Lessons Learned and Recommendations
This chapter discusses lessons learned from the application of geographic information in Africa and presents the committee’s conclusions and recommendations. The first section summarizes lessons learned from the GISD case-study areas and other examples. The remaining sections contain conclusions and recommendations in a structure that parallels the flow of the report, namely, the spatial data and telecommunications infrastructure (Chapter 4), geographic data and tools (Chapters 5, 6, and 7), and geospatial capacity-building (Chapter 8).
Africa has a small but growing community of geographic data providers, processors and analysts, trainers, technicians, advocates, and data and information users (decision-makers). The community’s growth is demonstrated by the more than 400 participants at the Africa-GIS conference in Nairobi in November 2001 in contrast to the 70 attendees at the first Africa-GIS conference in Tunis in 1993.1 As the community grows its activities are becoming better coordinated. This community comprises African and international partners from NGOs, universities, private companies, and foreign governments, including the space and aid agencies that are a major source of geographic data, training, and support.
Efforts to expand the use of geographic information at national and regional levels are resulting in data and information for decision-making, technical training for students and professionals, and creating geospatial capacity. The capacity to manage and use geographic data and information is growing through continent-wide activities (e.g., EIS-Africa and ECA’s regional centers) and partnerships (e.g., NOAA’s RANET [Radio and Internet for the Communication of Hydro Meteorological and Climate Related Information Across Africa] project, the Miombo Network, and FAO’s Africover project). Some of these activities like FEWS NET (Famine Early Warning System Network) have been in place for many years, whereas others like Uganda’s ACODE (Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment), Burkina Faso’s PNGIM (National Program for Environment Information Management), and LEWS (Livestock Early Warning System) in East Africa are new.
Needs-Driven Approaches and Data-Sharing
Needs-driven approaches and open data-sharing environments are common among effective applications of geographic information (e.g., the CBNRM [Community Based Natural Resource Management] program in Namibia, the continent-wide MARA [Mapping Malaria Risk in Africa] project, and the Miombo Network in southern Africa). The needs-driven approach of the CBNRM program has built credibility with field users, led to a strong feeling of ownership by rural people and field-based support staff, fostered a culture of sensitivity to community needs among technical institutions that are partners in the program, generated trust and a common vision among partners (communities, government, donors), and built a critical mass to enhance sustainability of the program. Data-sharing—facilitated by adopting standardized software, data formats, and file directory structure, and a metadata database—has resulted in cost savings.
The agricultural and natural resource management sectors are a likely primary source of demand for geographic information and related decision-support tools, as these sectors are the main users because the livelihoods of the majority of Africans depend on them. Additional demand will arise
as African countries need to satisfy reporting requirements on treaties to which they are signatories.
Lesson Learned: Needs-driven as opposed to prescriptive approaches with provision of information in appropriate and usable forms are most likely to result in effective appli cation of geographic information.
From Environmental Management to Sustainable Development
Geographic information and technologies are central to achieving a successful transition from traditional environmental and resource management practices to sustainable development because of their integrative quality (linking social, economic, and environmental data) and their place-based quality (addressing relationships among places at local, national, regional, and global scales).
A narrow focus on either economic development or environmental management can obscure the connections between environmental change and social, political, and economic activities, artificially separating environment from development. This separation can result in short-term, project-oriented data collection; single-issue development agendas (e.g., economic growth divorced from environmental and intergenerational equity considerations); and spurious attempts to make tradeoffs between inseparable dimensions of sustainable development, such as human well-being and environmental protection (NRC, 2002).
Sustainable development necessarily links people, their needs, and the impacts of their behavior over time (including patterns of population growth and consumption, cultural patterns, and political activities) to the environment and the economy. Consequently, data on human population distribution are fundamentally important to decision-makers as they address Agenda 21 issues.
Lesson Learned: Geographic information and technolo gies are central to the transition from traditional environ mental management to sustainable development, that brings people to the fore, rightfully integrating environ ment and development.
