Building Capacity to Apply Geographic Information to Sustainable Development in Africa
The effective use of geographic information to implement Agenda 21 will require sustained investments in human resources development, building public and private organizations, and improving societal capabilities for generating and using new knowledge. These efforts will involve strengthening existing international cooperation and introducing new approaches based on lessons learned from previous efforts. The application of geographic information to Agenda 21 issues in Africa requires considerable growth in geospatial capacity. Geospatial capacity is the ability to undertake activities, solve problems, and achieve objectives using geographic information and tools.
As countries transform themselves they have to develop different capacities. Capacity development needs to be addressed at three levels.
Human or individual—This involves enabling individuals to embark on a continuous process of learning—building on existing knowledge and skills, and extending these in new directions as fresh opportunities appear.
Organizational or institutional—This involves strengthening and improving existing institutions as well as the design of new ones where they do not exist. In additional to the role of individual organizations, emphasis is also placed on interactions between different organizations as a source of products and services derived from geographic information sciences.
Societal—This involves capacities in the society as a whole, or a transformation for development. An example is creating the kinds of opportunities, whether in the public or private sector, that enable people to use and expand their capacities to the fullest through reforms in policies, laws, and regulations. Societal capabilities are therefore linked to existing national systems of governance. Without such opportunities, people will find that their skills rapidly erode or become obsolete. If they find no opportunities locally, trained people will join the brain drain and take their skills overseas.
All of these layers of capacity are mutually interdependent and interactive; they co-evolve over long time horizons. For example, a paucity of organizations that employ a trained workforce may result in “brain drain” leading to the weakening of existing organizations such as universities, government departments, and private enterprises. When either human or organizational capacity-building is pursued on its own, development can become skewed and inefficient (Fukuda-Parr et al., 2002). Geospatial capacity-building is closely linked to expansion in economic activities and therefore part and parcel of the overall system of economic transformation. Policies to promote scientific and technological development will facilitate the use of geographic information for sustainable development.
This Chapter follows the above structural framework. (The committee chose to use the terms “organizational” and “human” rather than “institutional” and “individual.”) The first section discusses human capacity-building, examining primary, secondary, post-secondary, and continuing or onthe-job training. Section two discusses organizations at levels from national to international (continental) including:
governmental, civic, and private-sector institutions;
academic and related institutions; and
professional (scientific and technical) societies.
The final section treats the broader issue of societal geospatial capacity. It summarizes factors at the national level, including good governance,1 that affect the applica-
tion of geographic information to sustainable development and discusses the role of partnerships in the development of geospatial capacity. The chapter discusses capacity-building research networks and organizations at the national, regional, and international levels. These organizations are described as examples and the committee does not analyze or critique their programs in terms of success or failure to build geospatial capacity.
The first manifestation of society’s capacity is the competence of a critical mass of its citizens. Development of human capacity in a society is accomplished primarily through education and training. The basic health and nutrition of its citizens also determines a nation’s human capacity (Box 8-1).
Developing geospatial capacity in Africa is part of the larger challenge of building scientific and technical capacity and a trained workforce. As in other scientific and technical fields, such as information and communications technology and agriculture (see Aiyepeku et al., 1994; Lindley et al., 1996; Cisse et al., 1998), geospatial capacity-building depends on
primary education, including adequate nutrition and health care;
secondary education, including interdisciplinary science and mathematics;
post-secondary education and training; and
continuing, and on-the-job training in relevant sectors.
Primary and Secondary Education
Capacity-building begins with primary education. By the secondary level multidisciplinary approaches may provide an avenue for learning about sustainable development. To be addressed effectively sustainable development issues require a multidisciplinary approach.
In sub-Saharan Africa enrollment rates in primary and secondary school are low and gender disparity is high. Currently girls are enrolled in lower proportion than boys in 26 sub-Saharan African countries (Sass and Ashford, 2002). African governments have made universal primary education by 2015 a major objective (NEPAD, 2001).
Opportunities for linking geographic science activities in secondary schools around the world are emerging. For example, a worldwide network of projects in secondary schools and universities called My Community, Our Earth2 is helping students to use geographic information science to show how their communities are changing and how to make communities sustainable.
The integrated perspectives of geography and the technologies of the geographic information sciences are an integral part of the development and use of information and communications technologies in Africa and should be central to the new African Learning Network (ECA, 2001a). However, at present, geographic information is being developed primarily as an independent higher-level technical specialization in Africa. The same is true of the way geographic information science is being taught at the tertiary level throughout North America and Europe. Even where geographic information science is introduced as part of the secondary school system (such as in Ontario, Canada), the emphasis is on the technology itself rather than on how the technology can be used to deal with issues of societal significance.
Appropriate places in the secondary school curriculum include computer science and other information technology courses as well as interdisciplinary studies such as geography and environmental studies. The format of final secondary school exams is a key element in the integration of geographic information science in the curriculum.
Post-Secondary Education and Training
Post-secondary education and training3 is particularly important for geographic information science and technology because of their scientific and technical natures. The importance of university education is stated in the NEPAD plan (NEPAD, 2001).
The plan supports the immediate strengthening of the university system across Africa, including the creation of specialized universities where needed, building on available African teaching staff. The need to establish and strengthen institutes of technology is especially emphasized.
