Why you need to profile your locality on Google Maps

Google maps

A mobile phone showing how to use Google maps app.

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If you own a smartphone, can afford internet data but only scanty information about your rural shopping centre is available on Google Maps, then you are to blame according to Google.

Google Local Guides is the feature that you need to start utilising to post photos of landmarks in your village so the world can know the business potential of your area before complaining that your local market never grows.

The feature, which allows anyone to take photos of businesses and places of their interest has in the past few years awakened sleepy neighbourhoods in Kenya but many parts of the country still remain unknown, and thus locked out of global visibility.

Google told Nation.Africa that it has tapped into an altruistic community of contributors and given them the tools to make a difference at scale in their local neighbourhoods, but more still needs to be done.

Geo project manager at Google Andre Kowaltowski called on local users to upload more images, videos and reviews of public and private institutional buildings as well as geographical and infrastructural features.

Transport options

 “Enriching information on Google Maps ought to be a community duty that enhances visibility of a business thereby making Google Search a go-to solution for anyone seeking goods, services or a particular business across Kenya,” he said.

First introduced in Kenyan market in 2019, Google Maps has enriched its services to include various transport options such as boda bodas, matatus and taxis.

This includes bus termini locations and route numbers used by matatu services as well as where-from to where-to distance.

Tapping on local communities’ interest to have a digital footprint, it helps users take pictures of buildings, roads, attraction sites among other attractions within their areas and post them on Google Maps.

The vision, the company says, is to assist people everywhere as they navigate, explore and get things done in the world. It shows you information about the places you’re interested in, based on what you’re looking for.

It has gone further to provide practical information on various services available within a locality from modes of transport, financial services, eateries as well as health and market facilities as well as schools.

Google Maps, which has grown into an essential tool that enhances lifestyles has ignited interest among locals who take pictures and write reviews on specific locations. These reviews, ratings and photos help enrich Google Maps enhancing its accuracy, usefulness and helpfulness.

 “My experience when visiting any area is enriched by the availability of Local Guides who are always willing to advise on where to stay, where to visit as well as what activities to be involved in,” says Kelvin Koffi, another Level Nine user.

 Currently he is using Roadmapper, a tool that enables him to add missing roads, revealing that up to now, he has covered 500 kilometres of roads using the tool.

Posting pictures and reviews for specific roads, places, buildings, geographical and other infrastructural features is good both for business and travel. It makes it easy for anyone to locate places they want to visit and enables businesses to have a visible presence online.

Discover the world

Local Guides are the everyday people who are passionate about sharing their experiences on Google Maps by contributing reviews, photos, videos and more that make the Maps better for everyone. Through Google Maps and with the help of knowledgeable Local Guides, people can easily explore and discover the world around them.

 “Being a good and detailed reviewer and photographer has enabled me to achieve my main  goal of ensuring any small business I come across in Kenya is well captured on the map with accurate information and photos to help Google Maps users to make a good decision based on what they are sourcing for,” says Jackson Macharia, a Level Nine Local Guides user.

Pictures posted by Local Guides include local tourism attraction sites from national parks, museums, monuments, religious places as well as social amenities such as hospitals, schools, colleges and universities.

Commercial centres complete with their buildings- hotels, shops, offices, malls, industries or any place that the public needs to reach are essential, with top users earning themselves trips around the world.

The Local Guide can enrich information posted about a certain area, introduce new information or update information posted about a specific location.

Of key interest is inclusion of contact information from names, addresses, phone numbers, emails and website addresses.

Google said verifications for businesses posted on the platform are done in collaboration with a local agency, calling it a chance for small businesses to join the digital revolution and unlock the rural economy.

Asked on copyright of images loaded on the site Mr Kowaltowski said local guides own copyright for every piece of photo or video they load on the platform but they can be used on Google Maps and Google Search by the company.

 “Your photos and videos won't be shared or sold to other platforms,” he said.

Accurate data

The Local Guides Program’s interactive regime is also aimed at making Google Maps data as up-to-date and accurate as possible thereby giving people the “vibe” of a place before they visit.

“Purchasing a gift card or leaving a donation is a great way to support some of the businesses in a community. This gives business owners funds to support employees while reassuring them they will still have the services they need. If unsure of who needs support, simply search ‘local businesses’ in Google Search to see a list of businesses in any area within Kenya that are looking to fundraise,” says Google.

This is fast bringing images and reviews of rural towns onto the global map as well as providing ratings for local hotels thereby enabling people to plan their lives better.

As the network of Local Guides grows across Kenya, it is creating a ready resource for location data for any place while enabling the Local Guides to build their own networks locally and across the globe.

Collectively, Local Guides are a global community made up of 120 million people worldwide across 24,000 towns and cities. With each contribution, Local Guides earn points which allow them to move up through level one to ten depending on quality of content and activity.