Geographic Information at the Intersection of Sectors
Agenda 21 (UNCED, 1992) calls for integrated social, economic, and environmental data. There is growing recognition by decision-makers in Africa that problems at the intersection of agriculture and environmental management, climate change, and land-cover change, with their attendant social and economic consequences, will be at the forefront of the twenty-first century.
Technological advances fostering the integration of satellite imagery with other data (such as socioeconomic or health data) in GIS are opening new ways to synthesize complex and diverse geographic datasets, creating new opportunities for collaboration among natural and social scientists and decision-makers at all levels (e.g., the LEWS project, the Miombo Network, the MARA project, CBNRM, and SADC [Southern African Development Community]).
Lesson Learned: In this century many environmental prob lems will occur at the intersection of sectors. Geographic information technologies can assist people in tackling this integration challenge.
Societal capacity is built by governance2 that promotes the relationships among individuals, organizations, and the larger society. In this way governance contributes to the development of geospatial capacity. Linkages that facilitate collaboration among academics, governmental and non-governmental actors, and the private sector are needed for the transition to sustainable development (NRC, 1999).
Human and organizational capacity to apply geographic information and technology to Agenda 21 issues cannot grow or be maintained unless rooted in a wider societal context that values the contributions of science and technology, upholds principles of openness and sharing of information, and provides incentives for change and adaptation. The development of a policy environment that supports the use of geographic information depends on the attention given to scientific and technological issues in general.
Geographic data, hardware, and software systems are increasingly sophisticated but it is really the political, social, economic, and educational institutions of a country that ultimately determine the application and use of these data and tools for decision-making. Good governance creates a climate in which geospatial capacity can grow and vice versa. Geographic information illuminates social and political problems, such as the uneven distribution of the benefits of economic development, lack of accountability of elected officials, and a burden of disease that impacts societal cohesion.
Lesson Learned: Good governance promotes geospatial capacity and vice versa. Access to integrated geographic information allows civil society to hold government account able; and government creates policies that determine public access to information and public participation in the decision process.
Barriers to Use of Geographic Information
There remain barriers to effective use of geographic information in Africa, including:
technical limitations of accessibility to such data as inadequate telecommunications infrastructure, limited bandwidth, and low Internet connectivity (Chapter 4);
administrative challenges of accessibility to data including lack of (1) familiarity on the part of government officials with requests for information, (2) efficient protocols for requesting government data (Chapter 8), (3) common data standards to promote sharing (Chapter 4), and (4) issues of copyright and distribution;
inability to afford needed data and lack of availability of hard currency and foreign exchange in many countries (Chapter 6);
educational and organizational limitations on access to data and technology including a poorly trained workforce, and limited private-sector demand to spur the development of geographic information and tools (Chapter 8); and
ineffective transfer of technology to the local level where many decisions are made that impact sustainable development (Chapter 7) (NRC, 1999).
The available data often are not of sufficiently high spatial or temporal resolution to be useful for decision-support at the local level. Urban planners require regularly updated data at 1-meter spatial resolution to take into account the rapid pace of change in cities. In rural areas where the bulk of the population still live the minimum spatial resolution of value to agricultural extension workers and rural development specialists is that of the small farms. Existing coverages, as outlined in this report, are impressive at national and sub-national levels but virtually nonexistent at local scales. The problem is confounded by the fact that what data are available rarely reach the rural and urban decision-makers at the local level dealing with the day-to-day realities of sustainable development.
In addition to data-availability challenges, many decision-makers in developed and developing countries have no experience with GIS and other spatial decision-support tools, and thus do not appreciate their potential for using geographic information. Other impediments to implementation of spatial decision-support systems include the orientation of projects toward data production rather than application, lack of planning for the decision-support process, lack of communication between technicians and scientists within an organization, and lack of inclusion of university research that could drive data analysis (EIS-Africa, 2001). With limited geographic data and a limited appreciation for its value the ability of African countries to address Agenda 21 issues and to fulfill their international treaty obligations for environmental reporting is compromised.
