GISSA: Job reservation takes centre stage at AGM

April 13th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: PositionIT


In anticipation of the Geomatics Council’s inaugural meeting, the Geo-Information Society of South Africa’s (GISSA) most recent annual general meeting, which took place on 8 April 2016 in Pretoria, centred on the society’s status and transition under the new act.

The Geomatics Council has its origins in the Geomatics Professions Act 19 of 2013 (a replacement of the 1984 Act), which commenced on 1 August 2015 and incorporates the geomatics industry under the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Presenters: (from left to right) Dr. Hermanus Brynard, Gavin Fleming, Sam Osei, Mervin Naik, Serena Coetzee, Morena Letsosa, and Jeanine Engelbrecht.

Presenters: (from left to right) Dr. Hermanus Brynard, Gavin Fleming, Sam Osei, Mervin Naik, Serena Coetzee, Morena Letsosa, and Jeanine Engelbrecht.

Discussions on the day included amendments to the 2008 GISSA Constitution, the formulation of a job reservation framework, and the status of the GIS industry today and in future.

GISSA Gauteng chair, Sam Osei’s presentation on GIS job reservation drew the most reaction. He outlined a proposed framework of roles and criteria for job reservation, based on research conducted by a task committee setup at a prior GISSA Gauteng branch meeting. The framework is based on three reference documents – the Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge; Occupation Specific Dispensation; and land surveying job reservation – as well as on the input of GIS professionals.

The twelve areas identified as grounds for job reservation were application development, data acquisition, co-ordination, data analyses and interpretation, data management, management, marketing, project management, systems analyses, system management, training, and visualisation. These areas were divided among the three categories of registered GIS workers – Technician, Technologist, and Professionals – with minor overlap between them.

GIS users who agree with job reservation saw the implementation of the act as a good time to also have GIS jobs reserved in the same way as that of land surveyors. GIS job reservation has been a hot topic since talk of the Geomatics Profession Act, which addresses job reservation in Section 16 of the act.

Osei was commended for putting together a framework, but there were attendees who questioned aspects of its inclusion or submissions, while many others debated whether any GIS job reservation is necessary or practical.

Opponents to the framework said that areas such as authorised training, for example, ignored the pupil’s perspective, as it was overly concerned with who is authorised to be a trainer. It was also said that “associate” roles, as are found in other professions, were not accommodated in the framework, and that the model is too restrictive when it comes to common job role changes during an individual’s career.

Others argued that smaller companies might not be able to afford multiple GIS staff to accommodate the specific tasks outlined in the framework. On a practical side, there were those who noted that GIS is already in wide use outside GIS-specialist fields, especially in IT and data applications, and that it would be impractical to limit work to GIS specialists at this late stage.

Those in favour of the framework suggested the framework be considered a best practice guide in the meantime, and proposed further work to refine it. Proponents also cautioned that not taking decisive action on the matter of job reservation early on might be regretted later.

GISSA National Council members: (front row) Mervin Naik, Mathews Makinta, Matlala Boshomane, Ivan Muzondo, Sam Osei and Dr. Hermanus Brynard; (back row) Walter Smit, Zoltan Szecsei, Magda Roos, Morena Letsosa, Marlanie Moodley, Ryno Jacobs and Gavin Fleming.

GISSA National Council members: (front row) Mervin Naik, Mathews Makinta, Matlala Boshomane, Ivan Muzondo, Sam Osei and Dr. Hermanus Brynard; (back row) Walter Smit, Zoltan Szecsei, Magda Roos, Morena Letsosa, Marlanie Moodley, Ryno Jacobs and Gavin Fleming.

Also in light of the new legislation, GISSA national chairman Morena Letsosa reminded geomatics companies of their legal obligations as set out in Section 17 of the act. This section follows on the job reservation outlined in Section 16, and determines commercial practices of companies predominantly concerned with geomatics work.

Letsosa also spoke of establishing two projects that would recognise excellence in the society – the establishment of an Alumni Award (scheduled for September 2016), and also a project to write up the society’s history. He welcomed nominations for the awards, and asked for volunteers to write up GISSA’s history.

Education has a central role to play, Letsosa said. Besides calling on geomaticians to take on mentorship roles, he announced a collaboration between the society and the Geography Teacher’s Association. He also called for uniform exam workshops with regard to the role of facilitators, and asked members to offer their time to promote the GIS profession.

Looking at trends in GIS, it was interesting to note how aspects of Osei’s proposed framework and areas identified for development in GIS coincided with those determined by the GIS Demand Survey conducted by Prof. Serena Coetzee from the University of Pretoria. The Demand Survey 2014/2015 followed the Supply Survey 2012/2013, and set out to assess the status of the industry and areas of skills demand and opportunities. The Demand Survey also included a future focus to anticipate new areas of employment and development opportunities. The full report is to be published soon.

Two speakers who looked at applications of GIS preceded the voting on amendments to GISSA’s 2008 Constitution:

Dr. Jeanine Engelbrecht, from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Meraka Institute, explained how satellite aperture radar (SAR) could be used in measuring surface deformation. Differential radar interferometry measures surface deformation using the offset in phases between two images. This technique has applications ranging from infrastructure stability monitoring to measuring mining-induced deformations. The large areas covered by satellites and their regular revisit rates make it a more efficient method than traditional point measurements. The technique has proved accurate enough to be commercially operational, and comes with the additional benefit of being able to develop early warning systems.

In his two presentations, Gavin Fleming showed how open source software can replace proprietary software and help to save costs when starting a small business. He took a system wide approach, from operating system (Ubuntu) up to everyday word processing (LibreOffice) and email (Mozilla) to GIS-specific software (QGIS, PostGIS). He also demonstrated QGIS and gave an overview of the most common and popular plugins that lend it extra functionality.

The AGM concluded with a unanimous vote to amend Section 7 of the 2008 GISSA Constitution which had allowed minority votes to overturn decisions.

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