GISSA Gauteng meeting focuses on GIS data and best practices

July 29th, 2014, Published in Articles: PositionIT


The Geo-Information Society of South Africa (GISSA) Gauteng held a general meeting on 18 July 2014 at the Ekurhuleni Council Chambers, which was attended by 130 people. Seven speakers gave presentations on various aspects of GIS, ranging from open source platforms and best practices, to professionalising GIS practices and the “selling” of GIS to non-GIS people. The value of GIS and good quality data underpinned all the presentations.

Speakers (right to left): Nic Klopper, Stuart Martin, Marius van der Merwe, S’lindi Mhlongo, Tshiskikhawe Mphaphuli, Adrian Roos, Kendall James, Marinda Muller

Speakers (right to left): Nic Klopper, Stuart Martin, Marius van der Merwe, Slindi Mhlongo, Tshiskikhawe Mphaphuli, Adrian Roos, Kendall James, and Marinda Muller

GISSA Gauteng chairperson Slindi Mhlongo opened the meeting, and introduced Nic Klopper from 1Map. Klopper spoke about his company’s open source GIS web portal, which offers base data such as erven cadastre, road centre lines, street addresses, and aerial photography at no cost to users. The company works closely with municipalities, allowing them to link their financial, management and other systems to the data for enhanced usage of the platform.

Tshiskikhawe Mphaphuli from Eskom spoke about Eskom’s Spot Building Count data, its history, how it is used, and how the data is compiled. The Spot Building Count data set uses Spot 5 imagery, which is supplemented by cadastre data. This dataset is also utilised by Statistics South Africa, and is verified on a random-selection basis. Uses of the data include security, planning, socio-economic evaluation, change detection, route selection and electrification.

28 East’s  Marius van der Merwe also spoke about the Spot Building Count data and how it can be visualised via the cloud platform Google Maps Engine. Van der Merwe went on to speak about the values of cloud computing, specifically in light of the popularisation of GIS applications among non-GIS users. Google Maps Engine, he said, is an example of cloud computing, and offers an easy way to visualise, publish/share, and do basic geodata processing, making it a popular and easy to use tool for businesses.

Next up was Stuart Martin from GeoTerraImage who gave a presentation on data as an activity indicator. He focused on socio-economic demographic data and other activity indicators that make growth predictions and area selections for focus possible and more accurate. He also emphasised the value of data accessibility and how to make data sets easy to use for scenario planning or simple queries. Martin talked about using data beyond necessitated uses for studies of past and present situations, and using it to look into the future. He also said that there is value in non-standardised data sets, and that analysis of them could lead to insightful findings and interpretations.

Kendall James, who recently joined Leica Geosystems, spoke about location data as the new currency in the information age, and how to sell GIS to people in other fields. He did this by elaborating on three large construction projects he had worked on during the 10 years he spent in the UK as a GIS strategy developer – the 2010 London Olympics, the Thames Tideway Scheme, and High Speed 2 railway. James made an argument for never using the word “GIS” when selling it – his recommendation being to talk concept (geospatial) rather than technology (GIS). In his experience, he said, talking GIS to outsiders tends to create a divide, or is so technical that people tend to lose interest. He recommended that GIS personnel find out more about what their colleagues in other departments do, and then suggest data and GIS applications that can help them to achieve their goals.

GISSA Gauteng Committee: Yvette Bevis, Pieter Otto, Slindi Mhlongo, Jacob Modiba, Petunia Pedinyane, Anina du Plessis

GISSA Gauteng Committee: Prevlan Chetty, Michelle Bester, Pieter Otto, Slindi Mhlongo, Ivan Muzondo, Petunia Pedinyane, Anina du Plessis

Another speaker at the meeting was AngloGold Ashanti’s Marinda Muller who spoke about GIS solutions for integrated sustainability management on and around mining sites. Two aspects of sustainability are socio-economic and environmental impacts of mines, she said, both of which can be measured, monitored and turned into GIS data. Being able to avoid spills and pollution is not only good for a mining company’s image (and for keeping or getting new mining licences), but also maintains a positive relationship with the community in which the mine functions. She emphasised that for GIS to be most useful, it should enable cross-disciplinary sharing, and therefore also comply with standards. She added that GIS systems should also be easy for non-technical users to use, and that data should be supplied on a regular basis, and not only on demand.

The last speaker of that day was Adrian Roos, the GISSA National chairperson, who spoke about spatial law and its impact on geo-informatics practitioners and the use of geospatial technology. He used the argument of harm and liability when things go wrong as the basis for this argument, and asked how industry can regulate itself to limit risks. To illustrate his point, Roos provided two examples –  a GPS user who sued the GPS data provider after being misdirected, and two fire-fighters who died after falling off a cliff that had been indicated as an escape route on a map that hadn’t been ground-truthed. Both examples illustrated the consequences of poor data provision. Roos concluded by making the point that the GIS industry, as it currently stands, is a self-regulating industry and that producers of GIS data need to be aware of the implications of incorrectly capturing and handling data.

After the meeting, the GISSA Gauteng committee and volunteering members packed lucky packets for the children at the Siyazigabisa Home of Hope in Tembisa as part of the 67-minutes community service for Nelson Mandela Day. These were delivered the same afternoon to the delighted youngsters.

View more photos from the event here.

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