Google to work with South Africa to make country safer for tourists

Google Maps in South Africa
By Linsey McNeill
Home » Google to work with South Africa to make country safer for tourists

Tech giant Google has agreed to work with the South Africa Government to remove routes through known crime spots from its Google Maps navigation app.

It has also signed a collaboration agreement with the Department of Tourism to help promote South Africa as a ‘safe’ tourist destination and boost visitor numbers.

The agreement follows brutal attacks on tourists last year, including British doctor Kar Hao Teoh who was shot dead in the notorious Nyanga township in Cape Town when he was trying to find an alternative route to the main N2 highway during a taxi strike.

An American couple is suing Google after they were attacked in Nyanga after Google Maps directed them on a shortcut through the township as they were travelling from Cape Town to the international airport. 

The UK Foreign Office states in its travel advice for South Africa that tourist should ‘be careful when following GPS navigation’. It adds: “You should avoid taking alternative routes away from main roads as this can often take you into less secure areas.

“Where you can, you should plan your trip in advance and verify your travel itinerary with a trusted local source.

“In Cape Town people have been affected by attacks and violent crime on secondary roads near the airport. When travelling to and from Cape Town International Airport, you should stick to the M3 and N2 where possible; avoid taking routes that use the R300; stay on ‘airport approach road’ (exit 16 on the N2) when travelling to and from Cape Town International Airport, and avoid Borcherd’s Quarry Road leading to Nyanga.

Following the signing of the letter of intent by Google South Africa Director Alistair Mokoena and Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille, Google said it will no longer suggest a route through Nyanga on its navigation system.

Mr Mokoena told “We have identified crime hotspots, and we [are] working to ensure that those crime hotspots do not form part of the route so that people are able to connect to their destinations safely.

“There is a specific area around the Nyanga, around the airport intersection [which] we [are] looking to ensure that doesn’t become a feature when we recommend the fastest possible routes,” Mokoena said.

Speaking at the Africa travel trade show Indaba in Durban this week, Ms de Lille said: “We sat down with Google and showed them on Google Maps routes that are not safe, like you find routes in all countries that are not very safe.”

She said her Department is also working with Google to provide free training to small and medium-sized tourism businesses in South Africa, and also looking at using its technology to work out where jobs are being created in the tourism industry in South Africa.

Mr Mokoena added: “As a company that prides itself in organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful, we look forward to rolling out various programmes in conjunction with the department to fast-track digital transformation in the sector, helping with digital skills and showcasing South African tourism through our Google Arts and Culture platform.”

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