By 2020, foodies will be able to track down their favourite hawker stall with Google Maps, thanks to a joint initiative by the search engine giant, the National Heritage Board, National Environment Agency and Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore. Stalls in all 114 hawker centres will be mapped, giving more than 6,000 hawkers an online presence. The effort is laudable, helping hawkers gain a foothold in the digital world. It is also an impressive demonstration of what Singapore can accomplish when its vaunted infrastructure and agencies are harnessed in pursuit of a common goal. This is another step in the bid to have hawker culture inscribed in the Unesco Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The next question that arises is how often Google Maps will update this digital record. Foodies who have chased their favourite stalls across locations over the years will know that hawkers can shut down on a whim. Even the lauded Michelin Guide failed to track some of the hawkers named in its inaugural 2016 Bib Gourmand listing.