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Just capacity, or should it be capability building?

In the recently concluded Geospatial World Forum in Geneva, the session on geo-capacity building had a wide assortment of presentations. For a change, we also had excellent presentations on geospatial pedagogy. The importance of open source software as a viable substitute to the expensive, elitist brand-ware was also expounded. Convincing statistic about the global demand for geospatialists was used as carrot to justify the need of thousands of training centres. Most of our readers would agree that capacity building is a much chewed, regurgitated and mundane issue that has been on the anvil since the inception of conferences in our domain. So, why does this topic still figure? Aren’t our policy makers already aware and enlightened about this perennial need of trained human resource?

A charitable act towards capacity building for almost 11,000 Indian schools was done by Rolta in 2010 when licences of Geomatica were pledged. It has been four years but the impact unfortunately is not visible. The missing cog is the availability of a capable teachers or facilitators who are geo-smart and familiar with the specialised pedagogical skills required. A very similar fate would meet the proponents of open source free software for geospatial capacity building, since, just having or donating software (free or paid) does not automatically result in capacity or capability. Esri and its founder have been doing their bit towards building a geo-aware or rather geo-smart society and the recent pledge of over 10,000 licences of ArcGIS to the ConnectED initiative of the US government is one such effort. In this case, success will depend only on the availability of teachers, as the proven course material and content developed by Esri is readily available. The task of learning becomes easier if course material is designed for diverse capabilities — present and required. A serious thought is also needed at the ‘capability’ of the capacity that is being built. I invite your comments on the ‘capability’ requirements of the ‘capacity built’ in geospatial.

I would also like to announce a new section in this weekly — DRONES drone. The new section will highlight selected stories and trends from the world of drones, and highlight the effective applications of UAV/UAS.

Published as editorial in Geospatial World Weekly June 2, 2014