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Google digitizes Kenya National Museum’s cultural collections and maps

The Google Arts and Culture project aims to digitize and promote Kenya ’s cultural heritage and spur engagement with audiences across different communities, generations and geographies/AFP

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 31 – Google and the National Museums of Kenya are today celebrating the stories of the people of Kenya through an announcement of the digitization of Kenya’s cultural collections under the Google Arts and Culture project titled: “Utamaduni Wetu: Meet the People of Kenya”.

Google has also announced various products and initiatives including user-generated Street View, Bolo, Gallery Go and Grow with Google.

The Google Arts and Culture project presents cultural collections which are objects under the National Museums of Kenya that tell the stories of 28 communities. These stories represent the ethnic diversity within our communities and vibrant cultures. Digitizing these collections highlights Google’s support in preserving and promoting Kenya’s culture.

With 21 state museums and nine historical sites, NMK holds the world’s largest collection of Kenya’s cultural and natural heritage, which has never been digitized. The online exhibition is Google Arts & Culture’s most ambitious project in Africa to date, and the result of a one-year large-scale-digitization project.

The Google Arts and Culture project aims to digitize and promote Kenya ’s cultural heritage and spur engagement with audiences across different communities, generations and geographies.

While speaking at the Google for Kenya event held at the Movenpick Hotel, Westlands, Chief Guest Dr. Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage said that exploring our cultural heritage provides us with a connection to forgotten social values, beliefs and customs.

“The government’s collaboration with Google has democratized access to Kenya’s rich cultural heritage and enabled more people to discover our culture and human connections in new, exciting and interactive ways. It has also encouraged real-life visits to the country’s museums, monuments and heritage sites,” added Dr. Mohamed.

Mzalendo Kibunjia, the National Museums of Kenya Director General added that, “With digital technologies, there has scarcely been a more efficient way for cultural institutions to produce and preserve cultural goods and for consumers, scarcely a greater abundance and diversity of cultural heritage content and the ease of discovering it.”

The Google products and initiatives also announced today are part of Google’s efforts to drive growth in Kenya.

The user-generated Street View, for instance, is a product that will help to economically empower Kenyans by helping businesses get added to Google Maps and attract new customers locally and from around the world. Street View uses actual photos uploaded by Kenyans and local guides to create a 3D panorama of a specific place. Close to 50,000 kms of Street View have been mapped across Kenya, and nearly 36,000 businesses added to Google Maps for the first time.

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Beside Street View, one of the exciting products announced today is Bolo. This is a speech-based reading app that helps children learn how to read in English. With teacher to pupil ratio in Kenya’s public primary schools at 1 to over 50, Bolo works as a personalized tutor for children to help improve their reading capabilities and can work offline. It uses Google’s existing speech recognition and text-to-speech technology that power the Google Assistant. It is already available in India and Nigeria.

Another product announced that can work completely offline is the Gallery Go. With the growth of Android, many people have phones that take pictures, but not everyone has access to reliable, high-speed internet or cloud backup to quickly find a photo. The app brings many of the best features of Google Photos on device to help a user find, edit and manage photos.

Beside these products, several Grow with Google initiatives have been introduced to get Kenyans the right skills and tools to make the digital world work for them, their businesses and their communities. Currently, the Google digital skills program has trained more than 1 million Kenyans on various digital skills relevant to their career goals and business needs.

Charles Murito, Google Country Director said, “Over 50 percent of Kenyans trained have seen impact on new jobs, career progression or business growth. This skills development initiative is aimed at unlocking the talent that exists in the country, equipping our youth for the future of work, and providing them with critical thinking skills that can be applied to create scalable solutions to local problems.”

Google also aims to train 60 startups over 3 years with the Launchpad Accelerator Africa program. Since launching in 2018, 35 startups have graduated, and they have created 385 jobs and raised over Sh97-billion. 11 of these are Kenyan startups: Pezesha, Flexpay, Cloud9xp, PayGo Energy, Data Integrated Limited, Kwara, OkHi, Tambua Health Inc., Elewa, Tulaa and WorkPay.

During the event, Google also celebrated several Kenya’s YouTube content creators who have made strides in subscriptions.

The Churchill Show with over 1 million subscribers was awarded the Gold Creator Award. This award from YouTube recognizes channels that reach or surpass 1 million subscribers. The Churchill Show is the second YouTube channel in Kenya to receive the gold play button after Citizen TV.

Ten Kenyan YouTube creators who have hit 100,000+ subscribers were awarded the Silver Button. They are Sharon Waniz, Alex Mathenge, Wabosha Maxine, The WaJesus Family and Joanna Kinuthia.

Google sees the use of technology as the driver to improving, not only education for all students by supporting teachers and schools, but also other members of the Kenyan community through access to adequate useful information.

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Google for Kenya is an event that celebrates and reinforces the continued commitment of Google to Kenya through specific local programs that support education, local content and products, and small and medium businesses (SMBs) and startups.

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