NEPAD’s argument is supported by two studies that emphasize university education (Bourne, 2000; World Bank, 2000). NEPAD also calls for the establishment of “regional cooperation on product standards development and dissemination, and on geographic information systems” (NEPAD, 2001, p. 47). Such regional cooperation could promote capacity-building in geographic information science.
According to Bassolé (2002), 35-45 percent of human capacity in geographic information science takes place in the formal education system. Education and training in geographic information science in Africa is offered in universities or polytechnics in which geographic information science is part of a broader curriculum, and in national and regional training centers (Bassolé, 2002).
Post-secondary education and training refers to formal education at the tertiary level in universities, polytechnics, and in this case, regional remote-sensing centers.
Workforce issues cannot be discussed without reference to the immense impact of endemic disease on children and the working-age population (Gallup and Sachs, 1998). Good health is an integral part of human capacity-building. Diseases including HIV/AIDS, water- and vector-borne diseases (e.g., malaria, schistosomiasis), and tuberculosis have a profound impact on the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa. The effect of such losses among the working-age population is to exacerbate poverty and social disruption. Indeed, poverty and malaria are closely linked (Gallup and Sachs, 1998).
On the level of the individual these illnesses reduce energy and efficiency. On a larger scale diseases like AIDS are creating a generation of orphans and unraveling the fabric of society. The impact on the education system is devastating. When parents become ill or die, children are taken out of school, girls in greater number than boys, widening the gender gap in education. Two-thirds of the 113 million children out of school in developing countries are girls (World Bank, 2002). The problem is unlikely to abate: Although sub-Saharan Africa has two-thirds of the world’s HIV infections and 84 percent of its AIDS deaths (UNAIDS, 2000), the region accounts for just 3 percent of global AIDS spending.
Although women now outnumber men infected with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, the biggest killer of women in Africa is not AIDS but AIDS-related tuberculosis. The United Nations warns that cases of tuberculosis in Africa are expected to double over the next 10 years. Such catastrophic losses to society undermine the potential for a stable workforce.
In West Africa 50-55 percent of training in the use of geographic information technologies occurs in the context of externally funded development projects that have a geographic information component (Bassolé, 2002). Often these projects work at the local level and demonstrate the potential of geographic information science in grassroots applications. On average they last three to five years until external funding expires. In addition, overseas development assistance often requires the use of technology, including hardware and software from the donor country. This results in the delivery of short-term intensive instruction on how to operate a particular software system but little knowledge of the concepts and principles of geographic information science. It may be challenging to transfer specific skills developed in project-based training to other situations. Human resource development does not always fit well within a project-oriented approach. Geospatial capacity-building is a long-term process.
Geographic information technologies are evolving rapidly, therefore necessitating retraining. Kufoniyi (2001) says that “the rate of development in geographic information technologies is so rapid that it is often difficult for staff [of the Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys (RECTAS) in Nigeria] to be constantly retrained to keep pace with the rapid technological development.”
Educational institutions in developing countries are beginning to address the needs for lifelong learning (NRC, 1999), and the Internet has a role to play. RECTAS, for example, is striving for full Internet connectivity to start a Web-based distance learning program that will include continuing education. Our Common Journey (NRC, 1999) underscores the role of the Internet in continuing education in developing countries. Internet-delivered courses in geographic information science are available from a variety of public and private sources. The use of the Internet and Web-based programs emphasizes the need for information and telecommunication infrastructure (ICT) plans (Chapter 4) involving the development of human capacity to manage this infrastructure. Internet delivery of education and training in geographic information science is an area of opportunity in Africa and for technical cooperation between African and donor nations.
The importance of ICTs for development was articulated by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA, 1999) and recognized in the Okinawa Charter (Government of Japan, 2000). Two African programs assisting sustainable growth of human capacity in ICTs are the African Information Society Initiative (AISI) and the African Learning Network (ALN). The AISI provides a framework for information and communication activities in Africa, and the ALN is introducing ICTs to schools, linking universities and research organizations, and creating a national network for students enrolled in further education.
A cadre of well-trained individuals will need to be formed in each country to apply geographic data and information in support of sustainable development in Africa. Continuing and on-the-job training should become an integral part of the process of enhancing geospatial capacity. Organizations that provide professional training in geographic information sciences such as regional centers and polytechnics should be strengthened.
Within a country organizational capacity can be built on several levels—nationally, regionally, internationally—and simultaneously at multiple levels. The relative proportion of types of organizations differs among countries. For example,
in developing countries there tend to be fewer formal organizations and more social and cultural groups (Fukuda-Parr et al., 2002). These social and cultural groups function similarly to formal organizations in developed countries, providing advice, assistance, and support. Because geographic information science is technical, geospatial capacity-building requires support from formal organizations in government, civil society, and industry. In Africa a number of programs to develop new types of organizations have been implemented to diversify capacity and promote coordination among various sectors (e.g., NEPAD, EIS-Africa, and SADC). One challenge facing organizations is the tendency for technically trained people to be attracted elsewhere (Box 8-2).
Role of Universities
In Africa, as elsewhere, universities and training centers play an important role in geographic education and training.4 The most effective application of geographic information is carried out by individuals who understand both the technology and the socioeconomic development context in which it is to be applied (Akinyemi, 2001). Learning to apply modern geographic information and tools to address evolving societal needs requires a long learning period and attention to the development of research and analytical abilities as well as technical skills. Universities are the logical source of this kind of education and training because they focus on teaching and research. With the appropriate policies and incentives, universities are also natural incubators for enterprises and social organizations. The organizations of civil society are important in many African countries where the functions of the state are inadequate.
