Google is this week racing to complete a map of South Sudan, the newest country in the world, so as to deliver the comprehensive map as a birthday gift to the new state, which declares independence on 9 July.
The collaborative mapping effort brings together the Sudanese Diaspora community, development agencies and Google to create comprehensive maps for Southern Sudan.
Google teamed up with the World Bank, the United Nations Institute for Training (UNOSAT), and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) to work with over 100 Southern Sudanese in the diaspora to draw maps using Google MapMaker technology.
Some 21 years of civil war has left the expansive South without basic geospatial information as well as a negligible transport and communication network.
“It is difficult for the government, civil society, development partners, and all stakeholders to visualise plans, see existing infrastructure, and target areas where they want to work and develop projects,” says Faris Hadad-Zervos, acting director of the Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group of the World Bank.“This will also empower the Southern Sudanese community to develop their own solutions using maps.”
Google.org program manager, France Lamy, says the exercise would help put Southern Sudan on the world map faster, opening it up to global opportunities.
“Now, more than ever, it is critical to have good maps of roads, settlements, buildings and other services, with both local and official names for reference,” she notes.
Google Maps is crowd-sourced information from thousands of users around the world who build the maps from scratch using their local knowledge.
Many development agencies, governments, and even tourists are using the Google Maps platform for planning and also for rescue efforts in case of disasters and humanitarian challenges.
Together with the World Bank, UNOSAT, and RCMRD, Google is co-hosting the current mapping session for Southern Sudan, which follows an earlier 'Mapathon' exercise held concurrently at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC, and at Google offices in Nairobi.
More than 90 Sudanese diaspora community, along with regional experts from the World Bank, Sudan Institute,Voices of Sudan, the Enough Project and other organisations gathered together to map South Sudan.
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