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Archive for March, 2012

Tensions were high at the NSIF and GISSA workshop dealing with Geo-information Science (GISc) professional registration held in Pretoria earlier this month. It was very clear that there is a lot of disgruntlement with the PLATO registration process and the PLATO GISc professional academic model.

The main source of dissatisfaction with professional registration arises from the fact that Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD), implemented in 2009, has put many government employees working in the GISc sector in a difficult position. They cannot be promoted or apply for new jobs within government unless they are registered with PLATO. Consequently there is a rush on for them to register and only now are they being exposed to the rigorous requirements of professional registration, including the appropriateness of their qualifications.

The concern of the majority of the people attending the workshop was their inability to see a place for themselves within the professional GISc academic model proposed by PLATO. It would appear that the majority of people in attendance at the workshop were individuals who had qualified in geography and/or the natural sciences and were not able to fulfill the fundamental subject requirements such as maths and science while others were lacking core subject areas such as information technology and geographical information science that are essential requirements in the PLATO GISc professional academic model.

As Heinrich du Plessis explained on behalf of PLATO, the GISc professional model was based on extensive consultations with the GIS industry, starting back in 2003, and by examining professional registration requirements elsewhere in the world. And as technology continues to advance, it is increasingly evident that maths and science are key subjects for people wishing to progress in the GISc field. Ignoring this fact will be detrimental to the profession in the long run.

Du Plessis used the registration process for a Professional GISc Practitioner to illustrate the correct procedure to apply for registration and the subsequent assessment procedure was explained to illustrate the importance of submitting the correct information. Perhaps it would have helped matters if the workshop had explored the other avenues for GIS registration via PLATO i.e. that of GIS Technicians and GIS Technologists. These are respectable options and will in many cases assist with fulfilling the immediate requirements of OSD.

There is also clearly a problem with the PLATO registration process itself. Participants were very vocal about their unhappiness with the lack of communication from PLATO regarding the status of their applications. However, as explained by the panelists, PLATO has limited resources and relies on voluntary support from competent members in the industry. It is also struggling to cope with the volume of applications arising as a result of OSD implementation. The long delays when additional or outstanding information is requested from applicants, also impacts on the turnaround times of applications.

In conclusion, people need to explore the various registration options and establish what works best for their particular situation. However, it is important to note that the onus is on people working in the GISc sector to strive to achieve the highest qualifications and not on the professional body to lower the standards to accommodate everyone. In the end professional registration is about quality, standards and protecting the interests of the public.

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