Training produces an educated workforce, and research is the basis for generating new knowledge and for developing products and services. Unfortunately, universities have tended to operate as discrete entities, focusing on teaching with limited interaction with wider society, including the private sector. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s massive funding cuts to universities reduced the research and teaching capacity of African universities (Ajayi et. al., 1996; Bourne, 2000; Association of African Universities and the World Bank, 1997; Davenport, 2000; Downes, 2000; Labatut, 2002; Mehta, 2000; Swartz, 2000; Task Force on Higher Education and Society, 2000). During this period, university enrollments increased but human and physical resources did not keep pace.
“Brain drain” is an example of human capacity development resulting in a loss of organizational capacity. When staff are trained overseas, their withdrawal can weaken the organization if replacements are not found during their absence (Carrington and Detragiache, 1998; Eking, 1998; Downes, 2000). Where a development strategy takes brain drain into account, one beneficial approach might be to work with nationals in diaspora as a way of retaining links to the latest sources of scientific and technological advancement (Juma, 2000). For the adaptive and dynamic the world of the future could be characterized by “brain circulation,” which would favor those countries that have placed a large number of nationals for training in centers of scientific and technological leadership. China is an excellent example of such strategic choices in capacity-building in geographic information science (Taylor, 1998). The situation in Africa, however, has been characterized by decades of institutional decay and low levels of enterprise development. These conditions have resulted in the absence of local absorptive capacity for expertise and added to the “brain drain”. Greater private-sector investment will improve Africa’s demand for expertise and help to reduce “brain drain”. Appropriate organizational arrangements and incentives including research networks and regional cooperation could enable Africans in diaspora to contribute to geographic information activities in their home countries.
It is unlikely that long-term capacity-building in technical fields such as geographic information science can be sustained in the absence of strong foundations in higher education with emphasis on the science and technology. Despite the difficulties African universities face they remain vital to the generation of new knowledge and have the potential for organizational capacity-building. The application of geographic information to sustainable development in Africa will depend on the quality, character, and direction of university education in Africa.
There is an urgent need to coordinate and strengthen the capacity of university departments providing both research and training in geographic information science. African universities should become a focus for capacity-building including training and research in geographic information science, and development organizations should coordinate their efforts to achieve this goal.
National Organizations: Illustrative Cases
Bassolé (2002) stressed the importance of a supportive geographic information policy at the national level to encourage active partnerships among government, civil society, and industry. National-level capacity in developing countries has been particularly difficult to build (Fukuda-
Parr et al., 2002), but examples exist. These include a program of integrated coastal management (Tanzania); an effort to use GIS in economic analysis (Uganda); and the mapping of freshwater resources (Burkina Faso).
Tanzanian Coastal Management Partnership
In 1997 the Tanzanian National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) formed a partnership with the University of Rhode Island and USAID to improve coastal management. Another goal was to strengthen the links between local and national coastal management agencies and the University of Dar es Salaam. Working groups were established in priority areas such as sustainable coastal aquaculture, tourism, and environmental monitoring, creating a bridge between coastal managers and the science community.
The partnership has resulted in several new programs. In 2002 the University of Dar es Salaam began offering five courses in coastal applications of geographic information. The partnership also produced a national coastal policy that is under review by the Tanzanian government. The Tanzanian coastal management partners have demonstrated organizational flexibility and commitment to apply geographic information and technology to coastal natural resource management.
Ugandan Information System
The National Environmental Information Center and Makerere University in Kampala5 have developed GIS capabilities that can be applied to economic analysis and decision-making. The GIS project creates an application for a large volume of national social and environmental data that has been digitized at 1:50,000, with the goal of making this information available to the public. Makerere University formed the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) to manage this GIS effort.
ACODE has developed an approach based on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. This says that states should encourage public awareness of environmental information, provide access to this information and to judicial remedy should access be denied. ACODE’s objectives include the creation and support of an information access system for Uganda, common standards for information access across the country, and improvement of information exchange between industry and government.
A major challenge faced by ACODE in carrying out its work is inadequate access to government information. Access is limited by elaborate, time-consuming procedures for requesting information, poor government record-keeping that makes it difficult to track and locate information, and the hesitance of government officials who are unfamiliar with requests for access to information (Mwebaza, 2002).
Spatial Database of Water Resources in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is coordinating activities across internal boundaries and among government ministries and levels of government. A major challenge is the completion of a process that began in 1991 to coordinate the collection, production, and application of geographic information at the national level. Previously many applications of GIS were project driven and did not lead to a strategic plan or holistic vision for geospatial capacity-building. Currently Burkina Faso’s goal with respect to geographic information is to establish a national policy that includes regulations for implementation, increase capacity for analysis in the universities, and raise awareness in the policy community.
A spatial database of water and natural resources in south-western Burkina Faso was developed by the “Haute-Bassins” Regional Directorate of Hydraulics using more than 500 hydrological and natural resource maps of the region, large-scale remotely sensed Landsat images, and GIS to analyze and display data. The program includes 12 river basins and responds to Burkina Faso’s need for basin-level management of water resources and for relevant nationwide government bodies that address water resource issues.
