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Towards a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)

Dr. Talal Al-Awadhi
Geography Department, Sultan Qaboos University
[email protected]

Geographical Information Systems (GIS), in their automated form, began in the 1960s by a Canadian group.

The definition of GIS is not only a computer system, capable of input, storage, manipulation, analyzing and output of geographical data but also, in its widest definition, is a data system to manage the environment for sustainable development for the analyzing of data for planning, decision support and implementation of decision making. Prior to achieving that, GIS is a spatial database.

The continued advances in mapping, geospatial technologies, photogrammetry, remote sensing, and geospatial data acquisition tools, with low cost and more powerful computing capacity have increased the demand of GIS and related technologies and came cross several complicated applications. Therefore, the government of Oman released the importance of GIS in the first half of 1980s. Since then significant works have been done to implement the GIS technology in Oman. The early plan of GIS was to introduce a National Land Information Systems (NLIS). Since the initial strategy, several efforts have been carried out particularly by the Supreme Committee for Town Planning (SCTP). The implementation progress fluctuated due to several reasons.

Currently, GIS project supposed to be at the end of implementation stage based on the previous plan. Recently, the government of Sultanate of Oman also has commenced the implementation of a comprehensive national digital society strategy which GIS will be part of this society. Therefore, there is a need to evaluate the system implementation within various participant organizations and the impact of the system in the process of decision making at various levels of administration.

GIS Background in Oman
Ever since Oman decided to become a modern country in 1970, the government has started looking forward on using such technologies that would take Oman beyond the twenty first century. As a part of this move, GIS was introduced and it was also desired to exchange geographic data between ministries for better services and effective decisions. The GIS system had to be capable of supporting and providing maps and map related data. Therefore, the suggestion, which came from international consultants, was to use Land Information Systems (LIS) to perform these tasks. At the early stages of GIS implementation in Oman, it was seen as substantial technology that aims:

  • To provide data for decision making
  • To facilitate the project participants with digital maps i.e. geographical data
  • To increase the productivity with more efficient spatial and aspatial data
  • To reduce repetition of data collection and storing between project participants
  • To reduce demands on the government resources by avoiding duplication of staff and computing resources
  • To produce updatable and reliable data more accurately in a shorter time.
  • To establish harmony between the various project participants

The Supreme Committee of Town Planning (SCTP) has been appointed to be responsible for the design and implementation strategies of GIS. At the end 1988 the SCTP entrusted ESRI with cooperation with Al Khatib & Alami Corporation to produce a comprehensive proposal for GIS implementation,

  • Identification of GIS implementation strategy phases
  • Identification of GIS requirements from the hardware, software, staff….etc.
  • Establishing a new network to facility geographic data between participants
  • Developing new methods to update maps and related information

The implementation was designed in three phases which were supposed to progress over ten years as follows

Phase One: The duration of this phase was over a period of fifteen months. In this phase a pilot project was designed for seven ministries to test the implementation processes. Two ministries also joined the project. The pilot project was pursued in five testing areas namely Sohar, Al-Rastaq, Al-Buraim, Khasiab & Governorate of Dofar. The main objective of this phase was to identify the outline requirements for the system as part of a longer program of investment in assisting management system and supporting decision. The identification of GIS requirements from hardware and software for each GIS implementation participant has been completed in this phase.

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