Lesson Learned: There are several barriers to the use of geographic data to address Agenda 21 issues. The next section describes approaches to overcome some of these barriers.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Spatial Data Infrastructures
Conclusion: There is no universally accepted framework for geographic data management in Africa. An integrated, interoperable approach will provide Africans with better access to more diversified data that can then be applied to specific questions or problems. Decision-making on Agenda 21 issues requires access to data from multiple sources, including international ones, and this is facilitated by standardization within a spatial data infrastructure (SDI) (Chapter 4). Countries can benefit economically from SDIs because of the possibility to use data many times for many applications.
Recommendation: Because of the potential benefits, developing countries should consider using a standardized SDI that is compatible with the emerging Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI). Data derived from international development programs (for example, those of USAID) should conform to the standards recommended by the GSDI. In this way data collected by these programs is rendered more useful.
Conclusion: Sustainable development activities would be improved if a greater emphasis were placed on distributed systems that enabled access to multiple geographic datasets and linked networks of African scientists, data users, and organizations. An efficient telecommunications infrastructure facilitates accessibility, use, and dissemination of geographic data and information, and forms the backbone of any SDI. Although telecommunications infrastructures are improving, in Africa as in much of the developing world they often are inadequate to support efficient SDIs (Chapter 4). Access to geographic data through the Internet is limited, and connection costs and bandwidth are restrictive for data-sharing.
In response to these problems a range of organizations are developing and improving telecommunications infrastructure in Africa (e.g., the African Information Society, the African Development Forum, the African Telecommunications Union, the African Connection, USAID’s Leland Initiative, and NOAA’s RANET project).
Recommendation: The U.S. government (e.g., USAID and NOAA) should continue to assist African countries in im-
proving telecommunications infrastructure so that large computer files containing geographic data can readily be distributed within national and global spatial data infrastructures.
Collection and Maintenance of Geographic Data and Information
Data Continuity and Technological Uncertainty
For geographic information to be useful for long-term sustainable development and natural resource management, the data source needs to be dependable into the foreseeable future. With the exception of development programs now capitalizing on satellite meteorological observations, most programs will conclude as demonstrations rather than becoming operational within African institutions or programs, in part because of cost and related uncertainty over future availability of data.
Geographic information technology is rapidly changing. Dramatic changes in architectures, configurations, and approaches to data processing and handling technologies are creating concerns about technological obsolescence. The issues of data continuity and rapid technological change are important considerations when building sustainable geographic information activities. Rapidly evolving technology makes it difficult to provide access to low-cost data analysis tools and to generate continuous datasets. Without some way to assure data continuity (NRC, 1995), investments by development organizations in training and capacity building will be less useful than they could be. Without assurances that these investments will be useful in the future, it will be more difficult for African governments to invest in their own capacity and infrastructure. Changes in data access policy, data cost, or the elimination of an observation program create uncertainties about long-term benefits of international programs to Africans.
Global Positioning Systems
Conclusion: GPS information is broadcast worldwide to virtually anyone in any country and is of great importance to the practical collection and use of fundamental geographic data for Agenda 21-related initiatives.
Recommendation: The utility of GPS information should not be reduced by reintroducing selective availability and its continuity should be guaranteed. The U.S. Department of Defense should continue to allow free access to GPS data.
National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satel lite System, Terra, and Landsat
There are low-cost sources of coarse and medium spatial resolution land-cover information for Africa. These come from sensors that include the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) (1 × 1 km), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) (250 × 250 m to 1 × 1 km), and Landsat satellite sensors (79 × 79 m to 15 × 15 m). The resultant datasets include Global Land Cover (AVHRR), TREES (Tropical Ecosystem Environment Observations by Satellite) (AVHRR), GeoCover Land Cover (Landsat), and Africover (Landsat). In addition to global land-cover mapping applications NOAA’s AVHRR is a widely used source of satellite data for cloud and sea-surface temperature mapping in meteorological applications, natural resource management and early warning systems (e.g., FEWS NET, LEWS). This class of sensor flies onboard NOAA’s “operational” satellites and its successor will likely continue operating until 2018 onboard the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System. NASA’s advanced MODIS sensor on its Terra satellite platform has a range of mapping applications including land cover, fire, and productivity.
