Google Earth and the Crisis in Darfur

Okay, the other day we had politicians complaining that Google was showing old images of New Orleans in their Google Earth program, so, how about this turn around in another region. Google Earth is marking atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan with high resolution satellite images of the region to document destroyed villages, displaced people and refugee camps. The icons displayed in Google earth represent destroyed villages with flames and the refugee camps with tents, so that when users zoom in Darfur on a computer screen, the icons make it look like the region is on fire. Clicking on the flame icons will open a window with the village’s name and statistics on the extent of destruction. Google enhanced the resolution for certain areas of the region so that users can zoom in to see the burnt remnants of houses. Google says it will periodically update the images. Wow. Download Google Earth from the following link,

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today joined with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) to unveil an unprecedented online mapping initiative aimed at furthering awareness and action in the Darfur region of Sudan. Crisis in Darfur, enables more than 200 million Google Earth? mapping service users worldwide to visualize and better understand the genocide currently unfolding in Darfur. The Museum has assembled content?photographs, data and eyewitness testimony?from a number of sources that are brought together for the first time in Google Earth. This information will appear as a Global Awareness layer in Google Earth starting today.

Crisis in Darfur is the first project of the Museum’s Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative that will over time include information on potential genocides allowing citizens, governments and institutions to access information on atrocities in their nascent stages and respond.

Crisis in Darfur content comes from a range of sources, the U.S. State Department, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations, individual photographers, and the Museum. The high-resolution imagery in Google Earth enables users to zoom into the region to view more than 1,600 damaged and destroyed villages, providing visual, compelling evidence of the scope of destruction. The remnants of more than 100,000 homes, schools, mosques and other structures destroyed by the janjaweed militia and Sudanese forces are clearly visible. Humanitarian organizations and others now have a readily accessible tool for better understanding the situation on the ground in Darfur. Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Google Join in Online Darfur Mapping Initiative

They have also created another mapping project on the Holocaust, the Museum is using Google Earth to map Holocaust sites with historic content from their collections. More info on the Holocaust project available here. A News.com article brings up an interesting point,

“This mirrors the type of things that news organizations deal with: deciding how much resources to spend on an issue and what you cover,” said Steve Jones, a professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It raises the question of what their responsibility is to decide what to cover.” Source: Google Earth focuses on Sudan atrocities

Google has decided they are going to index all of the World’s information, it doesn’t matter what it is, books, maps, satellite images, so they should have an internal organization that handles the public since they are showing the information to them. They should be held to a higher standard of operation if they are going to become the gatekeepers of the Earth’s knowledge and data.