Demonstration of the wide array of GIS uses in governance has attracted the attention of other ministries within Burkina Faso and of neighboring countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Togo. In addition, a private sector GIS group, the Centre SIGET-A has been established to address natural resource management issues in Burkina Faso (USAID/WRI, 2001). The Centre SIGET-A emerged from the activities of EIS-Africa (Chapter 4). In turn, the Centre SIGET-A created a training program for students and is working to increase the demand for geographic information, tools, and services needed to invigorate the field of geographic information science in West Africa.
Regional organizations involve the cooperation of two or more countries in addressing common concerns such as shared resources. Organizations at the regional level permit countries to take advantage of economies of scale and provide opportunities for communication and collaboration. Regional cooperation promotes data standardization, and regional centers play a role in the continuing education of the workforce and raise awareness of policy-makers at all levels of the importance of geographic information.
The regional centers established by the ECA in 19646 are making an important contribution to increasing technologi-
cal capacity in geographic information science. They include the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Kenya (Box 8-3), RECTAS in Nigeria, the Southern and Eastern Africa Mineral Centre (SEAMIC) in Tanzania, and the African Centre for Meteorological Applications and Development (ACMAD) and Agro-Hydro-Meteorological Center (AGRHYMET) in Niger.
At RECTAS there are four program components: two master’s level courses, a three-month certificate course, and refresher courses. RECTAS also provides consulting services and short-term customized training. Until 2000 RECTAS’s main contribution to capacity-building was to develop a technical workforce in photogrammetry and remote-sensing. Recently the center reoriented its activities to contribute to the development of both human and societal capabilities in the region. As the director of RECTAS observed, “The need for capacity-building in geographic information production and management in Africa cannot be over-emphasized as geographic information is definitely the sine-qua-non for sustainable national development” (Kufoniyi, 2001).
Several organizations are approaching capacity-building on a continental scale (e.g., EIS-Africa, the Africa Environment Outlook [AEO] Project and ECA). Continent-wide efforts draw organizations from multiple sectors together and promote open access to data and information.
EIS-Africa is applying GIS and remote-sensing to natural resource management and development issues in Africa (Chapter 4). As a network for the cooperative management of environmental information, EIS-Africa draws together private- and public-sector organizations and experts, promoting access to and use of environmental information (Bassolé, 2002).
In 2000, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment approved the production of the AEO report involving participation of UNEP and multiple partners in six regions (central, eastern, northern, southern, and western Africa and the western Indian Ocean islands). This project harmonizes regional and national-level sources of environmental data and is striving to build capacity in the area of environmental reporting, policy analysis, and scenario development. For example, GIS has been used to identify high-priority biological conservation areas across the continent (AMCEN, 2002).
Recently ECA reorganized its structure and processes to promote effective interaction among various groups interested in information for development. ECA’s Committee on Development Information (CODI-2) developed a plan for capacity-building entitled “The Future Orientation of Geographic Information Activities in Africa” (ECA, 2001b). This document identified as a key problem the lack of individuals trained in geographic and interdisciplinary science. Drawing together previously separate activities, ECA has created a new organizational structure with increased potential for capacity-building.
Research networks represent an important avenue for using existing capacity, focusing their goals on meeting local and international needs, for promoting “brain circulation”
Focus: The RCMRD trains leaders in planning and decision-making, project implementers, trainers, and researchers. Its remote-sensing and environmental management program addresses environmental problems through training in a number of activities, including maintenance of a regional early warning system for food security, environmental monitoring, and disaster management. RCMRD’s engineering services program is expanding the center’s capacity and capability to service and maintain automated equipment and hardware used in resource-mapping and environmental management. The focus of RCMRD has evolved to reflect changing technology, changing geospatial capacity in the region that it serves, and changing socio-economic and operational needs of the member countries (Figure 8-1).
Sponsor/partners: The RCMRD operates with funds from contracting member states and from donors, which include USAID, UNDP, FAO, World Bank, IDRC, UNESCO, BADEA, and a number of bilateral donors, such as France, India, Italy, and the Netherlands.
Key results to date: The center has trained more than 3,000 people from member states and other African countries. Former trainees now train others and provide technical services in their own countries.
Lessons learned: Confronted with a decline in funding from member states, the center was advised in 1997 by UNEP, UNDP, and the World Bank to reorient its efforts to problem-solving applications in natural resource development and environmental management. Commercialization of services was recommended as a means of ensuring long-term financial stability of the center, and the center was encouraged to partner with networks such as EIS-Africa to promote sharing of knowledge and best practices.
SOURCE: W. Ottichilo (RCMRD, personal communication, 2002)
(see Box 8-2), and providing opportunities for young researchers to enhance their capabilities (e.g., Miombo Network, Chapter 7). These networks build upon ongoing research activities in universities, government, industry, and civil society organizations. Donor-funded networks often are created to promote the effective use of available resources and succeed where demand exists for their services. Networks do not produce demand; rather their effectiveness depends on the degree to which demand is incorporated into their planning.
Although indigenous geospatial capacity-building efforts are growing, international players dominate the application of geographic information science to development in Africa. Fukuda-Parr et al. (2002) describe how traditional capacity-building initiatives adversely affected the development of local organizations for training and education because they tended to
undermine local capacity,
focus on high-profile activities,
use expensive methods,
ignore local wishes, and
fixate on targets.
