South Sudan Mapping


Interaction type Public → Government
Trigger Event On July 9th South Sudan became Africa’s 54th State after its official independence.  Although it is the most newly established nation, it is poorly unmapped.
Domain Generic Mapping of a poorly mapped area and thematic maps of essential features like roads, hospitals and schools.
Organisation Google, NGO organizations along with the World Bank, UNOSAT, and RCMRD
Actors The Sudanese diaspora, Google, the World Bank, UNOSAT, and RCMRD
Data sets in use Updated Satellite imagery covering125,000 square kilometers and 40 percent of the U.N.’s priority areas to Google Earth and Maps.
Process Workshops and editing on Google Maps via Google Map maker.
Feedback Generic and thematic maps covering important points of interest such as schools, hospitals and roads.
Goal The principle goal was to engage and train the Sudanese diaspora and other volunteers worldwide to participate in Google Map Maker voluntarily.
Side effects Mapping the poorly mapped South Sudan so that the infrastructure and economy of the country to be developed and humanitarian aid to be provided to the local population.
Contact person


After years of political instability, South Sudan became a new nation on July 9th, the 54th state of Africa and the UN’s 193rd Member State after its official independence. Although South Sudan is an expansive and the most newly established nation, it is currently poorly mapped. The existence of updated maps in the specific case is particularly important for two main reasons; development of the infrastructure and economy of the country and distribution of humanitarian aid as well. According to the Acting Director of the Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group of the World Bank “without basic geospatial information, it is difficult for the government, civil society, development partners, and all stakeholders to visualize plans, see existing infrastructure, and target areas where they want to work and develop projects” which is of primary priority. Behind this importance humanitarian aid groups without accurate spatial data find it difficult to target their efforts and mobilize their resources of equipment, personnel and supplies.

Google organization with the aid of World Bank, UNOSAT, and RCMRD understood the specific need and started the project for the creation of better maps of South Sudan by supporting communities who map schools, hospitals, roads, and more with Google Map Maker. The project was launched with a series of events which took place so that the purpose of mapping to be achieved and the participants to be inspired in a voluntary contribution and get trained. The first event carried out in April 2011 at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and a satellite event took place in Nairobi at the same time. The next event was carried out in September 2011 by the South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics in Juba. To aid their work, updated satellite imagery of the region was published, covering 125,000 square kilometers and 40 percent of the U.N.’s priority areas, to Google Earth and Maps. It is remarkable that within the last event the volunteers worked together and made hundred of edits to the Google Map in less than four hours. The process of the whole project is quite simple. Citizens do editing by using all the available web tools and their local knowledge; After approval the edits become visible to all Google users worldwide.  South Sudan mapping effort was used by the Satellite Sentinel Project which is a collaborative project between Google, the Enough Project, Not On Our Watch, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), DigitalGlobe, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Trellon. The project is focused on human rights violations and human security concerns in Sudan.

Among the main factors of project’s success is not only the enthusiasm and the inspiration that the Sudanese diaspora indicated during the events which made them to convey the experience and the knowledge to other people but also the interest that the local government showed about the project.  The approval that the project gained by the local government and the impact that it had in decision making policies is noticeable. As the Director of GIS, Remote Sensing & Cartography of the South Sudan Government underlines “the quality health resource maps would be great tools for improved health care planning, resource allocation, advocacy, and also increased access to health services for the local population”. Another innovation of the project is the principle role and contribution that Sudanese diaspora offers to it. Local knowledge can be shared worldwide and from different parts of the planet; not only from the area of interest. As the Information Minister declares such mapping efforts help bring together South Sudanese from all over the world.

Among the main weaknesses that were faced during the mapping is that the local people where not actively involved in the project. Only Sudanese diaspora and people who had previously lived in the area of interest get involved  by distance. The experiment lacked research on the field, and use of GPS and open source software as well although Google guaranteed great participation of volunteers.

Main Lessons

  • Sudanese diaspora played a fundamental role in mapping. The whole project was coordinated and implemented by distance.
  • Great participation of volunteers and transmission to others for voluntary contribution.
  • Inspiration for other projects and improved applications so that the area of interest to be favored.
  • The project was accepted as a great opportunity for decision making policies and humanitarian aid by the local government.



Google maps out Southern Sudan, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 25 April 2014].

New Country in the Making: Building a Map for South Sudan, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 28 April 2014].

South Sudan is now official on Google Maps, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 25 April 2014].

South Sudanese sing and map their way to independence, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 27 April 2014].

South Sudan mapping, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 27 April 2014].

Using the power of mapping to support South Sudan, (2014) [Online] Available at: [] [Accessed 26 April 2014].



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