories extended the MISI's contract with the government for another three-year term. With PCCW Directories' aspirations to explore the internet mapping technology, it will continue to realise its industry mission and serve the community via www.ypmap.com . On the other hand, Centaline joined the internet map permittee scheme, which will enable it to continue its vision in the development of online services to the public as before through www.centamap.com . People can search for geographical information through a number of identifying choices including building name, address, street intersection and map co-ordinates. Government departments, utility companies, engineering consultants, property developers and educational institutions extensively use the maps. The internet platforms provide a map guide with the usual browsing, zooming and panning functions for finding places of interest by roaming across the digital maps on the computer screen. The Survey and Mapping Office, with its partners, will continue to enrich the content of the two internet sites by integrating more information on facilities and amenities into the mapping platform.