South Sudan’s independence was widely publicized because it officially marked the end of a long civil war that claimed millions of lives. It was a landmark moment in African history, where a continent welcomed a new member to the African Union. A new nation also meant a new neighbor and trading partner to over nine countries in the region.
However, even as the country celebrates three months of statehood, South Sudan was yet to be cartographically represented by mapping organizations like Google. Google continued to represent Sudan as one country.
The oversight caught the eye of VOA reporter John Tanza Mabusu, himself a South Sudanese. “When South Sudan was declared an independent nation, we were all exited,” he says. Tanza decided to visit the online maps only to discover neither Google nor the other sites had updated their database to reflect the emergence of the new nation.
“There was no mention of South Sudan,” he says. Tanza then took it upon himself to ensure the error was rectified. He went online and launched a petition that received 1,600 signatures. It called on Google and other mapping sites like yahoo and Microsoft to show South Sudan as a separate nation from its neighbor to the North.
It was not long before the online drive caught the attention of Google. The search engine promptly made the necessary changes placing newly independent South Sudan on its web maps. “I don’t want to make a big deal of this,” says Tanza. “But it’s a small contribution towards achieving nationhood. Nation building is a long process, and there are the small steps you need to achieve on an individual basis.”
Tanza has received wide coverage of his campaign from his countrymen and media organizations around the world. But he shies away from taking full credit. “I have been receiving congratulatory messages for taking this initiative,” he says. “But the truth is, I need to thank them for signing the petition.”