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USAID to set up geospatial intelligence center

US: The US Agency for International Development (USAID) will soon set up GeoCenter. The new geospatial intelligence center at USAID aims to mash together satellite imagery and on-the-ground surveys and reports to cut down on field-based work and give the agency a better sense of where development dollars can do the most good.

The center will be ready sometime before the end of the year, according to Shadrock Roberts, one of its designers during a USAID seminar. “GIS data can be combined with a range of other data collected by USAID and nongovernment aid organisations to make development work more efficient and productive,” said panelists at the event.

They explained project workers focused on food security, for example, can map data on conflict, economic development and population movements with satellite-based maps of agricultural production, roads and weather patterns to predict where food shortages are most likely to occur and focus resources there. In other cases, rapidly gathered satellite imagery can save workers on the ground minutes or hours of busy work during humanitarian emergencies.

GIS information also is helpful for monitoring and evaluating existing programs, Karl Wurster, a geographer who worked in the USAID mission in Rabat, Morocco, said during Wednesday’s panel.

The GeoCenter’s goal will be to collect best practices from those missions and try to establish common data standards among both different missions and between USAID and other aid organizations working in a single country or region so data can be more easily shared.

The group also plans to standardise, as much as possible, the metadata different missions and agencies use, said Carrie Stokes, another GeoCenter organizer, so different groups can confidently use the same maps and datasets without duplicating work.

The center will likely contract out some mapping work from USAID missions that lack the capacity to do it locally, Roberts said, and create standard mapping products to be used across multiple missions.

Source: NextGov