|Geographical Information Science (GIS) Advocating for the recognition of the GIS industry in Namibia|
|Written by For more information please contact +264 81 309 6517 or email: email@example.com or Dr. Emma Nango|
|Thursday, 18 August 2011 02:17|
Our world, including my tiny village in Salambala, is spatial in both nature and form. In fact everything has a spatial component, and more than 80% of all our data on earth are spatial data (a hut, river, flood, forests, books, etc). This means that a lot of our day-to-day problems including floods in northern and north-eastern Namibia are spatial problems. Wars, drought, pestilence, foot and mouth diseases, fires, all are spatial problems.|
Issues relating to land allocation, registration and disputes are spatial problems. Informal settlements, natural resource protection and exploitation, traffic jams, routing of vehicles, new sites for schools, supermarkets, clinics, and nuclear waste, all are spatial problems.
Almost all government planning-related decisions are directed at improving the citizens’ livelihood. Directing resources from central government to impact positively on the livelihoods of the population is the aim of any government. Spatial problems relate mainly to location.
Would it not be interesting to know the distribution of e.g. diseases, crime, floods, voting behaviour or accidents, to visualise patterns and finally solve certain problems? The map shows the 2000 floods in Kabe and Katima rural constituencies in Caprivi region.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to use GIS and remote sensing tools such as the one above in our policy making process as well as short, medium and long term adaptation and flood mitigation measures in Namibia?
Nyerges (1997) has developed a set of critical thinking questions to stimulate us about geography and GIS. He suggests that geographic questions be categorised into those dealing with:
• Location and extent
• Distribution and pattern or shape
• Spatial association;
• Spatial interaction; and
• Spatial change.
In order to answer some of these questions, geographical investigation or research requires that individuals practice their skills of observing, defining, classifying, analysing, inferring, integrating, and associating spatial phenomena (Nyerges, 1997).
GIS matters because spatial is special because:
•Almost every human activities and decisions involve a spatial component
•Working with spatial information involves complex and difficult choices that are largely unique.
What is this animal called GIS then?
The term geographical information science informs us that this animal must be part of the animals called Information Sciences (IS) which we know today. We can also say there is a strong link between the academic discipline of geography and GIS.
Computer-based GIS have been used since at least the late 1960s with the birth of Canada Geographic Information System. Tomlinson did a lot of documentation then of this emerging science (Tomlinson, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1985, 1988, etc). Their manual predecessor was used perhaps 100 years earlier. The term GIS was only coined as a science in a paper published in 1992 (Goodchild, 1992).
Since information science studies the fundamental aspects arising from the creation, handling, storage, and use of information, similarly GI science should study the fundamental issues arising from geographic information, as a well defined class of information in general (Longley, 2001). Other terms have much the same meaning: geomatics and geo-informatics, spatial information science, geo-computation, geo-information engineering (Longley, 2001).
All these terms suggest a scientific approach to the fundamental issues raised by the use of GIS and related technologies, though they all have different roots and emphasise different ways of thinking about geographic problems (Longley, 2001).
So what is a GIS? In a nutshell, we can define a geographic information system as a computerised system that facilitates the phases of data entry, data analysis and data presentation, especially when dealing with geographic information (de By et al., 2004).
We can therefore confidently conclude that:
• Geographical Information Science has spawned an entire industry
• Geographical Information Science requires individuals with special and unique skills
• Many universities across the world have specifically developed academic programmes up to PhD level in geographical information science and systems.
In Namibia, the Polytechnic of Namibia has developed a Bachelor of Geo-Information Technology (BGIT) degree aimed at producing graduates who are highly capable to reason, infer, collect, analyse and integrate geographic information.
I therefore advocate for the following:
• Recognition of the GIS industry by the government of the republic of Namibia like elsewhere in the world.
• Recognition by the Public Service Commission of Namibia of the work profiles of GIS professional, GIS technologist and GIS technician
• Promotion of the use of GIS tools in all spatial related problems for improved decisions
• Recognition of the role that GIS can play at all levels of government (national, regional and local).
Appreciation is hereby thrown to the National Planning Commission and other government agencies that have seen the need of GIS in the execution of their mandates.
It is for the above reasons that GIS professionals, students, users and those interested across the country attended the first ever GIS Conference at the Ministry of Mines and Energy in Windhoek, on Monday and Tuesday this week. The conference coincided with the launch of the Geo-Information Society of Namibia (GISNA). GISNA’s paramount aim is to promote unity among geo-information users/communities and advance the professionalisation and recognition of Geo-information industry by the Government of the Republic of Namibia.