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UNHCR and Google Earth unveil programme for humanitarian operations

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GENEVA, April 8 (UNHCR) – Representatives of the UN refugee agency and Google on Tuesday unveiled a powerful new online mapping programme that provides an up-close and multifaceted view of some of the world’s major displacement crises and the humanitarian efforts aimed at helping the victims.

The “Google Earth Outreach” programme gives UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies the ability to use Google Earth and Maps to highlight their work on behalf of millions of refugees and other populations of concern in some of the world’s most remote and difficult areas.

“It’s absolutely fantastic. The potential for us and the potential to serve our interests and to serve the refugee interests round the world is quite substantial and we need now only seize the opportunity and move ahead with it,” Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone told more than 250 staff and invited guests at a launch ceremony in the atrium of UNHCR’s Geneva headquarters. “I think we will all be beneficiaries of it at the end of the day.”

Johnstone said the pilot UNHCR layers, which went live on Google Earth Outreach earlier Tuesday, made it possible for staff and clients to zoom in on specific refugee situations. He said the tool would be particularly useful in extending UNHCR’s outreach and visibility as well as for its own internal administration.

The UNHCR layers, which were compiled by technical and editorial staff within the agency’s communications service, currently focus on three of the refugee agency’s global operations – Chad/Darfur, Colombia and Iraq – but plans are under way to expand.

“In 2008, we are going to spread around the world and try and capture all of the major sites and make sure that they are all available so that people can see what the actual situation is on the ground,” Johnstone said. “It will make it possible to bring that suffering [of refugees in harsh environments] to people, so people can understand where the responsibilities actually are,” he added.

“We’re very excited to participate with UNHCR,” Rebecca Moore, manager and founder of Google Earth Outreach, told the audience, before giving them a demonstration of the tool and showing them some of the new UNHCR layers. “The idea is to take an abstract concept – refugees in some country that people have never visited and may in fact never visit and take them there virtually – so that they can get an intuitive understanding of what the real issues are,” she said.

Google’s outreach programme provides humanitarian agencies with the skills and resources to use Google Earth and Maps to highlight their work to a mass audience. The agencies can overlay text, audio and video information onto Google Earth in the so-called layers, enabling them to explain and illustrate their humanitarian work to a worldwide audience.

Moore said she was “very impressed” by UNHCR’s layers. These show three levels of detail. The first provides an overview of UNHCR itself and takes the user on a journey to Chad/Darfur, Colombia and Iraq operations. The impact on neighbouring countries is also explored, and refugee camp locations are highlighted on the Google Earth maps.

The second layer brings the user even closer to the life of those in exile, exploring such elements as refugee health, education, water and sanitation. Pop-up windows linked to precise geographical points in camps and refugee communities provide written explanations, photos and videos of specific needs and operations. The third level, the “macro-view,” takes the online visitor right down to the local level within a refugee camp, allowing examination of schools, water points and other infrastructure found in a typical site.

UNHCR’s technical experts say that as it grows, the Google Earth programme will allow UNHCR and its humanitarian partners to build and share with each other a visual, geographic record of their joint efforts on the ground to help refugees. This could include, for example, cross-border mapping of population flows as well as the location of displaced people in relation to their places of origin – useful data in logistical planning for eventual repatriation operations.

Also speaking at the Geneva launch was the Afghanistan-born photographer Zalmaï, himself a former refugee. “It’s our duty to give them some hope,” he said, as haunting images from his recent trip to Afghanistan appeared on a big screen behind him.

Google Earth has enjoyed spectacular success since its launch in mid 2005; some 350 million people around the world have downloaded it to date. Moore and other humanitarians in Google developed the idea of the Outreach programme, which has attracted great interest since its launch last year.

By Leo Dobbs in Geneva


Written by aheavens

April 8, 2008 at 9:01 am

Posted in Google Earth Outreach

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Stafford Masie Presents Google South Africa’s Hot New Trends

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the e of Marketing

longtail eMarketing was able to get Stafford Masie, recently appointed as South Africa’s Country Manager for Google, to come and talk to a select few about new Google eMarketing offerings. The presentation, held at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, was aimed at educating attendees about the latest trends happening at Google.

