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Technology to boost reconstruction of Southern Sudan

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Google and the World Bank have joined hands towards supporting development in the war ravaged South Sudan with Diaspora-driven Mapathon.

Following many years of civil war, Google and the World Bank have joined forces to train 60 South Sudanese in America with Mapathon, digitally mapped country knowledge for the development of their country.

Addressing more than 60 South Sudanese at the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC on Thursday, the Brettonwood’s Vice President for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili explained how todays technology could empower civil society, including the diaspora, to collaborate and support the development process in their country.

Organised by Google and the World Bank, the technology of Mapathon was designed to suit places which face daunting development challenges, such as South Sudan.

Ezekwesili said the development was about shifting the centre of gravity from organizations to people, and empowering them to solve
their own problems and develop their own solutions using maps.

“South Sudan is a large but severely under-mapped area, and without geospatial information on basic social infrastructure, it is challenging for the government, civil society, and development partners to visualize plans, see existing infrastructure, and select areas where they want to work and develop projects,” said Ezekwesili. “Having good maps of roads, settlements, buildings and other services will help key stakeholders to evaluate risks and current needs, and better target their efforts to support the development process.”

The World Bank Group has played an important role in Sudan’s development since 2005, and is deepening its engagement in South Sudan as it prepares for independence sometime in July this year.

Google indicated that working with cartographic agencies to develop maps takes months or even years to publish saying with innovations in geospatial tools and access to local knowledge and data gathered from people who know their communities best, maps could be created in real time, that have real value.

Aleem Walji of the World Bank Institute runs the Bank’s recently launched Mapping for Results platform which visualizes World Bank project locations combined with development indicators in more than 79 of the world’s poorest countries, including Sudan.

The Mapathon provided training for participants using Googles online mapping tool, Google Map Maker, and groups sat together to map the regions they know best.

During the training several hundred edits were made to the map of South Sudan in four hours by volunteers from the South Sudanese Diaspora, technology, and development worlds.

As those edits are approved they will appear live in Google Maps.

The World Bank said the mapping exercise was a first step in tapping into the tacit knowledge that Southern Sudanese diaspora had on the region, and aims to build a community of practitioners that would remain engaged in South Sudan over time.

South Sudan is widely believed to ne so underdeveloped in many aspects, and technology is one of them.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Google Vice President for Research and Special Inotiatives, Alfred Spector, provided background on Google’s involvement, and how it has been working on improving the map of South Sudan.

By Alloyce Garange

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