Google Maps is a highly comprehensive and invaluably helpful tool but this really does depend on where you live. The African service has been left wanting but this will change with a volunteer-assisted expansion in countries like Kenya, Ghana, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire.
Google has been working on providing a much more detailed mapping service on the continent, offering Android and iPhone users the same depth of information available in countries like the UK, including street by street mapping, location finders and directions to points of interest. Users will not only get the street maps and options to search walking and driving directions as we have come to expect from Google but useful landmarks, local domains, traffic information, details for places like petrol stations and shopping malls are plotted, as well as an option to listen to directions in English or French. Google Street View is also available but just in South Africa and Botswana, as well as turn by turn GPS navigation in South Africa and Tunisia.
Nigeria will benefit most from the service expansion, with the addition of more than 12,000 locations including banks, ATM’s, restaurants and the like. Google Maps for mobile phones will also be available – a handy tool for a country so dependent on mobile usage to link onto the internet. The huge advances are due partly to the help of volunteers, who Evans Arabu, program manager at Google says are a fundamental part of Google’s Map Maker. According to Humanipo.com, the volunteers have created “a vibrant mapping community, with more than 100,000 unique editors contributing upwards of two million changes to Google Maps of Africa.” This has allowed Google to tap into points of interest from the point of view of local residents who will have insider information on less obvious landmarks and helpful locations that would otherwise have remained un-mapped and unknown.
Arabus thanked the volunteer community, saying that “Successful events have included students’ mapping events in Gauteng, South Africa, the Rwanda tourism Map Up focused on the hospitality industry, ladies’ mapping events in Uganda and Ghana, Map Ups in Northern Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire, events led by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) working with EGreen services in Nigeria, and campus efforts led Africa-wide by Google student ambassadors.”
“Without our volunteer mapping community who passionately map the places they know and care about across Africa, we would not have the great Maps experience that we do. We thank you for making Google Maps of Africa more comprehensive and accurate than ever.”