These problems of technical cooperation were a result of two mistaken assumptions in particular according to Fukuda-Parr et al. (2002):
The first is that it is possible simply to ignore existing ca-
pacities in developing countries and replace them with knowledge and systems elsewhere—a form of development as displacement rather than development as transformation. The second assumption concerns the asymmetric donor-recipient relationship—the belief that it is possible ultimately for donors to control the process and yet consider the recipients to be equal partners.
International agencies that build geospatial capacity in Africa have learned from these lessons and are paying greater attention to the central role of local capacity in development. Although the influence of donors will continue to determine the direction of capability-building efforts, there is considerable scope for taking into account recipient needs without compromising the requirements for accountability among donor agencies. For example, extending the timeframes for donor projects may have a greater impact on capacity development than simply increasing the level of funding available.
Examples of international organizations that are active in African geospatial capacity-building are USAID; the International Development and Research Center (IDRC), Canada; the Aerospace Remote Sensing Development Group, France (GDTA); and the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC), the Netherlands. Many of the examples of USAID’s work are introduced in Chapter 3 and subsequent Chapters. The IDRC supports development research and contributes to building research capacity in African universities in ICT. Geographic information processing is an integral part of this effort through its Acacia program (IDRC, 1999; Labatut, 2002). GDTA and ITC are partners of RECTAS in Nigeria. Established in 1973 as an economic consortium, GDTA operates mainly in Francophone Africa. It trains people in remote-sensing and GIS through courses and workshops in France or in the country requesting the training. In 1950, the Netherlands Government founded ITC (Box 8-4) at the request of the United Nations to build capacity through educating and training mid-career professionals from developing countries. Initially the institute concentrated on photogrammetry and cartography but as technology in the mapping sciences developed new activities were added, including training in the analysis of satellite imagery and GIS.
Among other international groups contributing to capacity-building in Africa are universities and colleges and professional organizations. In recent years international professional associations in the geographic information sciences such as the African Organization for Cartography and Remote Sensing, Federation Internationale Géographique, EIS-Africa (Chapter 4), International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, International Cartographic Association, International Association of Geodesy, and International Hydrological Organization have held meetings allowing local professionals access to the latest developments in the field. Universities and colleges in Europe and North America provide scholarships to Africans to study geographic information science (e.g., the Fulbright scholarship program). However, these organizations may also be detrimental to capacity development because they reduce the incentive for donors to support the creation of similar organizations in Africa. Indeed, the large number of international organizations operating in Africa may reduce the potential for the emergence or maturation of local organizations. International organizations often operate under an immune policy environment and, therefore, have no incentive to advocate public-policy reforms that promote the wider use of geographic information. An appropriate balance needs to be struck between the role of international organizations and the need to create space for the emergence of local public and private organizations.
Cooperation among all sectors of society (e.g., government, civil society, and the private sector) is essential for the development of geospatial capacity. Government’s role is central. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said,
All our work for development and peace has taught us that if the issue of governance is neglected, then we are building on sand. No amount of aid, no degree of diplomacy can produce lasting progress if it is not rooted in legitimate, rule-bound institutions responsive and accountable to the people (Annan, 2002).
Government has the power to formulate policies that encourage access to data and information, facilitate relationships among the three sectors, and create an environment in which private-sector development can flourish. In turn, the private sector builds demand for geographic goods and services. Although demand currently exceeds supply in geographic information science in Africa, overall demand for geographic information, goods, and services is very low. The critical mass of individuals required for the development of societal capacity in geographic information science will not enter the field in the absence of demand that creates jobs and income.
This section discusses the role of science and geographic information in governance, the societal factors that influence geospatial capacity, and partnerships for geospatial capacity-building within Africa and between African countries and the United States.
Science and Governance
A government’s recognition of the value of geographic information for policy-making reflects the level of attention given to scientific and technological issues in general. Since the adoption of Agenda 21 in 1992, emphasis on scientific and technical capacity-building has increased in Africa. This increase likely is related to the following:
Since the 1960s, ITC has been in the forefront of curriculum development for geographic information sciences in Africa. Recently the organization reframed its curriculum and program goals to address Africa-centered issues. Students can receive master’s or Ph.D. degrees or can attend short refresher courses. Between 1950 and the present, ITC graduated more than 4,000 students from 45 African countries. The largest number of graduates were from Tanzania (553) followed by Ethiopia (499), Nigeria (442), Kenya (382), Sudan (309), and Egypt (308) (Beerens, 2002). ITC’s decentralization strategy illustrates a number of important challenges shared by all aid agencies. These include:
Competing with indigenous efforts is contrary to ITC’s goals to build geospatial capacity in Africa, yet “it is easier for some Nigerians to study cartography in The Netherlands than at Kaduna Polytechnic” (Ademlemo et al., 1985). According to Beerens (2002),
Perhaps donors themselves should not set standards too high, standards that require African countries to look for help from the outside, either in the form of expatriate technical assistance or overseas education and training. The problem then is that this type of assistance, although at first temporary and targeted, becomes structural. We have to accept that development takes place not by throwing money, projects and expatriate technical assistance at problems but by recognizing the need to start from local conditions and capacities.
Responsibilities of African countries as signatories of international treaties for reporting in areas of science ranging from agriculture and natural resources to climate change (Cisse et al., 1998).
Recognition by African and donor nations that capacity-building and good governance are necessary for economic reform (UNDP, 1997a,b; Nsouli, 2000).
