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African Media Get to Grips with Geospatial Science
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African Media Get to Grips with Geospatial Science

Sat, 22 Sep 2012 Source: Jerry Sam

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.

Columnist: Jerry Sam