g4g2015_groupThe workshop at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California was for nonprofit mapping and technology professionals. The workshop brought together about 100 professionals from across the globe who are using maps to support social change processes, research and education. There were five days of intensive sessions sharing use cases, getting hands on with tools such as Google My Maps, Google Earth, Google Earth Engine, Tour Builder, Street View and Open Data Kit. Sessions were mostly led by Googlers working on these products and the participants had an opportunity to explore advanced features of these tools as well as resolve issues they faced in working with these tools. The most exciting development was Google Earth Engine, a browser based tool that brings together over four decades’ worth of freely available remote sensing imagery along with a set of javascript libraries that make working with these a breeze. The actual load of image processing is done by Google’s servers by leveraging parallel processing, so that the end user does not need anything more than a web browser (Firefox or Chrome). This promises to make remote sensing analysis accessible to a wider user base in the non profit community.

Balachander represented Keystone in this workshop and presented a brief overview of Keystone’s mapping efforts in one of the Lightning talks. The workshop was a great learning experience and a source of inspiration for putting mapping tools to use in bringing about change. Balachander plans to conduct a training for colleagues at Keystone on using mapping tools such as Google My Maps and Google Earth soon. Balachander’s participation in the workshop was possible in part due to a travel grant from Google Earth Outreach. If you would like to explore some of these tools yourself, there are a great set of tutorials here.