The Nairobi metropolitan area has not only increased in density, it is also a completely different landscape than it was a few years ago. A good way to help you picture this is to ask yourself – if you live in Nairobi – to check your neighborhood now and compare it to the period just before the 2020 lockdown and note anything that has changed. You will notice a lot a.
From new residential apartments to new businesses and especially new roads.
Google Maps is the main way to get around a city as big as Nairobi. I don’t know if there are any other mapping apps with the data Google has. And I doubt there is another platform that can be built right now to compete with Maps.
For millions of people living in the Nairobi metropolitan area, getting around between work and home, and between different parts of the city, requires the daily use of Google Maps. This is both for directions and for traffic data. However, I noticed that Google doesn’t really understand the city as it is now and will sometimes fail you in three ways:
- Maps takes you to the wrong address
- Maps chooses a much longer route, not suggesting the new shorter/faster routes.
- Maps consistently fail at estimated arrival time
Closed Open Source
Since Google Maps is open source, you’d expect some of the issues we’re seeing in Nairobi to be issues that can be fixed quickly. However, there are limits on what local guides (Level 8) like me can edit on the platform in this region. For instance:
- We cannot update road names on Maps.
- We cannot update the length of a route and how it should be called between different points as it changes.
- We cannot tell Google Maps if some of the roads listed are tiny walking paths and not suitable for vehicles.
- Adding diversions in case of accident or road construction is not available.
Google must open these features for open source contribution. If that’s not possible, send teams to constantly check and update everything.
Google takes forever to send its mapping team to check parts of the city to include new information on the platform. A good example is Streetview. What you see on Streetview in the parts of Nairobi that have it enabled, and what you see in real life can be very different. Which confuses you more when looking for an area in real life.
The same goes for the satellite view. The images provided on the satellite view are so dated that they don’t really paint a picture of the reality on the ground.
Of course, these features are not highly sought after in this market. But that shouldn’t exclude them from updates. We can even say that they are not very sought after because they are never reliable!
Please update Nairobi Metropolitan Routes:
Since this is not a feature open to the public, Google needs to do something about all new routes. And there are many new roads in Nairobi. These include freshly built freeways like the Express Way, or dual carriageways like the Western Bypass, or new tarmacs between different areas.
These new roads should be included as options on Google Maps, including new time estimates, how to get there, etc.
The Express Way is actually what Google needs to work on immediately. There must be proper mapping of all entry and exit points, including how they were named and possible time estimates to all destinations depending on where you are entering from and from where you go out.
There should be information that it can be used as an alternative to the main road, how much time can be saved, and toll cost estimates based on vehicle types.
New two-lane highways should also be included, along with the various exits and entrances and new time estimates.
If Google Maps is to remain a reliable companion in an ever-changing city like Nairobi, there must be a lot more pressure to have accurate data that is constantly updated. There is now a product development center in Nairobi, we need to see not only new products but also better maintenance and localization of existing products.