Google Teams with World Bank to Help Africa's Disaster Response

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By providing access to a Web-based community mapping tool and data, World Bank and Google are aiming to improve the ability of African and other developing countries to monitor public services and respond to disasters.

Google has agreed to provide the World Bank and its partner organizations -- including governments and U.N. agencies -- with access to Google Map Maker underlying geospatial data including detailed map information on more than 150 countries.

Most countries in Africa do not have basic data available about where schools, hospitals or water points are located, and the information they have is mostly outdated or incorrect.

Sanjay Pradhan, vice president of the World Bank Institute, said in a statement this week that "being able to cloudsource data of schools and hospitals will create both transparency and accountability for citizens."

Pradhan draws his confidence from last year's successful mapping of the new nation of Southern Sudan, where hospitals, schools and other social infrastructure in the country were mapped by the World Bank and Google.

Through the Google tool, citizens will be able to directly participate in the creation of maps by contributing their local knowledge. Those additions can then be reflected on Google Maps and Google Earth.

The maps include data on locations for schools, hospitals, roads and water plants -- critical information for relief workers in times of humanitarian crisis. The maps will also help nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), researchers and individual citizens to more effectively identify areas that might be in need of assistance.

By combining the locations of all social infrastructure and citizens' feedback, development partners could better track the contribution they are making toward improving local public services and disaster preparedness in developing countries.

Initial World Bank country offices that plan to pilot the Map Maker agreement include Zambia, Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria. The countries were chosen because of their governments' strong interest in supporting the use of technology and data for decision-making and community monitoring, and in encouraging projects that support government and citizen engagement in geospatial mapping.

Developing countries including Zambia are prone to natural disasters especially in the rainy season, but humanitarian efforts usually prove difficult due to inaccurate data.

This story, "Google Teams with World Bank to Help Africa's Disaster Response" was originally published by Computerworld Zambia.

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