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Feature Article of Saturday, 22 September 2012

Columnist: Jerry Sam

African Media Get to Grips with Geospatial Science

Addis Ababa, 18 September 2012 (ECA) - Media professionals endorsed today, the
establishment of the African Forum for Geospatial Information systems. The
conclusion followed two days of training aimed at improving the quality of
geoinformation, Geospatial Science and Technology reporting and the impact of this
area of work on the livelihood of African citizens, The first of its kind, the
two-day training of trainers was organized by the ICT, Science and Technology
Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Participants
hailed from western, southern and eastern of Africa. Speaking at the opening session
of the training workshop, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of the ICT, Science and
Technology Division said that geospatial technology, or geomatics used the
measurement, analysis and visualization of spatial features or phenomenon. "As a
tool, geomatics is enormously important for decision-makers across a wide range of
disciplines, industries and sectors," she said and added: "The tool is radically
changing the way information is used for development planning." "What Journalists in
Africa need to understand is how geospatial technology supports the management of
Africa's development, said Ms Opoku-Mensah. For instance, in the mining sector,
resources on the earth's surface require sophisticated technology to discover,
extract, and manage and since mining is inherently spatial, requiring accurate
knowledge of areas of the earth's surface and subsurface, geospatial technology is
best suited to oversee all phases of mining operations", she emphasized.
Similarly,
projects such as roads and waterways require geospatial technologies for planning,
construction and implementation", she added and noted that unfortunately, the
geo-information sector is not effectively communicating with the general public,
leading to low uptake of geospatial science and technology sector in Africa and its
contribution to Africa's development. As such, said Ms. Opoku-Mensah, the engagement
of media professionals and researchers become vital to overcome this communication
gap. Mr. Mekonnen Teshome, President of the Ethiopian Association of Science
Journalists (EASJ) said that the organization of this training workshop "comes at
the right time when we African Journalists are well organized and seeking for better
information on science and technology." He underlined that the workshop will
"greatly add to media professional career development." He also noted that a better
understanding of geospatial technologies would assist with effective reporting on
the subject. Mr. Kwami Ahiabenu, Director of Penplusbytes and chair of the meeting
said that all over Africa, technology is playing an important role in transforming
life, society and economy of its nations. He underscored that Geospatial Information
Systems (GIS) are becoming important tools for effective and efficient strategic
planning and decision-making processes at all levels, ensuring development and
growth is a reality for all citizens. He emphasized that awareness creation and
advocacy about GIS success stories and its huge potential in the near future becomes
very urgent and “we are excited that UNECA is taking a bold step to provide
skills and knowledge needed by journalists in Africa in order for them to perform
this important function”. Mr. Sultan Mohammed, Director-General, Ethiopian
Mapping Agency (EMA) in his keynote speech emphasized that only societies using
information efficiently and wisely will succeed in their development endeavors. He
noted that more than 80% of all the data and information generated and disseminated
nowadays is location based information involving geospatial information. He
underscored that Location based Geospatial information services, which are a
coalescence of fields such as surveying, mapping and remote sensing, have matured
and become key contributors to evidenced based policy making processes. They can be
used to understand and integrate social, economic, and environmental perspectives at
specific locations at local, regional and global scales. He concluded that the
workshop is timely and will enhance the capacity of the media in promoting
Geospatial Information advocacy and awareness in the Continent. A number of
recommendations were adopted to promote Geospatial science journalisms for
sustainable development. The African Media Forum for Geospatial Science and
Technology was formed and members were required to promote the creation of National
Geospatial Science Journalists Association in their respective countries.

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