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One for the road

While one is struggling with manual techniques of surveying, the other uses a vast array of latest technologies. While one fights the lack of political will and financial capability, his neighbour is totally motivated. While one is opening eyes to the idea of SDI, the other is far ahead in the race. Yet, they are all together – discussing the issues, building bridges, sharing experiences and expertise. Associate Editor Bhanu Rekha spoke to Surveyor Generals of African nations to know the status of geoinformation, challenges and opportunities in their respective countries. Read on to know more…

Tanzania is in early stages of NSDI development

Dr David Mayunga
Assistant Director, Ministry of Lands
Surveys & Mapping Division, Tanzania

The mandate of the Surveys and Mapping Division of the Ministry of Lands is to carry out the surveys and prepare maps in Tanzania at different scales. We are responsible for all the survey and mapping information in Tanzania. We have about 1,626 topographic sheets at a scale of 1:50,000. We have initiated a project called JICA with Japan. Under this, we have already updated the mines data in areas like Victoria zone. At present, we are in the process of updating maps of about 15 districts in the country with the help of World Bank fund.

In terms of technology adoption, we are trying to cope with the latest developments by training our manpower. We are adopting digital technology. Particularly our surveying and mapping division is using GPS equipment to produce maps. All our maps in the scale of 1:50,000 are digitised. We are now trying to vectorise 1: 50,000 maps so that we can update them whenever the need arises.

SDI activities are still at an early stage in Tanzania. From 2002 to 2007, we tried to prepare the policy for NSDI because we thought that by having a policy, we can get the guidelines, rules and regulations for different institutions to bring out their data and then we will be able to share it within our ministries.

The main problem is funding. Due to economic situation, government is not able to fund for training of people. But we are trying at least every year to select a few people to get trained at our universities. We also associate with ITC where we send our people to get formal training.

Ethiopia is on a growth path in use of geosptial technologies
Sultan Mohammed
Director General
Ethiopian Mapping Agency, Ethiopia

Ethiopian Mapping Agency (EMA) is a government body established by the proclamation of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Its mandate is to produce, disseminate and compile fundamental geoinformation datasets such as geodetic reference points, geodetic control points, topographic maps, thematic maps, national atlas and all related geoinformation in Ethiopia. We are also authorised agents of central government to certify all works done by individuals or private organisations.

EMA has earlier been producing topographic maps of the country physically. We have so far produced topographic maps of the country with a scale of 1: 2 million, 1: 1 million. Currently, we are producing 1: 50,000 maps. Some of these products are digitised but most of these are in analog format. We have developed a central strategic plan and our mission is to digitise all maps and continue the production of digital maps in future.

EMA is a government agency. We support the private sector by providing necessary fundamental geoinformation datasets. We have not yet developed a geoinformation organisation that can handle such responsibility outside the government structure but in future, we will support private sector within the framework of our laws.

We have taken an initiative to kick-start NSDI in Ethiopia. Previously, we have established a national committee to work on the policy framework for the establishment of national spatial data infrastructure in our country.

But this committee has not been able to deliver the required policy While one is struggling with manual techniques of surveying, the other uses a vast array of latest technologies. While one fights the lack of political will and financial capability, his neighbour is totally motivated. While one is opening eyes to the idea of SDI, the other is far ahead in the race. Yet, they are all together – discussing the issues, building bridges, sharing experiences and expertise. Associate Editor Bhanu Rekha spoke to Surveyor Generals of African nations to know the status of geoinformation, challenges and opportunities in their respective countries. Read on to know more… framework so far. Now, we have taken it as our own responsibility and we have included it in our strategic plan to formulate the NSDI policy and to forward this policy to the government.

One of the major problems we face is the availability of skilled manpower. EMA is over 50 years and we still lack adequate skills in our resources to implement a project. We have made it top priority to focus on capacity building and are trying to work with our partners to get assistance in developing existing or creating new human and technological resources. If we have to realise our strategic objectives of providing up-to-date and accurate geoinformation to our growing number of users of this information in the country, we have no choice but to develop our resources.