Explosion of the Internet that brought concerns about the “digital divide” to the forefront.
Because Africa is a large and diverse continent, there are significant national differences in approach to the application of geographic information. The capacity to produce and use geographic data varies between and within countries. For example, South Africa has a sophisticated research and educational system for producing geographic data expertise and a long tradition of using geographic information in administrative and policy contexts. In other African countries these efforts are just beginning. African countries that do not have the technical expertise and infrastructure to gather and process geographic data rely on access to geographic information from other countries.
Mohammed Hassan, executive director of the Third World Academy of Sciences and president of the African Academy of Sciences, made these remarks about the need for science advice for African governments.
Africa, a continent with nearly 1 billion people, has less than 30,000 African-born Ph.D. scientists living and working there…It is clear that both well-trained scientists and strong scientific institutions are in short supply in Africa and that the absence of one helps to explain the absence of the other…More funds must be invested in academic research and training activities and academies must play a larger, more authoritative role in advising their governments (Hassan, 2001).
In African governments recognition is growing of the need for science capacity in a world defined by economic globalization and information (NEPAD, 2001; Rabenoro, 2001). Evidence is needed at all levels of government that science capacity can contribute to economic competitiveness and human well-being. To promote the use of geographic information for sustainable development governments need coherent science, technology, and innovation policies with the appropriate institutional arrangements for science and technology advice to key branches of government. Efforts to educate policy-makers about the potential applications of geographic information and technology are underway in many countries including the United States.7 Practical applications in areas of transportation, cadastral issues, and disaster mitigation are among the examples used to illustrate the contributions of GIS to the business of government.
Geographic Information and Governance
The relationship of geospatial capacity and good governance in Africa hinges on broad public access to information and the decision process and accountability on the part of the government regarding decisions including the allocation of public resources such as food, land, and water. Resource allocation is central to African development efforts that focus on the eradication of poverty (e.g., NEPAD, 2001). Geographic data provides governments with needed information
Tap into the Power of GIS. Available at< http://www.fgdc.gov/nsdi/docs/communications>.
about territory, spatial patterns (e.g. population distribution or urban forms), flows of people and goods, and human-environment relations (Murphy, 1995).
Civil society plays an important role in Africa. Non-governmental organizations assume responsibility for providing food, clothing, and health services in many countries (Joseph, 2002). Organizations such as ACODE in Uganda (Chapter 8) provide information to the public and are part of a system of checks and balances for the government. Traditional organizations such as the gachacha in Rwanda and kgotla in Botswana provide a local arena for debate and dispute resolution helping to lighten the burden on the formal legal system (Cliffe, 2002).
Geographic information and good governance go hand in hand. Access to integrated (social, environmental, and economic) geographic information allows civil society to hold government accountable for its decisions; government creates policies that allocate goods and services, and determine public access to information and public participation in the decision process.
The concept of spatial data infrastructures has existed for about a decade (NRC, 1993). Its value to society has not been fully realized (Chapter 4). Focus groups and courses to acquaint national policy-makers with spatial data infrastructures were among the suggestions offered at a meeting of the GISD Alliance8 in Nairobi in 2002 (E. Gavin, personal communication, 2002) and echoed by Bassolé (2002).
National governments are key players in applying geographic information to sustainable development. One of the critical decisions that African governments make relates to how well or fairly public resources are managed and shared. Governments also have the power to enact legal and regulatory frameworks to ensure availability of geographic data for use in government operations and in policy- and decision-making. International reporting responsibilities require African governments to establish frameworks from the grassroots to the national level to inventory and monitor the state of the country and its resources. Geographic information can help African governments to meet their national and international reporting responsibilities incurred as signatories of treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Governments can provide incentives for the use of geographic information science at the sub-national level through legislation designed to achieve sustainable development goals. In Namibia the Ministry of Environment and Tourism’s CBNRM (Chapters 3 and 7) promotes sustainable use of natural resources and facilitates communication between the national government and rural communities on wildlife and tourism issues using two-dimensional maps and images. Currently there are 14 conservancies in the program and 14 more are interested in joining. The devolution of environmental monitoring responsibilities by the national government to provincial or local governments promotes the demand for and use of geographic data at sub-national levels. While opportunities for open access to geographic information are increasing with efforts towards democratization and with advances in the Internet that make digital maps widespread, programs that engage communities and local citizens and land managers with paper maps and other accessible outlets for these geographic information can promote broader participation in the decision process at the local level.
Social Factors Influencing Geospatial Capacity
Data, hardware, and software systems provide increasingly sophisticated geographic information worldwide, but it is really the political, social, economic, and educational institutions of a country that ultimately determine the application and use of geographic data for decision-making. Nonetheless, this barrier could be overcome through building social capacity. Awareness of the importance of geographic information to Agenda 21 issues is a basis for developing social capacity; so too are the efficient management of geographic information and access to information and inclusion in the decision process.
The Efficient Management of Geographic Information
Spatial data infrastructures whose standards conform to the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) have the potential to enhance the use of geographic information by society. With shared compatible data, countries can monitor and manage areas that transcend national boundaries such as river basins and forest systems. Seamless geographic information can facilitate discussions about shared resources. Participants at the Geographic Information for Sustainable Development Alliance meeting in Nairobi (E. Gavin, personal communication, 2002) identified major difficulties in managing geographic information: lack of a clear policy framework, lack of standardization, and technical constraints (see also NSIF, 2000). Addressing these challenges requires collaboration among all sectors and acceptance of the principles underlying spatial data infrastructures (Chapter 4).
