News / Africa

Google Leads Effort to Get South Sudan on Map

Sudanese children displaced from their homes in the rebel stronghold of Kauda take shelter in the hills surrounding the town in the Nuba mountains as they flee with their families from government bombardment, June 30, 2011
Sudanese children displaced from their homes in the rebel stronghold of Kauda take shelter in the hills surrounding the town in the Nuba mountains as they flee with their families from government bombardment, June 30, 2011
Gabe Joselow

To help south Sudan prepare for independence, Internet giant Google is training volunteers to help improve maps of the new country. While the initiative aims to facilitate development in the south, it also could have political implications.

What is a country without a map? On the brink of independence, south Sudan lacks a lot of basic information about its own towns and communities.

Now, a project organized by Google, the World Bank and other organizations is recruiting volunteers with local knowledge of the region to fill in the gaps.

France Lamy, program director for Google.org, explained the system at a "mapping Sudan" conference in Nairobi.

"Map Maker is a web mapping collaborative platform, which combines high resolution imagery while also allowing the communities to map features that they know such as schools, roads, hospitals, using high-resolution imagery as background information," said Lamy. "So this is to map basic infrastructures."

Here’s how it works. Pretty much anybody with Internet access can add information to Google’s satellite map images using Map Maker.  They click on a building and identify it as a school. Or click on a stretch of road and write in the name. The information is checked and verified by other volunteers.

In south Sudan in particular, the point is to help improve maps so that the government can identify where services like schools and hospitals are most needed. It also could help non-governmental organizations and aid workers better serve the area.

"What the United Nations indicated, what was important to map, was the main cities, especially in local, rural areas, and also the transportation networks," said Lamy.

Organizers deny that the program could be used for political purposes as northern and southern Sudan battle over the future boundaries of the two countries.

But Charles Mona, who heads the south's mapping office, said the data that the Google project provides could still help the south in the border dispute.

"The data we are having, we are collecting, can show a distinct border between the north and the south, but as I was saying, some people may not accept that fact," said Mona. "So unless that political will is there, it will be not much help."

Some southern Sudanese also remain skeptical about the project.

Bol Agoot is a 25-year old economics student at Nairobi University and a native of Southern Kordofan, one of the disputed areas.

"It should start from south Sudan rather than starting from the Diaspora - we are just a group," said Agoot. "We don't know who is doing what in south Sudan. So we expect this program to be between the government and the Google and the World Bank.  But the way it is started, it looks like it is the World Bank and the Google and then later they will invite southern Sudan to join them."

The event in Nairobi was the second mapmaking conference hosted by Google and the World Bank, following a first effort in Washington in April. Organizers hope to hold the next session in south Sudan.

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs