‘Geospatial Technology is the key to Ghana’s growth’

‘Geospatial Technology is the key to Ghana’s growth’

Inusah Fuseini
Inusah Fuseini
Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Ghana

Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and geospatial technology is one of the major components of this success story. Inusah Fuseini, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, talks about the present status of technology use and the future prospects.

What is the present state of geospatial technology usage in Ghana?

In Ghana, we are now beginning to understand the tremendous benefits that geospatial technology can bring to our economy and the country. Various organisations have started to understand about how geospatial solutions can be applied for the overall growth of the country and how the experience of others can be used to overcome the development challenges facing Ghana. Geospatial technology has been implemented in a number of important projects across various verticals.

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has recently taken up a project, which has a significant geospatial component in it. Geospatial technology has become an important component of all issues that come under the Ministry’s jurisdiction. We have also started exploring the possibilities of collaborating with the industry in various sectors to see if we can access their technologies to solve our challenges. We will gradually explore other opportunities, depending on how much success we get. Thus, when we start to demonstrate the immense capability of geospatial technology to some of the other sectors, people from those sectors can have a guide, which will make our work easier. We have no doubts that the way to go is to apply geospatial technology to our overall growth and development.

Ghana is lucky to have a president who believes in technology and thus there are favourable policies for spreading the use and awareness about geospatial technology

Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. So, how are you planning to sustain the growth curve by leveraging the benefits of geospatial technology?

The first phase of the Land Administration Project has already been completed and the second phase is currently on, which is using various aspects of geospatial technology. The President has launched a national house numbering system that seeks to use location technology. Ghana is working towards eliminating a lot of challenges, such as organising the transportation sector so that people can move easily between their places of work; and poverty eradication. There are a lot of ongoing programmes and most of these projects in Ghana are directed towards sustainability. We cannot afford to have programmes that are unsustainable, and because geospatial technology also drives sustainability, we believe that we are moving in the right direction.

Tell us about the new initiatives in the surveying and mapping department.

We started mapping back in the 1960s. We have the entire country covered on 1:50,000 scale, while for towns, we have 1:2,500 maps. Around 1995, we completed converting all the hard copy maps into digital versions, and since then we have been mapping digitally.

We have been mapping small pockets. For example, all the state capitals, except some of the newly created ones, have been mapped. To keep the data updated, you need to map regularly, which we have not been able to do because of lack of funds. Thus, the rest of the country has not been revised since the early 1970s.

What technologies are you using for mapping?

While we were using aerial photography earlier, but we are now planning to use LiDAR for the Land Administration Project. Under this project, we would be mapping 25,000 sq km at 1:2,500. We are producing orthophotos, which will then be used to produce land maps as well. There are no restrictions on acquiring these maps, except that for digital maps you have to buy a license as a single end user.

Is there any policy liberalisation initiative in terms of making the digital data available online or creating a geo portal?

For the first time in Ghana, we are trying to prepare a mapping policy as well as a NSDI (National Spatial Data Infrastructure) policy. Within these policies, we are planning to make data available online without any restrictions.

Other than the National Mapping Organisations, are there any other initiatives in Ghana to generate spatial data? Are there any initiatives to build a Spatial Data Infrastructure?

As part of the NSDI policy, we are trying to develop a broad framework of bringing people together for the purpose of data exchange. Various organisations across the country are producing data, which remains scattered all over the country. There is an urgent need to bring all this data together, so that we can share, avoid duplication and work towards the overall betterment of the nation.

We have no doubts that the way to go is to apply geospatial technology to the country’s overall growth and development

What exactly is the Land Administration Project?

We initiated the Land Administration Project in 2011, which basically targeted four components. The first is to make sure that we develop policy frameworks and regulations, so that we can come up with a national mapping policy and a geographic reference networking policy. Besides, we also want to make sure that we decentralise our policies and automate some of the other processes. Most of the things that we do at present are manual, but we are looking to move into a digital environment. Another major focus area is related to project management and human resource development. With respect to the first component, we have already signed contracts with city agencies regarding their land bills. Although we have a National Land Policy 1999, we are yet to have a land Bill. A land Bill can eliminate the contradictions within various types of land laws. With respect to mapping, we have decided to map four out of the ten regions in Ghana. We have divided the country into north and south zones, where we are producing orthophotos on about 25,000 sq km of land. We are using LiDAR because of our collaboration with another national project, the Ghana Commercial Agricultural Project. The project requires detailed orthophotos and we are using LiDAR to produce those maps. So, simply put, this is a very complex project and it makes a lot of use of geospatial technology.

What is the progress so far in the Land Administration Project?

The project is about a year old now. We have already signed contracts and have started receiving reports from consultants. So, we are now getting to a time where we will get the draft final report in the next three-four months. According to World Bank directions, we cannot setup the Geodectic Reference Framework without a policy, as some of the things that we will do downstream are contingent on the policies. When the project ends in 2016, the country should be fully prepared to take off in terms of utilisation of geospatial technology.

In the near future, what do you think is the single biggest opportunity that Ghana has in terms of using geospatial technology and what is the biggest challenge?

Geospatial technology can be applied to many areas in the country, for example, urban planning, agriculture and mining. In Ghana, we are confronted with the challenge of illegal mining. It is impossible to sit in the office and determine where illegal mining activities are taking place at any particular point of time and thus you need information on the activities of these miners. After having extensive discussions with a number of experts from the industry, we have come to the conclusion that geospatial technology can prove to be a more effective and even cheaper solution than the traditional ways. Illegal mining is not just limited to land but is also polluting our water bodies. If you look at the total cost to the country, it is far more than how much investment would be required for implementing technology to control illegal mining. So that is a major area where we are looking to use geospatial technology. The challenge is clearly institutional or how do you build capacity of our people to use the technology. We are lucky to have a president who believes in technology and thus there are favourable policies for spreading the use and awareness about geospatial technology.