Most importantly, we needed to hear – from the horse’s mouth – what Stafford Masie had to say about the latest trends with regards to Google Maps, Google Gadget Ads, Google Mobile Search, YouTube and other Google features that will soon be available in South Africa.

As always it is difficult to make notes of everything being said, so here are the highlights from our notes taken from the presentation.

Stafford started off by giving a little history on Google and said that Google’s aim is to 1.) educate people about everything online and 2.) to assist wherever possible. So, as Google’s Country Manager, Masie and his team of experts want to bring the Global Google solutions to South Africa.

think faster, better broadband!

Yes! Google South Africa is involved in trying to improve broadband locally and promise that in 18 months time, South Africa will go from the most expensive (and slow) broadband to the cheapest and fastest broadband connections in the World. According to Masie, this is what he is most passionate and excited about, getting South Africa up to speed with the rest of the world when it comes to broadband connections. That got me excited and pretty much every person in the room, I am convinced about that!

Hopefully low broadband costs will account for up to, and over, 20% penetration of the South African population.

Before I get into more detail about the future local Google services, here are some statistical information that Stafford mentioned regarding Google stats for both South Africa and international:

* 13% of total internet traffic in South Africa during the 4th Quarter of 2007 was spent on YouTube
* A 708% growth was recorded in this quarter
* Gmail is the leading free email service
* 90% of people use Google as their preferred Search Engine

In light of the above, Stafford addressed marketers and digital agencies and mentioned two very important points:

1. End user generated content or end user content generation
* YouTube provides 8000 minutes of video which is published worldwide per minute
* 84% of all internet activity is about people publishing content
* The internet today is not about taking, it is all about giving, sharing and participating
* Everyone is encouraged to experiment and engage!
2. Moment of relevance
* Knowing when someone wants something at the right time and to present them with what they want
* Google is #1 in mobile internet share and “click to sms” to come via ads which will deliver targeted ads when asked for
* Above 60% CTR in online video ads, again with the end user in mind, served at the right time
* Refining Search Engine Result Pages with Google Co-op – giving the user more than what they asked for

Stafford stressed again that online should never be ignored and that both the above mentioned points are crucial for everyone, especially marketers and digital agencies.

Finally, and in very short time, Stafford highlighted the exciting things to come from Google in South Africa and also services that we can make use of:

* Google Maps will be the biggest thing happening in a very short time with the local – Exciting developments in Maps such as virtual billboards on street view level and updated map gadgets.
* Mobile search will soon allow click to SMS on inline ads
* As faster and cheaper broadband will be available in South Africa, more people will be online, greater target markets and audiences.
* Google co-op is a new service allowing for refined search within search results
* YouTube channels is a unique way of making use of user generated content when users are provided with a platform or medium
* Syndicated search should be utilized more

Ok, so in a nutshell, that highlights Stafford Masie’s presentation on Google South Africa. Feedback that longtail received from many attendees was that it was informative and eye-opening. People loved Stafford’s enthusiasm and vision to educate and help wherever possible.

Be sure that longtail endeavors to provide further updates to many of the above mentioned solutions and also future events, so keep on “watching this space”.

Written by aheavens

April 3, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Google is Moving in East Africa

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White African

7 Month old Google Kenya is starting to interact with the local hackers and devs. Just this Tuesday they sponsored the local Tuesday Skunkworks event, giving some of their thoughts on Kenya specifically. My friend, and fellow Kenyan blogger, Bankelele was in attendance and took notes.

Highlights. Google is…

* Mapping Kenya
* Partnering with the largest mobile carrier (Safaricom) and giving free email accounts to all subscribers
* Partnering with universities to make inroads with their web-based office applications and associated services
* Encouraging local content providers to get online (ex: NTVKenya on YouTube)
* Fighting for more bandwidth for all Kenyans
* Working with legislatures to create the right atmosphere to get the right internet infrastructure

Read the rest, and get more detail, on Bankelele’s blog.