Access to Information and Inclusion in the Decision Process
As the goal of universal education in all countries is pursued a growing number of people will be able to use information to inform themselves about government activities. People want access to information about their environment, their health, and their economic and social opportunities. Information provides people with more control over their
lives and the quality of their environments. Access to information in a country includes the right to information and the right to participation in decision-making (Mwebaza, 2002). Ideally, if access to data were denied, legal processes to redress grievances would be in place.
The rapid development of new information technologies and networks over the past two decades has made it possible to obtain geographic data through remote-sensing and to store them in databases for later use. Detailed data about a country can be obtained by other countries and by commercial firms without the observed country’s permission. Databases can be created wholly outside the country of interest and the information could be of superior quality to that available in the country of interest. This growing capacity of individuals and organizations to obtain data from global network sources means that governments can no longer completely control access to data and information about their countries. As awareness of information grows access to information will be in greater demand.
Decision-making involves both objective information and subjective goals and values. The goal of a spatial decision-support system is to improve decision-making through an informed process, not to encapsulate all facets of the process. Although geographic information can improve decision-making, adding information to the process without increasing public access can exacerbate the growing digital divide.
In an increasingly technical world where decision-making can be based on vast and complex databases the ordinary citizen can fall behind the “information power curve.” This is particularly true for the application of geographic data that may require powerful computers and trained technicians. Often projects and programs using GIS technology have converted paper maps to computer maps that are subsequently stored in central computer databanks, often inaccessible to all but the technically trained agency personnel. With the emergence of digital processing of geographic information, there is a risk of further increasing the digital divide as new analyses and models are implemented without wide public access to the inputs and results.
Partnerships for Geospatial Capacity-building
Geospatial capacity-building, like the transfer of technology discussed in Chapter 7, will be more effective when the cooperation occurs in the context of long-term, practical partnerships such as business-to-business or university-to-university rather than exclusively in the traditional donor-agency-to-recipient-government partnership. Partnerships among those with similar experiences (e.g., between entities in developing countries) could enhance their efficacy. Over time, a commitment is needed for communication and education of partners and for human and organizational adjustments to the use of new technologies (Schmidheiny, 1998).
In addition to partnerships driven by demand for specific services, entrepreneurship defined broadly to include social, business, and community activities, is a driving force behind the development of capacity for using geographic information in the sustainability transition. This section looks toward a more sustainable and dynamic approach to capacity-building that creates an important role for African universities.
Effective use of geographic information science in sustainable development will be associated with the emergence of partnerships involving universities, industry, government, and civil society.
Universities bring together many of the elements needed for innovative partnerships. The growing need to build human and organizational capacity to address issues of environment and development offers universities new opportunities to expand their teaching and research. Universities can play a role in offering conservation education and in helping to create conservation organizations. The Stellenbosch University in South Africa is promoting the use of geographic information science in Africa with its satellite launched in 1999 in cooperation with NASA. This is the world’s only satellite built and managed by a university (Box 8-5).
Focusing on capacity-building through research universities may entail changes in the way African universities function. African universities can contribute to societal capacity by functioning as nodes in global networks of knowledge. Universities can provide the knowledge and the know-how that government and the private sector need. Government and the private sector, in turn, can create social and practical support for universities.
A dual focus on teaching and research would build and retain capacity, providing the incentive for African scholars to remain in African universities. These changes should be promoted from within universities, and not imposed on them. A new generation of partnerships among government, civil society, and the private sector could foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa.
Entrepreneurship: Developing Demand
In Africa, supply and demand in geographic information science are often out of balance. A study of the situation in Nigeria in the mid-1980s (Adeniyi, 1985; Ademlemo et. al., 1985; Duru, 1985) shows that the shortage of trained personnel limited the country’s capacity to effectively use them. Of 93 Nigerians trained externally in remote-sensing (many at ITC) only 22 were in a position to apply remote-sensing techniques and only five of them had the necessary equipment for their work (Adeniyi, 1985). Partnerships of universities and the private sector in geospatial capacity-building are key to achieving a balance between supply and demand for geographic information, tools, and services in Africa.
Countries are searching for ways to facilitate the transformation of new knowledge into products and services, and
The Stellenbosch University Satellite (SUNSAT) program set out in 1992 to enrich the engineering graduate training program; expand international scientific cooperation; and stimulate interest in technical careers among school children.
The venture started in the Computer and Control Systems Group of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department of the university to set up a post-graduate research group in satellite systems. This resulted in the establishment of the Electronic Systems Laboratory (ESL) in the department in 1992. SUNSAT was designed, constructed, and tested entirely by ESL students and staff, with the exception of the solar arrays, batteries, GPS receiver, and laser reflectors.
The Department of Communication of the South African government has identified the need for more engineers to supply the demand for satellite telecommunication services and the University of Stellenbosch is meeting this challenge. The impact of SUNSAT on capacity-building can be measured by the more than 50 master’s and Ph.D. degrees that have been awarded to students who participated in the satellite’s development.
closer cooperation between universities and the private sector has emerged as one of the most efficient ways of achieving this goal. Governments can also collaborate with universities to provide education for managers and policy-makers. Private-sector participation in geographic information science will require the support of government for a wide range of enabling policies and incentive measures. Universities could play a key role by providing much needed research and development to start-up geographic information enterprises in both civil society and in the private sector.