Conclusion: Land-cover datasets and vegetation indexes are valuable resources for natural resource management and development planning in rural areas. Similar datasets and indices can be constructed in the future for change detection and many other applications as long as there is continued flow of data from AVHRR, MODIS, and Landsat (or their equivalents).
Recommendation: Until at least 2018, NASA, NOAA, and DOD should carry out their plan for the National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System to ensure that it supplies relatively coarse spatial and high temporal frequency observations (such as the AVHRR follow-on) that are necessary for a multitude of applications in Africa and elsewhere.
Recommendation: NASA and USGS should take measures to ensure that the Landsat data continuity mission(s) provides long-term continuous data, perhaps through making the Landsat program an operational system for land observations, to support sustainable development and natural resource management in Africa and elsewhere. NASA should also ensure that sensors on its Terra and Aqua satellites (e.g., MODIS, ASTER, AMSR-E) continue to provide data for meteorological and land observation applications.
These actions would address data continuity at the data source. One means of reducing uncertainty in the data stream at the downstream end is to develop databases using data from more than one source. Such multi-sensor approaches as the twinning of Landsat and SPOT satellite imagery for high-resolution land-cover change information promote flexibility for agencies that base new programs on the availability of data. This approach would benefit from close coordination and cooperation among international data providers and between data providers and donor agencies. Flexibility in the provision of hardware and software technologies will also
be necessary; often programs are tightly coupled to specific, sometimes unique data processing and analysis systems. More use of open interoperable software environments, as promoted in SDIs, would enhance the flexibility and reduce the vulnerability of these programs.
Focused Geographic Data Requirements
Human Population Distribution
Conclusion: National census data provide the foundation for measuring population distribution and change at the national to local scales. The strengths of human population censuses arise from their completeness of coverage; continuity of statistics from census to census; and the detail that each census provides about population sub-groups in local areas. In the current worldwide development arena, such key issues as good governance, poverty eradication strategies, and the need to promote economic growth with social equity all require population and other demographic data at the detailed local scale that only a population census can provide. Moreover, there exists an increasing demand for disaggregated data at the sub-national level.
Despite these needs datasets on population distribution from many African censuses are incomplete, often owing to high costs and insufficient funds. Progress toward Agenda 21 goals is impeded by this lack of complete, reliable data on human population distribution.
Recommendation: USAID and the U.S. Bureau of the Census should provide financial and technical support to national census offices and bureaus in Africa to help them complete censuses, geographically reference the data, and make the data available in disaggregated form to decision-makers.
Very High Spatial Resolution Remotely Sensed Data
Conclusion: Many Agenda 21 issues concentrate on urban and suburban areas (Chapter 2). Addressing sustainability issues relating to urban and suburban land use (including ownership) and infrastructure requires very high spatial resolution (≤ 1 × 1 m) remotely-sensed data. High-resolution data is costly whether obtained from satellites or airborne sensors. Although there are inexpensive options for obtaining high-quality coarse (1 × 1 km) and medium (30 × 30 m) spatial resolution land-cover datasets for parts of Africa, there is no economical method of obtaining very high spatial resolution imagery to inventory and monitor change in urban areas in Africa. Image grants would help to inventory and map the continually changing characteristics of urban infrastructures.
Recommendation: USAID should consider purchasing very high spatial resolution images (i.e., < 1 × 1 m) on a regular basis (at 5 to 10 year intervals) for urban areas in Africa and donating them to African organizations to ensure continuity of the data source and change detection. The imagery might include airborne analog or digital photography or satellite-derived high-resolution imagery. The areas surveyed could be requested by African organizations on the basis of importance of problem and technical and organizational capacity to use the data. One model for this concept is the U.S. Science Data Buy (Box 5-3).
