In view of the advances in technology and potential for harnessing the available information for Africa’s development, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has organized a three-day meeting running from August 8 to 10 in Addis Ababa to assess the key challenges, opportunities and constraints relating to geospatial information management in Africa.
The meeting, called African Regional Preparatory meeting of the Global Geospatial Management Initiative, which has drawn participants from both local and international organizations, also aims to develop Africa’s vision, approach and contribution as well as define the continent’s broad plan of action for future activities.
In a speech read on his behalf by Ms Jennifer Kargbo, UNECA’s deputy executive secretary, UNECA’s executive secretary Mr Abdoulie Janneh emphasized the importance of geospatial information, saying that it is being utilized to address many of the world’s humanitarian, peace and security, environmental and development challenges including climate change, natural disasters, land demarcation and management, food and economic crises and population displacement.
Adding that UNECA would continue assisting African states to enhance the acquisition and use of geospatial information and in constructing appropriate spatial data infrastructure or SDI, Mr Janneh said that a global approach is needed to effectively manage geo-information products and resources.
“African countries needed to strengthen their corporation in this area to come with a firm position and strong plan of action for developing the necessary infrastructure across the continent,” said Mr Janneh.
The preparatory meeting is a lead up to a high-level forum on managing global geospatial information scheduled for Seoul, South Korea, from October 24 to 26.
Mr Stefan Schweinfest, UN Statistics Division chief, said that rapid advancement in technology has lead to changes in business model for the provision and access of geospatial data.
He Added that there is need for a global geospatial information management (GGIM) system as demonstrated by the “significant gap in the management of geospatial information globally” with the gap being filled by the private sector which is increasingly reducing the influence of governments in this area.
The meeting is in recognition of the fact that while Africa strives to reduce the digital divide between the continent and other parts of the world, it also endeavors to enhance the use of geospatial science and technology as one of the core technology for incorporating spatially-enabled information in the policy formulation and implementation.
It has also been recognized that geospatial information services are currently provided by many different organizations, making it difficult to access geo-information simultaneously to provide rational set of services.
The conference follows an earlier experts meeting convened by UNECA in 2000 on the future orientation of geo-information in Africa which recommended that all geo-information activities should be aligned towards the development of Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) as the appropriate mechanism for sharing spatial data and information.