Map of the Week: Upande’s Virtual Kenya

[Editors Note: Earlier this month we lauched to showcase the unique features of the Google Maps API. As part of this project, each week we’ll be featuring one story from our global community of developers who are using the Google Maps API to start businesses, help improve their communities or save the environment.]

This week we move on from Bangkok to Nairobi where we met with the Upande Ltd team at their office in the home of Mark de Blois. Upande is a development shop in Nairobi, Kenya that provides web mapping and GIS solutions expertise to a diverse range of enterprise, NGO, and public sector clients. Although Upande is relatively small (about 10 employees at the time of our visit), the tightly knit team is creating a big impact around the world with the Google Maps and Google Earth powered Virtual Kenya project.

Virtual Kenya is an online interactive platform designed to allow more Kenyans to use and interact with spatial data in both educational and professional pursuits. Users can view, download, publish, share, and comment on various maps covering topics such as water sanitation, wildlife, or politics. According to Upande the goal of the Virtual Kenya project is to, “promote increased data sharing and spatial analysis for better decision-making, development planning and education in Kenya, while at the same time demonstrating the potential and use of web-based spatial planning tools."

A big part of Virtual Kenya is making the data interactive and visually exciting, while also easy to access. To do this the Upande team uses the Google Earth API which allows them to use 3D map visualization directly on the site. In the screenshot above is an interactive tour that describes Kenya's tourism sector guided by Google Earth. This tour focuses on major attractions, national parks, environmental challenges, and areas that could be used to improve the industry. The full list of Virtual Kenya’s tours cover a variety subjects, such as deforestation, population issues, and threats to wildlife. Beyond the tours, there’s also a list of more Google Maps based mashups that help users learn more about a variety of subjects such as the Turkana Oil Fields, water quality, and aspiring politicians.

In the video below, Upande geo engineer Bernadette Ndege gives a live demonstration of how Virtual Kenya works.

Many thanks to the Upande team for inviting us into their office and sharing with us their latest projects. To learn more about Upande and the things that you can do with the Google Maps API, visit You can also see more pictures from our visit to Upande on Google+. Tune in next week to read about our visit with Ubilabs in Hamburg, Germany.