Our aim is to become a centre of excellency in the production and dissemination of fundamental geoinformation in the region. In this regard, we have devised several projects. Ethiopia is on a growth path. We have achieved double digit growth rate in the past five years which we anticipate will continue this year as well. So, the need for up-to-date geo-information is on the increase.

We are looking for partnerships
Dr Felix Elongo
Director, Centre De Recherche
Geographique Et De Production
Cartographique (CERGEC), Congo

Our Centre is responsible for the provision of geoinformation in the country. We are also carrying out geographic research programmes. We have 1:200,000 maps available for the whole country and maps at 1:50,000 scale for 30 % of the country. Not all maps are available digitally though. The digitisation of maps is in progress. We are taking this up in phases.

Apart from manual surveys, we are carrying out aerial surveys. We are also utilising satellite imagery to revise the maps which are at 1:200,000.

We have been organising meetings, trying to sensitise people. We have written a dossier to our ministry enumerating activities of different organisations of the government and on the need to build a platform to share data. We are awaiting some concrete action.

We have only about 20 people in our department who are trained in GIS and remote sensing. There is a requirement of training more people.

We looking for partnerships as we do not have either the technology nor the human resources to carry out extensive mapping activities.

Namibia is abreast in latest technologies
Uzochukwu Godway Ojo Okafor
Surveyor General
Directorate of Survey and Mapping,

The mandate of Directorate of Survey and Mapping is to collect, maintain and analyse data that has geographical context. We are especially mandated to look at topographic maps at the scales of 1:50,000 and 1:250,000. We are also responsible for the cadastral information. With respect to availability, there is no restriction to what's available to the public and what's not.

We started late but we are fortunate because we started at the point when latest technology was changing. So we started with the adaptation of new technology itself. Our map revision programme from day one in 1995 started with digital map revision using digital ortho photos. With respect to acquisition of control points we have quite a number of global positioning systems which we are using to do that. We are abreast with the current technology. Our cadastral system is now being digitised and we have a mandate to develop a cadastral system in this financial year. We have designed a website which was tested. My plan for this financial year will intend to now implement that website. Within that website we intend to make it possible for our customers to be able to assess it and know what we offer.

We are looking at partnerships because in doing that, we will be able to make our data more accessible to the people. What has been a problem is getting a clear policy directive with respect to what payment or nonpayment for the particular data.

If you have a functioning SDI, you will be able to have an efficient LIS. Our cadastral system is well developed in the sense that any plot that is to exchange hands will have to be well defined and that means that we have the coordinates accurately. Also for all the commercial firms, we have them well defined and we have captured them digitally. We are now in the process of digitally capturing all the plots that we have graphically. With that we will be able to develop a functional LIS which will help us to manage the land. Within national development plan, partnership is something we are looking at because we believe that government cannot finance and sustain the national spatial data. So public private partnerships are the way to sustain the programme.

I think this is a very interesting option if we are talking at the level of African Union because that means the policy makers get involved and directives come from the policy makers. And it becomes easier to implement because what has been a problem is get by in the policy maker.

The growth has been slow. Also, there isn't much awareness about applications and that is also one major challenge we are addressing within our management plan for 2009 and 2010. Because we intend to market our selves more forcefully and be able to collaborate with stakeholders and be in a position to showcase what are the applications that could be realised using spatial data, in that way we intend to improve the usage. And also if we have partners in private sector then also we will be in better position to extend the use of our spatial data.

Within Namibia we may not have the capacity but within Africa there are some countries that may have excess capacity and we intend to have them come in. And while they are there, we can aggressively pursue training and skill development with respect to academic qualification and of course to those who are employed. With aspect to the experience they have compared to those coming out of academic institutions. So in that way, we will be able to increase the capacity we have. The government of Namibia has taken initiatives from late 1990s when we have sent several of our students to South Africa and UK. The government has also set up a survey training institute in collaboration with ITC, the Polytechnic Company of Namibia. This institution is great and at the technician level, we no longer have acute shortage. But we do have shortage at the professional level. The problem lies in the fact that manpower, once trained, leaves the department for greener pastures. So, we are looking forward to training more and also developing a strategy to retain those trained. That will form part of minor plan this year.

