Rwanda: Country Mapped On Google


Rwandan communities were for the first time, over the weekend, mapped by local cartographers using a Web program called Google map maker, during an exercise dubbed the Rwanda mapping party. The two day exercise, jointly organized by Google, the National University of Rwanda (NUR) and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) started on Saturday and ended last week.

On its first day, the cartographers, drawn mainly from local Universities, RDB and the National Land Centre, were introduced to the mapping process using the ICT buses. The following day they grouped into two, with one group mapping the Eastern part of the country, and the other group, the Western part.

Patrick Nyirishema, who heads the IT department at RDB, said that it was an opportunity for Rwanda to mark their areas. He added that the exercise was important for the country's development efforts, especially investment where important features could be easily traced on on-line.

A Geographic Information Specialist from Google Kenya, Evans Arabu, said Google with seven branches across the continent was facing challenges in the process of mapping, given uncertain internet accessibility in most parts of the continent.

"This is the major challenge and we normally try to deal with it by deliberately reaching various universities where we offer stronger internet facilities to enhance the process" he said.

Arabu added that the exercise was part of Google's efforts to involve local people across the globe in contributing to the map by indicating features like social and economic infrastructures, tourist attractions and others in their local areas.

"We usually hold mapping competitions among University students to increase awareness. This exercise is like sowing seeds and we expect it to grow after many people get used to the tool (Google Map maker)," he emphasized.

Areas marked include; infrastructures such as roads, hospitals and schools as well as tourist attractions and memorial sites. The Google Ambassador to NUR urged participants to continue with the exercise and sensitize others saying it was crucial for the country's development programmes.