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Archive for December, 2007

I was privileged to attend the special inauguration of the CSIR’s SPOT  2,5 m natural colour seamless mosaic dataset at the Satellite Applications Centre in Hartebeesthoek in April. The excitement of having such highly specialised data available was obvious to all attending the event.

There was further good news when it was announced that the SPOT 5 team will be providing an annual mosaic enabling much needed change detection to take place. South Africa’s most recent census data goes back to 2001 and it is evident to all that great changes have taken place since then. Government and the private sector need to know the details of these changes to allow for effective planning and management.

In preparation for the much anticipated next census in 2011, Dr. Liz Gavin announced at the launch that Statistics South Africa will be using the SPOT 5 data to create a national database of every built structure in the country. It was great to hear that the SPOT 5 imagery will be used to identify shifts in settlements and structures, and that subsequent analysis will lead to the generation of improved population estimates.

As Dr. Gavin put it, the SPOT 5 imagery is clearly a national resource which can and must be used to the benefit all South Africans. The best way of showing our thanks to the SPOT 5 team is to make appropriate use of the imagery.

GIS users in government must be encouraged to use this information to update their current data while we wait for census 2011. Government departments down to municipal level need to be made aware that the SPOT 5 imagery is freely available to them and given guidance on how it can be used to cover the shortfall in information from the current census data.

In turn public service GIS users need to be encouraged to share data generated by their departments with other government departments.GIS as a planning and decision making tool loses its effectiveness when data is left in dark corners unused. To make this happen, there needs to be consensus amongst the various departments, right down to municipal level, on how to share data and on appropriate standards to be used when inputting data. This theme was hammered home by presenters at Joburg City’s Corporate Geomatics GIS day seminar on safety and security.

As we all know there is plenty of information available in data spreadsheets, but it is often only once the information has been made geographically available (i.e. put on to maps) that problems can jump out at users. This ability of GIS to highlight problem areas with a simple glance can save hours of slogging through paperwork.

At the GIS Urban Environment Summit, it was pointed out that municipal GIS departments need to be used by the whole municipality and not just by members of the GIS department. Municipal GIS departments must be encouraged to allocate a variety of users – ranging from basic to expert – on to their systems so that housing, health, finance officials and so on can make use of GIS data to become more effective managers in their areas of operation.

South Africa is actually a data rich country but we are not sharing our data or analysing it enough. The storage of available GIS data needs to be centralised to enable effective sharing to take place countrywide. Appropriate channels for this information to flow along need to be created thereby enabling GIS to take its place in the limelight.

 

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