The Cook Islands is an island country in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean and is one of the region’s fastest growing economies.
With fibre-optic cable coming for greater internet access the Cook Islands is firmly on the radar of foreign super powers.
Yet Cook Islanders still have to describe the directions to their houses as: “Drive past the airport heading away from town, turn inland at Super Brown, head to the end of the road till you hit the back road, then turn right, take the third driveway inland, you’ll pass three coconut trees on your left and when you come to the big mango tree on your right, turn in here. I’m in the last house down the drive, the one with a green roof. Please hurry my son has had a fall, or please hurry my house is on fire.”
Is there a problem?
Director of the Global Reach Initiative Tania Wolfgramm says: “Well I guess if you need an ambulance or your house is on fire, then ‘yes’ there is. Actually, it’s more of a mindset that we’ve learned to live with, but for how long do we continue to live with it? Is there an alternative?”
“To have roads, houses, businesses, historical sites, emergency infrastructure mapped and available is today, for most countries, not just a luxury but a necessity.
“Providing important information for research and development to support ministries with climate change management, disaster response and resilience planning, for education, for business development, for cultural sustainability.
This month a collective of Pacific islanders working to better the situation of Pacific peoples, Grid Pacific, will begin trials and, if possible, Google street view map Rarotonga's entire road system.
Wolfgramm says that “having 3D imagery in Google Street View will be a positive change for the Cook Islands. Creating and publishing Street View imagery to global platforms, including Google Maps and Google Earth will open up opportunities that currently do not exist in emergency management, in tourism, business, and education and will take what currently exists to the next level”.
Wolfgramm and creative manager Wikuki Kingi work to promote platforms that allow Pacific people to express their own pacific voice. They met with Google in San Francisco which was happy to support the initiative but, because of the Pacific region’s isolation and small populations, saw this happening in partnership with someone who was prepared and passionate enough to manage the in-country workload and expense.
The GRID Cook Islands team will be working in collaboration with the Director of Emergency Management, Charles Carlson, the Ministry of Tourism, and local partner Stan Wolfgramm of Te Ara Cook Islands Museum of Cultural Enterprise. Look out for the Grid Pacific car with a round camera mounted to the roof, as the Grid Raro team drives through Raro villages between February 8 and 15.