Private-sector demand in Africa as a whole is likely to grow fastest in the areas where the present users of geographic information and tools are concentrated: agriculture and natural resource management (Chapter 7). Data and tools for agricultural and environmental issues are needed to address local concerns, including poverty, land ownership, water resource management, and the relationships between competing stakeholders. Capacity-building is needed in both the formal and informal agricultural sectors; extension workers need training that emphasizes both skills and knowledge (Lindley et al., 1996). Agriculture and natural resource management are areas of opportunity for entrepreneurship involving geographic information science and technology.
Partnerships between universities and industry will not emerge automatically. Efforts to create novel partnerships without government incentives and support are unlikely to meet with success. Strategic alliances among government, civil society, and the private sector are a global phenomenon and represent a significant source of productivity and dynamism. The prospects for such alliances in the fields of geographic information are immense and need to be tapped.
In promoting organizational cooperation emphasis should be placed on fostering innovation and the transfer of geographic data and technology through: (1) partnerships and research networks among government agencies, research and training institutions, the private sector, and the non-governmental sector; (2) international collaboration involving developed and African countries; and (3) cooperation between African and other developing countries.
Growing recognition of the role of science and technology in development is creating opportunities to redefine international diplomacy. Good diplomacy entails deploying the benefits of science and technology to meet the needs of developing countries. The United States is already engaged in providing support to African countries for the development of their spatial data infrastructures (see Appendix C). At the U.S. National Academy of Sciences meeting on April 30, 2002, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made the following remarks about the importance of science and technology to sustainable development.
You will also see our new approach to development at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, this August and early September. At the summit, we will stress that good governance, including solid science and technology policies, are fundamental to sustainable development. We will also emphasize in Johannesburg that as important as government-to-government cooperation is to development, governments alone cannot do the job. Public-private partnerships will be crucial to find the money needed to help nations address the daunting problems that they face in developing.
The United States and many other countries and multilateral organizations are working to improve the geospatial capacity of African countries. For example, the United States is engaged with African countries in organizational partnerships promoting the use of geographic information including the Open GIS Consortium Pilot Project (Box 4-4) and the nine USAID Collaborative Research Support Programs [Table 3-1]). The success of these efforts depends on whether they (1) respect the national basis both for African government operations and decision-making and for local non-governmental organizations; (2) provide for open access to data and information and the use of common standards to promote data integration; (3) provide reasonable guarantees of stability and continuity in financial support; and (4) recognize the importance of traveling the “last mile” from the technical data to the non-technical decision-maker.
In addition to the many benefits that African countries derive from access to and use of geographic data, the United States benefits from improved capacity in Africa to use geographic data and information. Improvements in access, man-
agement, and use of geographic data in Africa can promote global stability through participatory government and help African countries to fulfill their international obligations incurred as signatories of international treaties. Information management in African countries also improves the data available to scientists and policy-makers in the United States for scientific research, economic activities (such as the expansion of consumer markets in Africa for U.S. goods and services), and for the care of the global commons: the oceans and the atmosphere.
In addition to supporting developing countries in the development of their spatial data infrastructures, the United States provides valuable foundation and thematic geographic data for a wide variety of applications in Africa. These data include
free and open access to the 24-satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) (Chapter 5);
global 30 × 30 m orthorectified Landsat Thematic imagery from circa 1990 through the NASA Data Buy and Earth Satellite Corporation (Chapter 6);
imagery of many African countries from CORONA data and space shuttle photography;
global digital elevation model information (at 90 × 90 m spatial resolution) derived from NASA’s SRTM radar data (Chapter 5);
hydrologic information derived from GTOPO30 (Chapter 5);
land cover derived from Landsat, Terra MODIS, and AVHRR imagery (Chapter 6);
remote-sensing-derived vegetation indexes, including the NDVI used in the Famine Early Warning System and elsewhere (Chapter 6);
tropical rainfall measurement from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (Chapter 6);
soil moisture measurements from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program;
estimation of human population distribution using LandScan 2000 and Gridded Population of the World datasets (Chapter 5); and
fire monitoring using DMSP nighttime city lights and Terra MODIS imagery (Chapter 6).
As a player in the development of geospatial capacity in Africa the United States could more effectively build on existing activities in ways that are compatible with African needs. These include building capacity for long-term use of geographic data, bridging the gap between technical and policy/operational users, supporting and promoting long-term partnerships between African and U.S. universities,9 and recognizing the role of national and local organizations in Africa in developing demand for geographic information services and applications.
The application of geographic information to Agenda 21 issues in Africa requires considerable growth in geospatial capacity. Capacity development is addressed at three interdependent levels: human, organizational, and societal. Human capacity is accomplished primarily through education and training. Owing to the technical nature of geographic information science, university and on-the-job training are vital to enhance geospatial capacity. Among the challenges faced by organizations in building capacity are retention of trained people and restricted access to information. An appropriate balance needs to be struck between the role of international organizations and the need to create space for the emergence of local public and private organizations. Societal capacity benefits from partnerships among universities, governments, and the private sector, and from open access to data.
The final chapter summarizes lessons learned in the application of geographic information in Africa and offers the committee’s conclusions and recommendations.
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