Home Why Don’t The Web’s Mapping Services Recognize South Sudan’s Independence? [Updated]

Why Don’t The Web’s Mapping Services Recognize South Sudan’s Independence? [Updated]

An online petition on Change.org is gathering signatures to pressure Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and National Geographic to update their world maps to include the newly independent country of South Sudan. After 50 years of violent conflict, South Sudan gained independence on July 9th. The new nation has been recognized by the United Nations and the African Union, but these major world maps have not yet been updated.

The petition was launched by John Tanza Mabusu, a South Sudanese man living in Washington, DC. He writes, “As it is now, the world map looks like nothing happened on July 9th, 2011, and the map of Sudan looks like the country is still one… if South Sudan was in the Europe or North America, it would be appearing on the world map by now!”

As we reported yesterday, Google Maps restored the name of Martyr’s Square in Tripoli – renamed Green Square by Moamar Gaddafi’s regime – almost immediately after rebel forces retook Libya’s capital from the dictator. South Sudan has been independent for almost two months.

Google’s map (L) shows Sudan as a unified country, but the 7/12 revision of the CIA World Factbook (R) shows South Sudan’s new borders

No word from Google on Sudan

In an email, a Google spokesperson confirmed that the change to Martyr’s Square was submitted via Google Map Maker, the participatory tool for editing Google Maps. Map Maker edits are moderated, and this change was quickly approved and pushed to the live map. “We’re committed to providing our users with the richest, most up-to-date maps possible,” the spokesperson wrote, “and as part of that effort we continuously explore ways to integrate new information into Google Maps.” Google has yet to respond with comment to questions about South Sudan.

Bing is working on it

Update 8/24 11:45 a.m.: A Microsoft spokesperson says that an update to Bing Maps adding South Sudan is in the works and may be accelerated. “Our next imagery update is slated to happen in the coming months; however, we are currently working on a solution to ensure users are able to locate South Sudan on Bing Maps in the interim. This temporary fix will roll out next month.”

Did you mean: Sudan

A search for South Sudan on Google Maps returns the message “Did you mean: Sudan.” A search for “South Sudan” on Bing Maps returns a location result for coordinates in the middle of central Niger almost 2,500 miles away from South Sudan’s capital of Juba. Yahoo Maps, inexplicably, returns an address near Augusta, Georgia, USA. And National Geographic, whose website uses Bing maps, has simply added a disclaimer to their maps pages, which reads: “Boundaries and names shown do not necessarily reflect the map policy of the National Geographic Society.”

We’ve reached out to Yahoo for comment on this policy, and we’ll update the post with any responses.

You can find the petition here.

How do you feel about these map policies? Sound off in the comments.

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