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SDI:The road map for Middle East development

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El Fatih Wadidi
Senior GIS Engineer, Greater Nile
Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC),
Sudan [email protected]

Kamal Abdellatif Abdalla


Kamal Abdellatif Abdalla
Head Survey Department, Al Ain Town
Planning, UAE

The paper discusses some important technical considerations, urging Middle East countries to design and operate a number of interconnected systems for SDI and to create relations between different geospatial datasets. It also emphasizes that SDI is the basic central resource and should be considered as the road map for development

Spatial data infrastructure (SDI) is often used to define the matrix of technologies, policies and institutional arrangements that will facilitate the availability and access to spatial data for all levels of government, the private sector, and academic organizations. The importance of SDI can be considered as crucial in the world of today, as it support all terrestrial applications, many decision making processes and management of resources in the growing national, regional and global levels. So SDI is vital for sound applications at the local level as well national and regional levels. As Spatial data is an expensive resource, this will increase the need for cooperation between Middle East countries in the acquisition of spatial data, this will require an establishment of regional programs and projects to obtain and access the spatial data, promote its use and ensure that continuous additional investment in spatial data collection, and management of results in an ever growing, readily available and useable spatial data. The authors call for Middle East initiatives for SDI, starting with the harmonization of standards and specifications for spatial data capture and exchange, coordination of data collection and maintenance activities, and studying the use of common data sets by Middle East countries. The initiative can also concentrate on mapping the changes in Middle East to anticipate future conditions, devise a course of action and evaluating its results, these may include the use of spatial data to:

  • Show where and how, local or regional changes have taken place and their behavior over a period of time, such as changes in meteorological conditions, sea rise, ground water, geological activities and recent crustal movements.
  • Show map changes to anticipate present and future needs, such as an increase or decrease in urbanization, farming, and crime patterns from year to year.
  • Study conditions before and after an action or event take place and to investigate its impact, such as studying the changes of Middle East environment, natural resources through establishment of monitoring systems.

Most of the infrastructures required for Middle East development have spatial component, thus spatial data is an important asset for decision making and exploitation of natural resources required to be handled in an integrated process, within Middle East in a multi disciplinary network. Spatial data infrastructure can be used for sustaining the development, creating impact in the necessity of having strong commitment in data sharing and integration (Muggenhuber, 2004). This will increase the demand and use of spatial data, and the benefits of the society in handling the human resources, natural resources and physical infrastructure.

Unification of Spatial Reference Systems
All Spatial data must be referenced to a coordinate system and adopt projection systems which will help in matching correctly, information about certain area or combining them to study their relationships. This will require that spatial data must be in the same map projection and coordinate system. Several issues are involved in choosing a map projection and coordinate system, including the location of the region in the globe, extent of the area to be mapped, quality of mapping and purpose of spatial data.

The coordinate system specifies the units used to locate features in two-dimensional space and origin point of these units as in geographic or geodetic systems based on ellipsoidal coordinate system. A map projection translates the locations on the ellipsoidal earth to the flat surface on a map. All map projections distort the shapes of features being displayed to some degree, as well as the measurements of area, distances and directions. This fact highlighted the importance of the unification of spatial data coordinate systems and map projection in Middle East to facilitate data sharing and integration of systems, and this will minimize the effect of map projection distortions within the region having at least the same type and amount of distortion all through the region.

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