Refugee Camp at Ethiopia

In the wake of intense drought, the Horn of Africa is gripped by its worst famine in more than 60 years. Over 12.4 million people across Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia are threatened with hunger and disease as they are unable to access basic survival means. UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations are rallying to support refugees on the move, particularly to the thousands fleeing Somalia. Valerie Amos, OCHA Emergency Relief Coordinator, has stated that “This will not be a short crisis.” The emergency is expected to persist at least three to four months, and the number of people needing humanitarian assistance could increase by as much as 25 percent. Fresh and accurate maps are among the many critical factors in assessing such a state of crisis, as they provide vital information to facilitate emergency response and planning. Thanks to the efforts of our satellite imagery partner, GeoEye, we now have high resolution imagery of locations with the most pressing humanitarian needs. This has made Google Map Maker community mapping efforts even more effective, by allowing the creation of improved maps over refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and the city of Mogadishu. Volunteers are mapping roads, hospitals, schools, community centers, and water resources, among other vital landmarks. The map data contributed is being shared periodically with the UN agencies engaged in this crisis. Google has also donated 1 million USD to help local and international organizations provide famine and drought relief support in the Horn of Africa.

Bokolmanyo Refugee Camp, Ethiopia. IKONOS imagery, July 29th 2011, © 2011 GeoEye

You can help the Horn of Africa during its time of crisis by creating detailed maps using your local knowledge of places, such as cities, roads, and natural landmarks. If you’re unfamiliar with the region, try pairing up with people who have local knowledge, who can help by reviewing and correcting your edits. To participate in these ways and more, and offer feedback, please join our Africa mailing list and visit the Horn of Africa community mapping site as we all map the way toward crisis relief.

Google Map Maker & Chicago

(Cross-posted from the Student Blog)

The Google Map Maker campus tour recently visited the Windy City to talk to students about how they can use Map Maker to map their campuses and make updates to places they care about on Google Maps. While in town, we also hosted a Map Maker event at the Google Chicago office to share the tool with folks working in the public sector. We had a great time meeting so many enthusiastic mappers from the area, and look forward to seeing how they put Chicago on the map.

Our first stop was the University of Chicago campus, a beautifully historic area with architectural gems galore. Students who attended this event were excited to map not only their campus, but neighborhoods near the university, showing the diversity and development of the population and culture.

Our second stop was Northwestern University, where a packed room of students learned about mapping while sampling some traditional Chicago style deep dish pizza. Delicious! Students were particularly interested in adding details to their campus, naming the buildings, adding locations of the sororities and fraternities, and marking the building outlines or footprints of their favorite restaurants and stores nearby.


Our Google Map Maker team loved partnering with Google Student Ambassadors from these campuses, who creatively and passionately helped plan these events. You guys did an amazing job! The Google Student Ambassadors from Northwestern University had this to say about the Map Maker visit:

“Our event brought together over 120 Northwestern students who were eager and excited to learn about how they could make an impact by adding to Google Maps using Map Maker … Map Maker was a welcome product that put the power to shape the map in our hands. All in all, it was an incredibly fun and engaging experience!”

-Sourya and Minjae, Google Student Ambassadors at Northwestern University

The last event—a meeting with public sector officials at the Google office in Chicago—gave us some great insights about how Map Maker can be used for large metropolitan areas. University educators, Department of Transportation employees, Census Bureau representatives, Chicago Health Department folks, and many more shared how they would like to see Map Maker applied to what they do. We really appreciate all their feedback and suggestions, as well as their enthusiasm for how this tool can help them share their work with each other and the public.

Chicago and the surrounding areas were such enjoyable places to visit, full of vibrant and passionate people. We look forward to visiting other campuses in the fall, but don’t wait until then to leave your mark on your campus!

Google +1 in API docs

Sometimes it’s hard to find the right doc at the right time. Lots of web pages mention the terms you’re looking for, but which ones actually have them in the right context? We ask our friends and coworkers these questions because we bet they’ve seen the problem before. We trust their technical judgment and we know they can skip straight to the right answer.

That’s why we’ve just added the +1 button to the top of most API docs:

Whenever you find the key information you need, we hope you’ll +1 that page and let the world know! It’s a simple way to help point the people you code with in the right direction and make RTFM’ing a bit easier for everyone.