Elevation (topographic) data have many uses (Table 5-2) but are often inaccurate, of limited extent, or nonexistent, owing to inaccessibility of Earth’s mountain ranges, deserts, and forests. Even where access is practical, traditional surveying methods are expensive. Furthermore, neighboring countries may use differing data-collection methods that cause data discontinuities at borders, even though natural resources (e.g., rivers) often cross these borders. To address these challenges, the United States has partnered with a number of countries and organizations to produce two digital elevation datasets: the GTOPO30 (Global Topography at 30 arc seconds) dataset (with its derivative hydrologic product: HYDRO1K) and the 2000 Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) dataset. The GTOPO30 dataset is a global digital elevation dataset, whereas the SRTM dataset covers 80 percent of the globe. In the current plan, which is not finalized, SRTM data will be released at 30 × 30 m spatial resolution for the U.S. and at 90 × 90 m spatial resolution for the rest of the world.
Conclusion: The GTOPO30 dataset is of limited value in Africa and most other developing countries for monitoring ecosystems, urban and rural infrastructures, and hydrology because of its coarse spatial resolution (1.1 × 1.1 km). Fortunately, elevation data derived from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission in 2000 may be more suitable for many applications because all data were collected during a single 11-day mission using standardized technology; they will have accurate geodetic control; and will be homogeneous across each continent (Chapter 5).
Recommendation: NASA should produce digital elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission at the highest possible spatial resolution (e.g., 30 × 30 m) for all areas. The data should be made available without restriction and at affordable cost. NASA should also provide the synthetic aperture radar ortho-image mosaics at 30 × 30 m spatial resolution that are being produced as part of the processing. These mosaics would provide additional information about land-cover conditions and surface roughness characteristics, especially in tropical regions shrouded by cloud cover.
Conclusion: A valuable hydrologic product for application
to Agenda 21 issues could be derived from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission with almost global 90 × 90 m (perhaps 30 × 30 m) spatial resolution. This derivative product would have applications at the sub-regional level where the low-resolution (1.1 × 1.1 km) HYDROlK dataset currently is inapplicable.
Recommendation: Serious consideration should be given by the USGS to modeling the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission-derived 30 × 30 m digital elevation data to produce the most accurate, affordable hydrologic network database with global coverage.
The earliest baseline against which future change can be compared often comes from historical legacy data. In many instances legacy data may be digitized, placed in a GIS, and analyzed in conjunction with more recent geographic data, such as satellite remotely-sensed data. The time scales over which change can be detected are extended through use of legacy data. Additionally, they contain place names and provide valuable insights on ethnicity and population growth. Bridges between local knowledge and modern technology are built through the use of legacy data.
Despite their obvious benefits, legacy data are being lost or remain inaccessible and unused. Efforts are underway to preserve legacy data and ensure that they are used. International organizations including the French Institute of Scientific and Technological Research for Cooperative Development and DEVECOL, and African regional organizations such as the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa in Dakar, Senegal, and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria are working to preserve legacy data and make it available to decision-makers.
Recommendation: To complement these efforts to preserve and enhance the use of valuable legacy data U.S. government agencies (e.g., USAID and USGS) should assist African countries and organizations to identify, integrate, and maintain existing sources of information (legacy data). They should also provide African countries with copies of such legacy data as reports, maps, statistics, aerial and satellite photographs, and other relevant data and materials currently held outside those countries. The first task would be substantial, but the second would be more routine.
Owning land provides individuals with economic assets that can be traded in land markets, used as collateral to raise credit or as security for various forms of economic improvements. Because individual land ownership is nonexistent in large parts of rural Africa, except in eastern and southern Africa, challenges remain for rural Africans to obtain credit from lending institutions in their bid to improve quality of life.
