Plenary deliberates GenNext GIS technology

Plenary deliberates GenNext GIS technology

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Cape Town, South Africa: The second day of Map Africa 2010 opened to rich and thought provoking deliberations from geospatial experts in the plenary session. The session was ably chaired by Aida Opoku Mensah, Director, ICT&ST, UN ECA and S Subba Rao, Surveyor General of India.

The opening presentation was by Willy Govender, Founder and CEO, Data World on innovative technologies for emerging application sectors. He said that the developing world, especially Africa, can shun the traditional ways and take the second mover advantage in adopting latest technologies. GIS is beginning to evolve from a tool used by researchers and academics to a mainstream technology used daily by the society. He coined the term – GISx – generation X of GIS/next generation GIS – where there will be GIS activity virtually on the Web, helping online communities working on lower budgets, trying to do more, innovating solutions that allow scalability and creating pay per use products. He said that mobile applications that can run on cell phones, mapping engines of Google, Bing and Nokia and online datasets are going to be the trend.

Discussing the concept of cloud computing and how it is getting pervasive with innovative applications, Willy touched upon the associated concepts like software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). While enumerating the umpteen benefits of cloud computing, he also cautioned on the security issues associated with it.

Detailing the plethora of industry applications of GNSS, Bryn Fosburgh, Sector President–Engineering and Construction/Emerging Markets, Trimble, said GNSS is an infrastructure created by the confluence of three major technology groupings – communication, information and position. Not too distant in the future, he said, many new countries will add satellite constellations like GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou and several satellite-based augmentations. He went on to describe the Japanese QZSS, Chinese Beidou, EU’s Galileo and India’s IRNSS. He then touched upon the latest developments in the field and said that more GNSS satellites imply more precision. However, GNSS measurement errors exist and relative positioning, receiver design and antenna design can be used to reduce these errors. He concluded by listing the variety of applications made possible by GNSS including asset management, aviation, cadastres and GIS, open pit mine monitoring and safety and construction.

Dr Nick Land, Business Development Manager – Cadastre and National Mapping, ESRI Europe discussed how GIS is evolving to be a collaborative platform for sustainable development. He said, “We are living in a rapidly changing world increasingly driven by population growth creating unprecedented issues vis-à-vis climate change, food security, energy, natural resources. So, our world needs a new approach, a new framework, an approach that helps us understand the complex relationships and patterns. GIS provides this framework and a collaborative approach to the issues at hand.” He then enumerated this point with examples of utility of GIS in various verticals and said that the application of GIS is only limited by our imagination.

He then traced the evolution of GIS as a technology and concluded that GIS is evolving and becoming more powerful, more easy to use and is everywhere, allowing to tap rich resources and work on the desktop, Web and mobile. Crowd sourcing and social media are being integrated, providing new sources of geospatial information while simultaneously creating several challenges and opportunities, he said.

Dr Frank Byamugisha, Regional Land Coordinator for Africa, World Bank, discussed the surveying and mapping trends in Sub-Saharan Africa and land reform initiatives in the region. He opened his talk by detailing the latest land reform initiatives in Kenya. According to Dr Frank, a strong demand is emerging for surveying and mapping in Africa. He attributed this demand to the rapid economic growth, rising demand for satellite data, rising commodity prices and global interest in Africa’s farmland for food and bio-fuel, rapid urbanisation and investments in infrastructure, climate change and implied changes in land management, increased regional and country level demand for improved land governance – demarcating community lands, registration and planning of marginal lands. As a result, cadastral surveying and registration is expected to rise from less than 10% to 20% in 15 years. Dr Frank said that Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Kenya are already increasing their surveying budgets.

This demand for surveying and mapping can be met, he opined, but it must meet certain national development priorities, costs must be reduced through reforms and smart acquisition, sharing and updating of spatial data. World Bank is scaling up support, so are a number of other development partners. He identified 15 areas for reform in surveying and mapping. These include too high accuracy requirements and inappropriate technology; incomplete and outdated geodetic networks; inflexibility of aerial photos and satellite imagery; limited application of spatial data; legal restrictions on accessing satellite data; duplication of data; high costs of selling data; difficulties in agreeing on data acquisition, sharing and updation; poor quality control of data acquisition, unnecessary approval and control regulations of surveys; restrictive practices in certifying surveyors.

Dr Bob Scholes, Chair – GEO Biodiversity Observation Network, CSIR, South Africa, presented an outsider’s view to geospatial technology. He discussed how various geospatial tools are utilised effectively for environmental studies, urban analysis and biodiversity. He concluded saying that this is an exciting time for spatial analysis, but it requires upskilling and repositioning. Geospatial technology is a tool but certain degree of inter-disciplinarity and trans-disciplinarity are essential to better use this technology.
Steven Ramage, Executive Director, OGC opened his presentation on ‘Standards,

Interoperability and Business Value,’ listing out certain misconceptions around standards which include that standards are cumbersome, time consuming and an exclusive domain of experts. He then explained the concept of an open standard, the need to have open standards and the business value they accrue to an organisation. GovFuture, a new initiative from OGC, gives access to OGC’s unique online resources and insight into global geospatial policy and technology developments to governments. It focuses on the value of using standards rather than the process of creating or developing standards.  

One of the biggest challenges for Africa is the lack of infrastructure and political will towards the use of technology in nation building. Chairperson of the session, Aida Opoku Mensah, touched upon these pertinent issues and called upon the African geospatial community to unite against these challenges and build geospatial infrastructure for quick development of the continent.  

Source: Our Correspondent