South Africa: The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has established a forum aimed at enhancing the capacity of the media in the promotion, advocacy and awareness-creation of GIS in the African continent.
According to the UNECA, GIS and related disciplines are now commonly found as the driving force of many applications and services in socio-economic development, offering a different way in which information required to manage communities and economic activities are produced and used.
But unfortunately, one of the great impediments to the use of the technology in Africa and its contribution to development is the communication gap that exists among major actors and players within and outside the sector.
It said as a tool, the technology was enormously important for decision-makers across a wide range of disciplines, industries and sectors, so there was the need for journalists in Africa to understand how geospatial technology supported the management of the continent’s development.
Based on this realisation, the UNECA organised a two-day training at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a select group of media professionals from the western, eastern and southern Africa, to improve the quality of geo-information.
The media professionals pledged to promote the creation of National Geospatial Science Journalists Association in their respective countries.
Speaking on the occasion, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of ICT, Science and Technology Division of the UNECA, noted that the wide usage of the technology in Africa could help influence the management of Africa’s development.
Unfortunately, she said, the geo-information sector was not effectively communicating with the general public, leading to low adoption of geospatial science and technology in Africa, and thereby its low contribution to development.
In the media field, for instance, geospatial data could provide rich information that could be combined with aerial photographs aligned and laid on maps to depict the location of natural resources such as oil and gas or gold, expected disaster-prone areas, the location of an unfolding event on a map, census or rating territories.
Again, data from the technology could be used for a visual analysis to inform readers or viewers of the exact location of an unfolding news item. As such, Opoku-Mensah said the engagement of media professionals and researchers was vital to overcoming the communication gap.