It’s interesting to see how Google continues to look at new markets and move ahead in them, without any real profit there yet. Meanwhile, their main competition on the global level on the web (Yahoo!), doesn’t. Interestingly enough, Yahoo has had the mindshare and marketshare in East Africa, but didn’t capitalize on it. They basically left the door open for Google to come in and steal it all away… and they are.

Written by aheavens

March 6, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Skunkworks: Nairobi March 4

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A Skunkworks (blog) meeting yesterday was hosted by (7 month old) Google Kenya, and it was attended by an interesting mix of engineers, webhosts, designers, admins, bloggers and rivals of Google, – who all listened as Google employees explained their aps and maps.

some scribbled notes

– There’s an ongoing Google East Africa competition for students to develop gadgets for Google (closes March 17)
– They are mapping the country with Google map’s – started with Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru, with a Kenyan team, doing the mapping work, using the tools. Ideally the next step will be for maps to stream into local yellow pages
– Safaricom have the largest customer base of any kind in Kenya – 8 million strong – and so Google partnered with them to give all their subscribers free e-mail. Many people’s introduction was and still remains, accessing an email account.
– Ushaidi was cited as an examples of enhanced use of a Google platform
– Google in Africa for the long term, with an altruistic motive of sharing local content & information – and currently get less than 1% of revenue from Africa. They helped NTV set up a Youtube platform that has been a big success in terms of Kenyans abroad now able to watch local news online. They monetize in three ways – videoads, adsense, search box advertising. Kenya/Africa needs to get more local content up. Already some local web sites are making good money off adsense that is enough to sustain their online operations.
– Hot point #1 was bandwidth; or the performance of connectivity, service providers and other operators. They are known in the industry for short-changing consumers who are not wary and in the face of a regulator (CCK) who does not seem to care. There was a call for users to take the initiative, to test bandwidth speeds, and identify those with superior speeds and those who were short-changing consumers (a model from Australia called Whirlpool to test broadband was mentioned as a model that could be used to do this)
– Hot point # 2 was the lack of investment in infrastructure/or the wrong kind of investment. Examples: There are 4 ethernet cables in Nairobi, but no cooperation between providers. Government is building data centers, but with no servers there. Local loops are not benefiting end users. It would be nice of government required new building developers to also install connectivity in buildings
– Other challenges with local advertising – does it work? Yahoo never advertised in Kenya; yet have more e-mail accounts through word of mouth. Google is working with universities to give them free e-mail as a way of building a long term relationship. There’s also a move to alert local advertising companies to the presnce of local site to advertise on.

There were many other conversations but they were drowned out by sounds of mouths slurping pizza slices and mshikaki’s.

Written by aheavens

March 4, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Kenya: Google Appoints Wananchi’s Mucheru to Head Up its New Operation

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Balancing Act (London)

Google is moving outside of the continental comfort zones for most global investors, North and South Africa, and is opening its first operation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya has been chosen as the base camp for what is likely to turn into a sub-regional business. It has chosen Joseph Mucheru, former CEO of Wananchi to be its Site Lead- Kenya and although he has barely got his feet under the desk, Russell Southwood spoke to him about what Google might be doing, infrastructure initiatives and Kenya’s media and communications bills.

Q: With more competitive markets in Kenya, it’s an exciting time for anyone in the telecoms and Internet markets there. So why did you leave Wananchi?

Strategically, Wananchi is going into building infrastructure. There’s no denying there’s a huge need for it but I’ve always had a passion for content and applications. In the past, I’ve always been dragged into infrastructure to support my web business.

Also this is the first time an international content player like Google has entered this market and it’s very exciting. And this is another reason I’ve chosen to work with them.

Q: So what’s Google want to do?

