Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: African governments should harness the wealth of available geospatial information, recommended a sub-committee on geo-information on the sidelines of the second session of the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology (CODIST-II), in Ethiopia.
Wilbur Ottichilo, a Kenyan parliamentarian said, “Given that over 80 per cent of public and private planning and decision-making processes use geospatial data, governments of developing countries need to recognise and acknowledge the importance of GIS.”
One of the success stories presented at the meeting was the work of the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) – based in Nairobi, Kenya. RCMRD was established in 1975 by the Economic Commission for Africa. It provides advisory services and capacity building for GIS services such as surveying, mapping and remote sensing.
Ottichilo, a former director-general of RCMRD, used GIS to determine which areas within his constituency lack infrastructure. Emuhaya, Ottichilo’s constituency, is being mapped using the Constituency Development Information System (CDIS). The aim of CDIS is to create a ‘smart’ system that analyses, stores and displays geographical data to help with improved planning and management for food security and poverty alleviation. For example, it allows online monitoring of how crops are doing by looking at satellite images of vegetation in the area.
But Africa is still poorly mapped, with much of the data unreliable or held commercially, according to Derek Clarke, chief director of South African mapping organisation National Geo-spatial Information.
This could be attributed to the lack of a methodological approach to the collection and maintenance of geospatial data, Clarke said. It is also a clear indication that the continent’s national mapping organisations are poorly resourced. He added that any GIS technologies developed must be affordable and appropriate for the African context.