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Archive for February, 2010

People working in the GIS field know all too well that GIS is a marvelous tool for empowering policy and decision makers. The US Federal Geographic Data Committee’s 2006 Annual Report indicates that as much as 90% of US government data have a geospatial component. The same can also be said of South Africa’s government data.

In 2009, the Coalition of Geospatial Organisations (COGO), a coalition of 15 national professional societies, trade associations, and membership organisations in the geospatial field and representing 30 000 producers and users of geospatial data and technology in the US, urged Congress to establish geospatial subcommittees in both the House and the Senate. COGO believes that the current structure is inefficient and does not contribute to strategic coordinated policy and investments among the federal agencies. It points out that oversight of federal geospatial activities has not been effective and as a result federal agencies are still independently acquiring and maintaining potentially duplicative and costly datasets and systems.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it…?

GIS is integral to government operations and yet here in South Africa treasure troves of GIS data lie hidden in silo structures while various government departments and local municipalities blow their budgets hiring consultants to provide them with data that is actually freely available to them, if only they knew it was available and how to access it. Much of this needless expenditure is being duplicated across South Africa at a time of restricted budgets and increased demands for service delivery.

Knowing this, I was interested to learn about the activities of the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) (see page 38), an initiative which aims to assist the Gauteng City-Region with better planning and management as well as improved co-operative government relations. By means of GIS analysis and modeling of government data, GCRO aims to make efficient use of GIS within the Gauteng City-Region and to use GIS to break down data barriers across all levels of government enabling easier access to all information for both local and provincial government.

While the intention is certainly praiseworthy and deserving of the support of all affected parties, it highlights the lack of achievement by the National Spatial Information Framework (NSIF) whose mandate it is to coordinate South Africa’s spatial data infrastructure.

The long wait for effective management of South Africa’s spatial data infrastructure continues as we await an announcement on appointments to the Committee for Spatial Information (CSI). The CSI is required to administer and coordinate the capture and sharing of spatial information by identifying data custodians, specifying standards and other prescriptions applicable to geospatial data, and ensuring access to the spatial data. Accomplishing all of this is quite a task and it is hoped that the people nominated to the CSI understand just how vital and necessary their work is and the immeasurable benefits awaiting government, business and individual South Africans should they succeed.

Just like the US, South Africa needs its spatial data infrastructure to be managed effectively and utilised appropriately for the betterment of our country and its peoples.

 

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