Geographic information systems (GIS) is a map-based technology that has been very effectively applied in South Africa, facilitating major social and economic development in the country.
Its most historic use was, doubtless, in the preparation of the voters roll for the country's 1999 election. The technology was used by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to map 22-million South Africans of voting age geographically and delimit the country into approximately 15 000 voting districts.
GIS is a powerful analytical tool that integrates spatial (or location) data with associated information, presenting the result in an easy-to-understand, map-based format. "With GIS, a picture is worth a thousand words," explains Errol Ashwell, managing director of Autodesk (Africa). "The graphic representation of data makes it possible to quickly assimilate vast quantities of information, and helps to support the decision-making process."
Autodesk is one of the world's leading developers of GIS technology, supplying AutoCAD Map for map creation and analysis and Internet-based Autodesk MapGuide for the creation and dissemination of map-based reports. Ashwell says the company is very proud of the work its Centurion-based reseller, Computer Foundation, has achieved in South Africa.
"Computer Foundation, has been involved in a number of groundbreaking projects that have enabled South Africa to harness the power of GIS for the social and economic benefit of the country," says Ashwell.
The company was very closely involved in the IEC's delimitation programme. Today it is working on a project with the Department of Public Enterprises to create an Africa investment map system. The system will be used to track and report on investments in Africa.
The Department of Health is also working with Computer Foundation to create a GIS-based disease notification system. The system, which is Internet-based, will allow small clinics and districts to notify the Department of disease outbreaks. All notifications will be displayed on a map and will facilitate fast reaction to emergencies.
On a continent faced with critical food shortages, farming co-operatives are using GIS technology to enable their members to apply precision farming techniques and boost their yields.
One of the newer areas in which GIS technology is being applied in local government is the implementation and management of Integrated Development Plans (IDPs).
The aim of government is to integrate developmental planning, economic, fiscal and environmental strategies to achieve the most efficient and effective allocation of scarce resources between sectors, across population groups and across geographical boundaries.
Autodesk GIS reseller, Open Spatial Solutions, has developed tools that assist local government officials to implement and manage the IDP process with the aid of spatially enabled decision support systems. In addition, a spatially enabled management information system implemented at the Department of Education by Open Spatial Solutions enables the department to capture large quantities of data to help with the creation of 'Whole School Evaluation" reports. The reports will be used to determine the standards of education, educators and facilities at all schools in South Africa.
For more information contact Autodesk (Africa), 012 664 8115.