Google Fills in the Blanks with Detailed Maps of Kenya

Google East Africa is keeping its promise to lead generation of local content by launching detailed maps for Kenyan towns.

Mobile-phone users in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nakuru will be able to access Google Maps and search up-to-date online maps, look up businesses, advertise free via Google Maps Local Business Centre, create their own maps and even check locations while on the move.

Google has maps for Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, but the level of detail is not what it is for Kenya, said Mark De Blois, Google Maps lead.

"Google Maps is not just searchable digitized maps helping you to find a local place, service or product. Our goal is to make information with a geographical dimension available to everyone and to allow users to update the maps and develop," said Joe Mucheru, Google's East Africa lead.

"We believe more accurate, representative local information can greatly improve the breadth of information available about a given area, and in turn can help efforts to bolster tourism and business investment," said Mucheru.

Google Maps is available in 23 African countries, but the company is providing more detailed maps that go beyond the capital cities and include other aspects of life. The company will divulge more information once the team finalizes its plans.

The company has boosted the popularity of the maps by including content from local celebrities such as Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize winner), Julie Gichuru (TV presenter), Churchill (comedian) and Humphrey Kayange (Kenya Rugby 7's team captain).

Google Maps will help create a greater understanding of the socio-economic situation in different regions, said Gichuru.

One local company, KenyaBuzz, a community events, business and tourism site, is already making use of the Google Maps API on its Web site.

"Google Maps serves as a great platform helping us to provide accurate, comprehensive, location-based information for our audience," said Marta Anna Gloserova from Kenyabuzz.

The tourism sector, which has faced a slump because of the worldwide economic crisis, is also looking to Google Maps for a boost.

"Adding tourism locations on Google Maps creates a free marketing channel and will drive more people to our Web site and ultimately to the tourist locations," said J. Kimosop from the Mid-Rift Tourism Forum, which works with local communities.

Google is also working with local software developers by providing APIs for Google Maps to help programmers, Web masters and designers to incorporate the functionality of Google Maps on their sites and develop new services based on local information.

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