Botswana started training locally

GB Habana
Department of Surveys and Mapping
Ministry of Lands and Housing

We are the national mapping agency of Botswana and a cadastral authority. We examine, service and archive land records. Most of our cadastral records are in paper format. We are trying to digitise them for easy access. We have conducted aerial survey of the whole country at 1: 80,000 scale in 2001-2002 and then made a orthophotomap for the whole country, which is about 974 sheets. Now we are gradually making those at 1:50,000 line mapping. We have completed that for more than 50% of the country. Mapping data is readily available in Botswana, but at a cost. There are several resource maps that you can buy off the shelf.

Usually, Botswana has some development plans and in each plan, we have some budgets, that will be used over a certain period for map updation. So far we have quite a number of projects and we are keeping upto- date with technology.

We have done a study on how GIS can help the country which was a sort of blueprint for establishing NSDI. We completed phase one under the Ministry of Science and Technology. Right now the responsibility is transferred to the Ministry of Lands and Housing. So, who will be putting some significant efforts. There will be working groups on standards and metadata so that we can start SDI. W also organized a national conference in 2007 on how NSDI could be built in Bostawana.

So far, I don't see any public private partnerships but the thinking at the national level is that we should promote public private partnerships with interested parties but so far we have not done the spade work in this regard. Government is fully committed to improve mapping in Bostawana. Every year, our national budget gives provision to update as many maps as possible. There are several mapping projects and our mapping programmes are fully funded by the government.

Lot of efforts are being taken up in Bostawana in this direction. Previously, we used to get our people trained in Europe and Australia but because of limited funding, the government encouraged us to set up training institutes locally. The University of Bostawana has introduced a degree in geomatics. The first intake was last year. So, in three years time, we should have quite a good supply of manpower. Even the residing officers are applying for this course. We look forward to cooperation with other institutions especially for transfer of technology because to maintain our systems up-to-date and to keep our manpower, we need to have some goodwill from other sectors.

Zimbabwe looking at partnerships
Edwin Guvaza
Surveyor General
Department of the Surveyor General

The Department of Surveyor General is the national mapping agency of Zimbabwe. Our mandate is spelt out in the National Survey Act. There are four departments under this, three of which are technical. We have a cadastral branch, a geodetic branch and a mapping branch. These three branches spell out our mandates. We are in-charge of all national map series in the country. We also examine and approve cadastral information. We examine, approve and regularise that data. Last but not the least, we are also in-charge of all the geodetic control. We actually carry out geodetic surveys and and we maintain geodetic reference points. The other department is to provide support services, administration and finance. We have several challenges as far as our mapping data is concerned. Data is available but the major challenge is that it is out-of-date. The last update was done about 20 years ago, so it is all analog. We are trying to digitise all the existing data but the conversion process is happening at a slow pace as we have several challenges in terms of finances and skilled human resources.

Zimbabwe has started using GPS equipment for surveying 3-4 years ago. However, we are trying to acquire other new mapping technologies for the mapping of natural resources in the country, for which we have got funds from the government at present.

We are looking for partnerships. For day-to-day functioning of the department, we utilise government funds but to take up intensive mapping activities, we need the assistance of private sector.

This is a good initiative. However, in terms of SDI in Zimbabwe, we have many stakeholders involved. What is happening is we have not been spearheading this initiative, but it is hoped that we spearhead so that our stakeholders benefit. The major reason is that ours is a government department and we have to look for a policy direction. This policy framework is being out right now to build a national SDI in Zimbabwe.

I see a lot of interesting things happening in terms of stake holders. We, as a national mapping organisation, are supposed to lead several initiatives but everything is boiling down to public private partnerships. With our department giving us opportunity in this direction, I strongly believe we can reach great heights.


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