(by Maryce Nandeche Obindah, June at geospatialworld) The use and applicability of spatial data in Africa has grown by leaps and bounds during the past few years. Spatial technologies are these days being used for several purposes which include mapping the spread of diseases, discovery of natural resources, monitoring of natural disasters, monitoring of soil and vegetation conditions etc. All this has helped a great deal towards enhancing and accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals in Africa
In the past two or three decades our capacity to survey and map the global environment has seen a “makeover” through the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS) and Global Positioning System (GPS). While GIS application enables the storage, management and analysis of large quantities of spatially distributed data which are associated with their respective geographic features; Remote Sensing is used to gather information about the surface of the earth from a distant platform, usually a satellite or airborne sensor. The two merge when the remotely sensed data used for mapping and spatial analysis is collected as reflected electromagnetic radiation, which is processed into a digital image that can be overlaid with other spatial GIS data of the same geographic site. With their continuous technological development and improvement, Remote Sensing information is increasingly being utilised in undertaking socio-economic developments and technological uplifting of the country, in the federal ministries and provincial departments, public sector organisations, international agencies and private sectors.
GIS and Remote Sensing, either individually or in combination, spans a wide range of applications with degree of complexity. More complex applications take advantage of the analytical capabilities of GIS and RS software. These complex applications might include classification of vegetation for predicting crop yield or environmental impacts and modelling of surface water drainage patterns etc of which some are already being used in Africa. These software are of great use in geological and mineral exploration, hazard assessment, oceanography, agriculture and forestry, land degradation and environmental monitoring around the world. Each sensor in Remote Sensing devices was designed with a specific purpose. The design for optical sensors focuses on the spectral bands to be collected while in Radar imaging, the incidence angle and microwave band used to play an important role in defining which applications the sensor is best suited to.
Example of the areas in which satellite remote sensing technology has been broadly applied in Pakistan, with varying degree of success is as below:
- Disaster monitoring and mitigation
- Survey and urban planning
- Water resource management
- Environmental monitoring
- National spatial data infrastructure
- Infrastructure development planning and monitoring
- Mineral exploration
- Coastal eco-system monitoring
Some of the above projects like Agriculture in Crop Monitoring have been undertaken by Space Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) in the recent past. It is a good example to African countries to maximise the use of spatial technologies.
During the recent years, more than eight African countries have embraced the idea of spatial technology and even more countries are joining due to its numerous benefits in today’s ever growing population in Africa. Examples of some of the African countries that have already implemented GIS and RS are as below.