The African Terrestrial Fibre Optic Cable Mapping Project or AfTerFibre for short is an open initiative to gather and share information about terrestrial fibre optic cable projects in Africa and map them in a manner that helps people to understand how communication infrastructure is evolving in Africa and also to see who the players are. There is a kick-off blog post here. If you’re interested in contributing or just finding out about the project, please join the discussion group.
In addition, there is a an evolving Wikipedia entry for the growing list of African terrestrial fibre projects. The page contains a list of projects with links to maps where available along with summary information.
Where we have been able to find maps online, we link to them directly. Where maps are not available online, we upload them to an AfTerFibre Flickr Set.
AfTerFibre is an Open Data initiative with data sources available for public download. The dataset for the terrestrial fibre maps displayed can be downloaded in a variety of formats, including CSV, SHP, KML, GEO JSON, and SVG
Maps for AfTerFibre are typically sourced as raster images, sometimes from the corporate websites of operators, sometimes from studies or reports on regional infrastructure development, and sometimes through personal contacts. Map images are digitally traced and converted into GIS format and uploaded to Carto.com, a cloud-based GIS platform.
Since 2016, AfTerFibre has been hosted by the Network Startup Resource Center who also support some of the update work on it.
How are we rendering the maps? If we can’t get GIS data directly from the operators and we live for that happy day when an operator does provide GIS data, then we import the maps we find into Google Earth for tracing. Google Earth has an absolutely brilliant facility for tracing image maps. Very simple to use and very intuitive. Once a map has been traced, we export it in KML format and save the KML files in an AfTerFibre repository on GitHub. Here are complete instructions on how you can convert and add a map to AfTerFibre. The code for the map was developed by Greg Mahlknecht, who also happens to be the author of Greg’s Cable Map. The map gathers the data directly from the GitHub repository and converts it into GeoJSON format for rendering via Google Maps. This means that updating the map is a pretty easy. Let’s suppose you happen to be an employee of Sonatel in Senegal and you notice that the fibre infrastructure listed on the map is not quite connect. You navigate to the Sonatel KML file on GitHub. Click on it to save it locally and open it in Google Earth. Editing the infrastructure is as simple as adding or deleting links. Once you’re finished you can either submit the file directly to the GitHub repository if you’re familiar with how it works or email it to me directly and I’ll add it to GitHub for you. Using a version control repository like GitHub means we can keep a complete history of cable maps for every operator which will hopefully be useful as a historical record as well as infrastructure evolves on the continent.