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Tropically Tolerant: Mapping the "Dark Continent"

Posted by disterics on Fri, 11/09/2007 - 07:52 GhanaThink Managing Executive

Mapping services like mapquest, yahoo maps, google maps and map-based gps units do not work in most African countries. This is because there is no GIS data for these places. This is a problem that needs a tropically tolerant solution and I am glad to say that Google might have the answer. dark_continent.png

Google is using crowdsourcing to solve this problem in India. What they are doing is providing software that allows local people to draw/overlay GIS data on top of satellite imagery. This project came to light at the Cambridge Conference in July. Michael Jones, CTO of Google Earth talked about this in his presentation at the conference. Phil Bridges has an audio recording of the talk in this post and the relevant part of the talk has been transcribed by Dan Karran in this other post.

I think getting the data is one part of the solution. The second part of it, is how the data is used. In Ghana, most of the streets do not have street signs. So giving someone directions based on street names and house numbers will probably not be a tropically tolerant use of the data. The question is will Google go the extra mile and provide directions that make sense in the appropriate cultural context ?

I am also curious about who ends up owning the data ? It will be great if Google allows the community to own all of the data or a portion of licensing fees, etc ?

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Comments

One solution I may suggest

One solution I may suggest to overcome the lack of street naming, would be to use global positioning system. Of course this relies upn satellite technology but I think west african countries could share use of the nigerian satellite which has been launched in recent times.

The killer application would be a mobile telephone with gps included. Then the issue of street naming would not be problematic. Alternatively, mobile phone transceiver network cells could be deployed. Their accuracy is not as good as gps but I think the mobile phone network resolution of (I'm guessing) 5-10 metres may suffice. Of course, if home grown innovation exists, a mobile phone with gps could be made in west africa and we won't have to rely on the "let's import from china" mentality, but that's another discussion, hehehe.

As for data ownership, I see no reason why google (or another private entity) should be compelled to waive data ownership; if they choose to donate the data that is their prerogative. Whoever (a private entity) invests in data collection should be free to decide whether to sell, withhold the data as they please.


TECHIES DEY TALK As for you

TECHIES DEY TALK

As for you Akrakyifo techies paa diee, obroni technology go inside your head too much.
Say what? Never mind the street naming bit...every dusty port holed avenue leads to some main road trust me, so that is not a headache.

But just try finding somebody's house because somebody's house is behind somebody else's house and only passable through somebody's 'infitsir' or compound then you understand what mapping means in the true Ghanaian sense. So the Geosat positioning system helps you locate the street, then what? You still will have to get out of your car in most suburbs and still walk and ask your way around, because driving straight into most driveways just aint possible.

The system suggested might work but i dont see it going nationwide but only secluded residential areas and well planned domiciles.

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


GhanaThink Managing Executive

R, The radio signals that

R,
The radio signals that originate from the satellites are already free. Any GPS device anywhere on earth will be able to give you your longitude and latitude. This information is however not useful because we do not use longitudes and latitudes as addresses.
Even if we did and i said i am at latitude y and longitude Z and i want to go to latitude A and longitude B, the shortest distance will be a straight line between the two points. This ignores buildings, walls, etc. That is why the GIS data that google is capturing is important.
Also note that i said map-based GPS units in the post. I was reffering to gps devices described. These units are available but don't have the data that will enable them to direct you from Circle to Adenta. That is the problem that needs solving.

With regards to data ownership - keep in mind that google is not paying anyone to gather the data. They are asking the community to provide the data in a fashion similar to wikipedia and/or semapedia. I don't think i will be happy if i provide the data for my small area in Dansoman and then i have to pay to use the data I provided.

Omanba,
The beauty of the system is that if i live in a house behind someones house and only small footpath is available - I will be able to add that data. So if someone looked up directions to my house it would say something along the lines of:
...
6. Turn left onto the 3rd street(Ring Road).
7. House number 3 will be on your left
8. Walk through House number 3 to get to House number 3a.


Java to translate GPS? That

Java to translate GPS? That was my thinking; our fellow java programmers would write mobile phone code to translate the gps co-ordinates into layman speak. So, when traveller A is going to meet person B, the mobile phone will translate the straight line direction into general guidance such as "turn left when you can to stay in the correct direction; continue to go straight ahead, etc.". Such an approach could also overcome the problems I've experienced with gis data systems, such as 3rd street being one way only, or the road to house X having a height restriction. Such information has to be constantly updated to the gis database when road conditions change, new signage, new traffic lights, new road etc. I think that by writing intelligent gis translation software, the user is allowed to use their own decision on how to get to the destination. In essence, the software would ease the strategy, leaving the user to decide their tactic. Isn't that tropically tolerant? ;)


Disterics! do you see what i

Disterics! do you see what i am seeing?
Free pages, free adverts = nil gold in our coffers here. Do you remember a certain conversation i had with you about cash flow? Well the oracles are speaking and a manifestation is upon us. So either you do something about it or i shall get my collection bowl out at these advertising bandits!

THE CRINGE FACTOR! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT GOD MADE THREE WORLDS AND THAT I COME FROM THE THIRD WORLD. THE ISSUE OF RACE IS GEOGRAPHICAL AND NOT A STATUS SYMBOL AND NEITHER IS MY SKIN BLACK NOR YOURS WHITE.


google maps navigation

29-10-09: yet more innovation to solve a location based problem.