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A fertile ground for geospatial applications

Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Honorary Managing Editor
[email protected]
Africa always excites imagination. Rolling veld, equatorial forests, deserts, massive waterfalls; it presents nature in all its wild beauty. It also has problems of drought and erosion of natural wealth, of human conflict, of human competition with animals for habitat, or reckless exploitation of natural resources. It is thus an immediate candidate for meticulous inventory and informed management of the fragile environment. In short, Africa is very fertile ground for geospatial technology applications.

In this issue, we showcase Africa and its tryst with geospatial technology and applications in various spheres. Mapping is the starting point and some of the key efforts like the Committee on Development Information, CODI which has now become CODIST, or the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology under the UN Economic Commission for Africa are covered. The main problem is of continent wide standardisation and a beginning has been made with the African Geodetic Reference framework, AFREF. The issues, as always, are more political and financial than technical. Different security regimes in different countries hinder exchange of data and information. Access to data varies from nation to nation. In this milieu, it is heartening to note the efforts being put in by various agencies and champions of change. We carry interviews from some of these leaders.

The world is interested in Africa. Europe has started an Africa Initiative. USAID among other efforts is looking at the spatial dimensions of the HIV-AIDS problem. Bodies like the World Health Organisation, WHO, Global Spatial Data Infrastructure, GSDI and International Cartographic Association, ICA are also playing their part by providing platforms where global knowledge and expertise can be shared and brought to bear on many of the problems.

On its part, GIS Development made a very modest beginning three years ago with the first Map Africa held in Johannesburg in 2006. Two more events followed, this time in Cape Town and in 2009 we return to Johannesburg for the 2009 event. This issue is an attempt to put the African geospatial scenario in perspective. We hope that the articles and interviews will set the ball rolling leading to meaningful discussions during Map Africa 2009.