Initially there will be three big things. Firstly, we want to optimise the use of Google applications in the region. We already have a lot of customers in the region but further development of the market is hindered by the absence of an international cable offering cheap bandwidth. Google understands that this is an impediment and is willing to go to the extent of buying international bandwidth that locals don’t have to pay the current considerable premium they are.

The second thing they want to develop is their Maps product to make sure it has local information that is searchable and useful.

The third thing is using Google advertising in ways that can help monetize local content. Lots of people have done local content but most times it’s flopped. We hope to show that there’s a way of doing advertising that can support content. If we can do this, it will generate jobs and work.

But I should say clearly that I’ve only been with the company a week….

Q: So what’s your role?

I’ll be the Site Lead – Kenya and will lead a whole team. I’ll be involved in facilitating all the initiatives going on in the area.

The company is massive but works in small teams. So I’ll help determine what can be done and be pro-active about making it happen which means I’ll be acting in an entrepreneurial way.

Q: I hear that Google is also interested in policy issues?

Google has an interest in what’s happening in terms of policy and has a policy team and they want to have someone in every region. Their concern is to ensure that when policy is made that it benefits all of mankind. So it is willing to support someone who will participate in policy debates. So for example, here in Kenya, that person might look at the media and communications bills and Google would be able to lend its support and bring in its experience of these issues from elsewhere.

Q: So as a Kenyan what do you personally make of these two pieces of legislation?

I’ve looked at the Communications Bill and I think that there are certain things that would be disastrous, particularly for e-commerce. For example, it says that you will need to get a licence to get a sub-domain and this cuts right across existing global practice. The second thing is that the Bill says that certification authorities must have licences. In effect, it’s saying that for Verisign to be recognised it must get a licence from CCK.

Q: What issues are there with the media bill?

There’s an issue in terms of the registration and deregistration of journalists. I’m happy that’s what being suggested would work with the current Government but it would be a great deal less good under a bad Government.

Q: How will journalists be registered?

The Government will decide on the basis of qualifications and writing if an individual will get a licence to practice as a journalist. There must be a way of monitoring standards but something more like a Media Council needs to be set up to monitor the licensing. Something more like the Law Society of Kenya in relation to lawyers. This would have an independent board but the Government might have a single seat but would be equal to everybody else on that board.

Q: I understand that there are also some definitional difficulties with the legislation?

Yes, it defines broadcasting as anything that is broadcast speech like radio and moving pictures like television. Currently whether this applies to something like You Tube is very vague.

Also on a separate issue, the regulator is required to determine the content of the programming code. We can’t expect CCK to do that. We need to be able to review these issues so they don’t become monumental.

Written by aheavens

June 11, 2007 at 3:03 pm

The illuminated continent

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Posted by Michael Jones, Google Earth CTO Google Blog

Have you ever dreamed of Africa while reading National Geographic? The exotic photographs and thoughtful articles take you there with a magical sense of place. Today we embraced that magic by releasing Google Earth data layers that index National Geographic stories, images, journals, and even a live webcam in Africa.

Just start Google Earth, enable the National Geographic layers, and begin exploring.

Across Africa, you will see the familiar yellow National Geographic logo. Zoom in to see the title of each feature article or photograph. Click the icon and a pop-up balloon shows a photo and description along with links to the content. Follow those links to read the entire story right where it happened. Not only will you learn about Jane Goodall’s Fifi, you’ll see her home. Joining the stories and images are layers for National Geographic Sights & Sounds multimedia resources, a live WildCam in Botswana, and a collection of Mike Fay’s Megaflyover images.

The Megaflyover images are stunning. Mike spent more than a year taking 92,000 high resolution photographs of the continent. That project is described in Tracing the Human Footprint, an article in the September 2005 National Geographic. He selected 500 of his favorite scenes of people, animals, geological formations, and signs of human presence and annotated them in Google Earth. Look for the red airplane icons as you fly over Africa. Each of these marks a spot where a high resolution image awaits your own personal voyage.

Written by aheavens

September 16, 2005 at 2:31 pm