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Google Maps sleuth mapped entire country alone because his town wasn’t on it
December 4, 2021
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One of the first things people do when they go on Google Maps Street View is to look at their home – but that wasn’t an option for Tawanda Kanhema.
The photographer and digital strategist wanted to show a friend his home in Harare, Zimbabwe, and realised it wasn’t on Maps.
He then embarked on the journey himself, tracking his home country to ensure places were available on the popular Google Maps site.
While in places such as the UK and the USA you can scroll down nearly every street, large parts of Africa and Asia are still unmapped. Something Kanhema set out to change.
In partnership with Google and Insta360, Kanhema travelled 2,000 miles by foot, boat, car, and air—all while recording his surroundings with a camera.
When he first embarked on this mammoth task in 2019, he told NPR, “I found it quite jarring that a lot of the countries in the region were not on the map…We should do more to make sure that those communities are represented.”
While Google Maps does use its own fleet of cameras to capture streets across the world, it can’t capture every single street despite fans believing they can.
It's estimated that they have covered 87 out of 200 countries on the platform which launched in 2007.
However, Google said that many other countries on the planet have at least some coverage.
"We start in the large metropolitan areas where we know we have users, where it's easy for us to drive and we can execute quickly," says Stafford Marquardt, a product manager for Street View.
During his travels, Kanhema covered 2,000 miles and captured 500 miles worth of Streetview which is now available across Zimbabwe.
Kanhema carried the camera on his back while hiking, biking, and riding ATVs. He also used cars, boats, and helicopters to cover a variety of terrain funded by $5,000 of his own money.
What do you think about his journey? Would you ever embark on an incredible mission? Let us know in the comments below!
For part of his journey, he was followed by a Google camera crew, which recorded his epic journey over sand dunes and through city streets.
These clips were released earlier this year but resurfaced yesterday on social media sites including Reddit, with many people who live in unmapped or poorly mapped areas hoping to take part in similar projects.
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