Google Earth Pro unveiled for African NGOs

Organizations use the software to visualize their projects and demonstrate their impact

Google has unveiled its Google Earth Pro software to coincide with the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

The software is available through the Google Earth Outreach Program, which lets local NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and other public-benefit organizations visualize their projects and demonstrate their impact.

"With the launch of Google Earth Outreach in Africa, we are enabling nonprofit and public benefit organizations in Africa to access the knowledge and resources they need to organize their data, build their maps, tell their story through geographic visualization using Google's Geo Tools," said Karin Tuxen-Bettman and Tanya Keen, of Google Earth Outreach, in a blog post.

The Save the Elephants organization has used the software to show efforts taken to protect the last of the Mali Desert Elephants. The Mali project uses KML touring, a feature in Google Earth 5.0 that lets non-profit organizations tell their story with a narrated tour.

In a video provided online, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants in Samburu, Kenya, narrates how the NGO has worked in Africa against the backdrop of drought and a rising number of poachers. With Google Earth, the organization, in conjunction with wildlife officials, tracks the movement of elephants to precise locations.

"Google Earth links perfectly with our remote tracking system in Africa; when an elephant stops, it sends a signal to the station," said Douglas-Hamilton. "We are at a crucial stage and we need to make use of the technology to help in decision making. We are very worried we could see another round outbreak of illegal elephant killings for ivory trade."

The Mapping Africa's Protected Areas Project, meanwhile, has mapped parks and reserves in Southern and East Africa. The maps show features such as park boundaries, tracks, and various images. The project offers previously unavailable data about land and wildlife in protected areas in Africa.

"By annotating Google Earth and Maps with pictures and information, organizations can tell visual and compelling stories of the work they do to the over 500 million people in Google Earth," Google said.

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