The rise of low-code software gets a lot of attention, and deservedly, for opening accessibility to familiar tools to create friendly and connected apps.  But often overlooked are the platforms that have empowered user customization for a long time. One of my decade-old favorites is Google Earth. It is a platform that you can customize to build stories with your content in very unexpected ways. And it works on every device without hacking away with frustrating Internet Explorer backwards compatibility (or as the apologists say, graceful degradation). But the magic of Google Earth is in the ability to give heightened context to unfamiliar places, which is what this next story utilized that potential.

As part of our ongoing effort to give back, Ideba works with Mpondwe Lhubiriha Secondary School near the Congo border of Western Uganda. Over the years, we have joined with Partnerships for Opportunity Development Association (PODA) to support the schools initiatives and maturation. In 2018, that work evolved as part of an effort to help the school become financially independent, with Ideba helping the school to start eight businesses – to provide employment and opportunities for graduates. These independent businesses also allow the school to serve the community in several ways, from contract sewing services and water delivery, to buying maize from farmers to be milled at the school and then selling the finished flour in the market. The success of these businesses was on a roll, and for 2020-2021 we had planned many initiatives, including expanding solar power, building dorms, and adding a library to the school – a trip that has been pushed back to COVID.

Recently we learned that a truck that is pivotal to the businesses has finally taken its last turn of the axle. A workhorse of over ten years, banging on rugged jungle roads while doing many different duties serving the community of Bwera. This truck really is the lifeblood of the businesses, and also helps the School Director shuttle students to and from their villages. So we’ve decided to partner with a group of teens in New Jersey, Georgia, California, and Victoria, BC, to raise the $30,000 required to replace the truck.

And that brings us back to Google Earth. To really understand a day in the life of a truck in Uganda requires scotch, a campfire and lots of imagination, or an interactive map to see the part of the world that this mighty truck served hour after hour. The Ideba creative team has designed and built an immersive story, where you can navigate with a guided tour, and if you want, take control, and explore the area in detail at a waypoint, viewing detailed satellite images to get an intimate sense of the locations. Then continue the journey with the menu in the lower left.

Take a look at https://bit.ly/ugandatruck and let us know what you think. There are many more use cases we are anxious to start building with Google Earth. Have fun exploring, and don’t forget to donate to a great cause!

-James Rice, Chief Digital Officer