Geo-referenced information exchange standard digitised

October 30th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

In September 1987, “A national standard for the exchange of digital geo-referenced information” by Derek G Clarke, Antony K Cooper, Elri C Liebenberg and M Hester van Rooyen was published by the CSIR as a Special Report, SWISK 45. It was also known as the National Exchange Standard (NES) and was version 1.0 of the standard, with version 2.0 published in November 1990.

SWISK 45 has now been scanned and a searchable version of the text has been produced and included as an invisible layer over the scanned version in a PDF, so that it can be searched. Please note that the spelling and grammatical errors have not been corrected, so that the searchable text is an accurate representation of the original document. However, the text produced is in a mix of fonts, so if it is printed it will not match the scanned version.

This document is now available online from the CSIR’s Research Space repository at:

This old document is being made available for three reasons:

  • NES and its development are historically important in the advance of the geographical information sciences in South Africa. When the project began in 1985, few organisations in South Africa (or worldwide, for that matter) had implemented automated cartography or geographical information systems, so the project did increase awareness of the technologies and capabilities.
  • The document includes a detailed glossary of relevant terms in English, with their definitions in English and the names of the terms in Afrikaans. This should be useful for the further development of terminology by the Standards Subcommittee of the Committee for Spatial Information (CSI).
  • Finally, it is being made available for anyone interested in the standard, including those wishing to decode a dataset encoded according to this standard. NES took a different approach from the exchange standards being developed in other countries at the time, having a relational structure, using a feature model, providing explicit topology and catering for all forms of geo-referenced information.

The intention is to scan, convert to text and upload the draft version of NES published in March 1987 as well as version 2.0 of NES, but that will take some time.

Please note that an updated version of the glossary included in SWISK was included in the MSc dissertation of Antony Cooper which was completed in 1993, which can be accessed at:

Contact Dr Antony Cooper, CSIR,

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