I’ve long been an avid fan of telling our own stories using technology. What might be impossible given the prohibitive cost of TV adverts and full page magazine spreads is made possible – and accessible – with technology. Social media, location-enabled apps and user engagement means I can find out where a great suya spot is, read some reviews about a hotel before staying there, or watch a trending Nollywood movie on YouTube.
It is impossible to think about this sort of online localisation without thinking of Google. Their Google Maps Local Guides initiative gives all these features so I was eager to be a Local Guide as soon as it became available in Nigeria. When I started out, there weren’t that many of us because most of us that I knew were Map Makers who were already used to the whole idea, but – at the Google Maps Connect Live event on Saturday, 4th May event – we got to find out that the number of local guides in Lagos alone had doubled in the last year, bringing the national total to over half a million Nigerians uploading photos and videos and reviewing places, businesses and services for Google Maps.
As soon as I got there, the first thing I felt was a sense of pride. Row after row of photographs from passionate local guides, statistics on how we were changing the African narrative and putting Nigeria on the map. If I was feeling a bit puffy with the pride, Juliet Ehimuan, director leading Google’s business in West Africa, drove that feeling further home with her keynote speech. Our work in creating an online voice for Nigeria amounted to 89,000 photos with 146 million views, and 487,000 reviews that had helped more than 3.4 million people.
It’s just a picture of the Oshodi Textile market, it’s just a review of a pepper soup joint. But this is OUR Nigeria: our stories, our businesses, our culture, on our terms.
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