Conclusion: The production of cadastres is costly and has been a low priority for most African countries and donor agencies, even when there are clear benefits. GPS, used in concert with GIS, produces cadastral data more cheaply than traditional surveying techniques and will facilitate production of cadastres. Continued, cautious development of cadastres will facilitate land management and administration, promote greater efficiency in the operation of land markets, strengthen the operations of free-market economies, and reinforce the ability of governments to initiate and sustain land and agrarian reforms (e.g., de Soto, 2000).
Over time cadastres could play an indirect role in poverty reduction, especially through enhancing access to credit facilities and providing socioeconomic information for effective settlement management. Many Africans have no easily located residential addresses to facilitate their effective participation in social and economic transactions (ECA, 2001). These inadequacies have been one reason why the systematic delivery, management, expansion, and improvement of services to all segments of the population, the effective collection of taxes and rates, and the cost recovery for utilities and services have been difficult to implement in urban areas (ECA, 2001).
Recommendation: Because of the potential of cadastres to address Agenda 21 issues, including poverty reduction and land resource management, the U.S. government (USAID and USGS) should assist African countries to develop cadastres.
Conclusion: Decision-support in the area of land cover (Chapter 6) will be one of the most fruitful applications of geographic data and tools in Africa. The livelihoods of the majority of Africans depend on agriculture and natural resources, and there are many pressing problems within these sectors. Addressing these problems demands better data and better ways of analyzing the relationship between human activities and changes on the land surface. International activities could accelerate the use of decision-support systems for land-cover applications in Africa. Strategies to improve or create these datasets are needed, and these strategies would work best when built on existing initiatives and networks.
Recommendation: An effective land-cover decision-support system should include a standard classification system; baseline data and change detection capabilities; hot spot detection and high risk zone prediction capabilities; analysis and modeling of proximate (mainly human) causes of
change; linkages between direct observations, case studies, and models; and established environmental indicators.
Geospatial Capacity-Building for Sustainable Development
Coordination and Partnering for Meeting African Data Needs
Conclusion: Moving beyond the current state of the art in the application of geographic data in Africa will require greater coordination among data providers, donor agencies, and the science community and end-users in Africa. Already the requirements for the next generation of remote-sensing systems are being defined or developed, yet there appears to be little dialog between the space agencies and the donor agencies, and even less input from potential end-users of the data in Africa. Lessons learned in the application of existing data for decision-making could be fed back into the definition of future observation and data system requirements, particularly in government science agencies.
Recommendation: Data providers, U.S. government agencies, and partners should work closely with African organizations to define and integrate the data needs of Africans into future programs (e.g., for new satellite remote-sensing missions) and to maximize efficiency of new programs through a coordinated approach.
Partnerships for Capacity-Building
Conclusion: Partnerships promote sharing of resources, improved communication and cooperation, and acceptance of shared standards required for spatial data infrastructures. Effective use of geographic information science in sustainable development will be associated with the strengthening of existing partnerships and the emergence of new forms of partnerships involving universities, industry, government, and civil society. Partnerships among 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. Research networks that develop as a result of these partnerships promote broad exchange of information on sustainable development, including best practices. Development of effective partnerships requires the support and incentives of both African and international donor governments.
Recommendation: 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.
Human and Organizational Capacity
Most of the existing geographic information activities in Africa were initiated in response to humanitarian needs such as famine and natural disaster, and implemented through focused, time-limited projects. Learning to apply modern geographic information and tools to address evolving societal needs requires a long learning period and attention to the development of societal capacity in science and technology. 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.
Conclusion: 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 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 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.
Recommendation: 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.
Conclusion: 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.
Recommendation: 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.
Geographic data lie at the heart of many Agenda 21 issues. These data are already in use in a growing geographic information community in Africa. Although there exist a number of barriers to effective application of geographic data to Agenda 21 issues, it is likely that demand for these data will quicken the pace toward the disappearance of these barriers.
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