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Google Launches Online Maps of Uganda Towns PDF Print E-mail

In an effort to localize its Geo-products, Google launched online maps of Ugandan towns. Esther Nakkazi interviewed Rachel Payne Country Manager, Google Uganda. Here are the excerpts;

1. What benefits do Ugandans get from Google Maps for Uganda?
Google Maps is a Google service offering user-friendly mapping technology and local business information-including business locations and contact information. Google Maps for Uganda offers users the following benefits:
i) Local business listings - users can find much richer, local content by searching on the local Uganda domain, which offers integrated business search results - helping users find business locations and contact information all in one location, integrated on the map. You can also view additional information like hours of operation, types of payment accepted, and reviews.
ii) Google Maps for mobile - including My Location feature
iii) Better worldwide coverage
iv) My Maps enabling users to create their own maps
v) Rich APIs and tools for users, like Map Maker, which allows a user to contribute map information, like roads and landmarks
vi) Google Maps offers various viewing capabilities, including Map and Satellite views

2. Who developed it, did Ugandans participate?
Google has hosted several workshops and training sessions in Uganda over the last year to help train users on how to use Google Maps and Map Maker, a service that allows users to contribute and edit map data for certain regions around the world.
In addition, there is a community of local business users, academic institutions, students, NGOs and government users who are actively involved in helping us build much better maps for Uganda. Users can locate, draw, label and provide attributes for local map features for select areas.  These users, in effect, become "citizen cartographers".

3. How do developers benefit?
Developers can reach the millions of Google Maps users who are looking for rich content beyond maps, business listings, and satellite imagery. Google Maps provides an additional channel for developers to raise awareness for their content and to acquire new users to their websites.
Secondly, developers can leverage Google's scalable serving infrastructure to handle large numbers of users without needing to make large investments on their own machines and bandwidth.

4. How does Google tailor its products for local users?

We are working to improve our products for local users, both in their search for information and for collaborating with others. We want to make our services available in as many languages as possible, to give everyone using Google the information they want, wherever they are, and through whatever device they are using.  Of course this takes time, but we are making significant progress.
We currently have 112 language interfaces in Search, and we offer free translation in 51 languages, with more than 2550 language pairs.

We are also committed to working with local volunteers and universities, which want to join our localisation programme. You can view our blog post about our localisation work in Uganda here (Opens in new window)

5. Who owns the data? Is it Google or the Uganda government and doesn’t it create security risks?
Google Earth and Google Maps are built from information that is already available from both commercial and public sources. The same information is available to anyone who flies over or drives by a piece of property.

There is no appreciable increase in security risks, given the wide commercial availability of high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery of every country in the world.  Google takes security concerns very seriously, and is always willing to discuss them with public agencies and officials.

For Google Maps on mobile phones, Google does not collect or store any personally identifiable information about the user. We do not associate location data with personally identifiable data -- this means that we do not know the name, email, phone number, or Google account associated with any Maps for mobile installation or handset.

6. How do you want the private sector to be engaged in this?
We encourage any business or organization in Uganda to be listed and then found on Google Maps. Individual businesses can either edit or create a new listing by supplying their own information at no cost to Google’s online Local Business Centre, located at google.co.ug/local/add. Once we have verified the information we will include the business in our listings.

In addition, we hope that Ugandan users also use this service to save or share their own geographic information, using My Maps, a simple to use tool accessible to all Google Maps users for creating customized maps. Users are able to share any type of information on a map, from a simple placemark to a multi-media rich mashup. My Maps allows for creating maps with a wide variety of styles and content, from rich text editing and icons to embedded images and videos.

7. What is the overall objective for Google to develop the maps?
We want to ensure that Google Maps are relevant to Ugandan users and to play a role in supporting the development of local content in Uganda. We have established operations in Uganda and would like to support the development of the Internet ecosystem of developers, local content, education, governments/NGOs and businesses.

This is part of a broader effort to improve the quality of maps and mapping data in Africa.  The collection of data in these areas is often neglected -- so we're giving users with local knowledge access to easy-to-use tool to better catalog their locality.

We’re constantly working to improve the quality and accuracy of the information available in Google Maps. With this new functionality we are enabling users to directly and immediately contribute to this effort.

Accurate, detailed local information about villages, towns and the world around us is important to our users and yet no one knows that local information better than the people that live there. We believe that the knowledge of our users will improve and expand the depth and breadth of coverage in Google Maps, providing a more meaningful and robust experience for all users.

Give us your ideas on which local content is most crucial for Ugandans on Google Maps.

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