Johannesburg - Google Maps, the free service which offers online mapping information and tools, is updating its information for South Africa.
Over the next few weeks Google Maps will incorporate directions, local business listings and other more specified information for the country.
Google Maps is frequently used by tourists to find their way around and discover areas of interests and local businesses around the world.
Until now business and street-level information on South Africa has severely lagged behind that for the USA and Europe.
Limited information relating to street addresses and business locations has prevented Google from providing all of its maps services for the region.
For example, the Apple iPhone ships with a Google Maps application, but has been useless as a navigation device in South Africa due to lack of information.
While this is now changing, notoriously secretive Google is reluctant to provide more details.
"It's our practice with Google Maps to update the product incrementally, as new data and functionality becomes available. That's why you see varying levels of detail and local information depending on what country you look at," said Stafford Masie, country manager for Google in South Africa.
"With this area we can now offer more detailed maps data and better search for places on the map. We are constantly working on improving Google Maps and will add more information and data as soon as we can."
Google also announced the release of Google Earth 5 earlier in February.
Google Earth is a virtual globe, map and geographic information application drawing on Google Maps and other data. One can use the software to take virtual tours of geographic locations (complete with three-dimensional models of the landscape for some), view pictures taken from locations, add information about particular destinations and perform a variety of other activities such as exploring the ocean floor and the surface of the moon.
Google Maps and Earth will undoubtedly be used by many tourists travelling to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. Given its open nature, it is a useful tool for people living and working in the country too as it can be integrated with third-part websites and services. Updated information on the country is a welcome addition.