SA geomatics industry showcases technology and tackles skills concerns

September 15th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: PositionIT


The South African geospatial industry’s annual gathering, Geomatics Indaba 2016, saw over 700 delegates attending the two day conference at Emperors Palace, and 400 delegates participating in the Technology and Field Training Day at the Transnet School of Rail in Ekurhuleni.

The theme for the indaba, “Geomatics skills and technologies: Growing professionals to secure our future”, was constructively engaged via 62 papers and presentations, 23 training workshops, and a variety of technology demonstrations conducted at the exhibition area at Emperors Palace as well as at the Technology and Field Training Day at the School of Rail. This was in addition to keynote speeches from local and overseas experts, and panel discussions which addressed ongoing concerns of the industry, namely the future of the geomatics profession, the sustainability of geospatial agencies, and a national framework for addressing.


Morena Letsosa, Masele Madihlaba, Siyabonga Mdubeki, Mduduzi Shabane and Mmuso Riba.

The MMC for City Planning from Ekurhuleni, Masele Madihlaba, welcomed the delegates to Geomatics Indaba 2016 and the Director General of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Mduduzi Shabane, gave the opening keynote address. Shabane expressed concern regarding the generation gap within the profession and the lack of academic staff to train future geomaticians. He also called on the South African geospatial community to collaborate with the Committee for Spatial Information in its efforts to build a South African spatial data infrastructure.

View photos from Day 1 and 2, Day 3 and the exhibition.

Day two of Geomatics Indaba 2016 was opened by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Des van Rooyen. In his address Van Rooyen thanked the geospatial community for its work in facilitating the recent local government elections, and he encouraged the geospatial community to make use of his parliamentary office to promote the use of geomatics in South Africa. The delegates were heartened by the minister’s speech which reflected insight into the work of the geospatial sector.


Dr. Hussein Farah, Mmuso Riba, Nape Mojapelo, Des van Rooyen, Pali Lehohla, Siyabonga Mdubeki, and Morena Letsosa.

In his keynote address, the Statistician General, Dr. Pali Lehohla, spoke of the need to build the skills of people over school-going age in order to address the strategic skills shortage. He also highlighted the need for statisticians and geomaticians to have a joint commission, as opposed to separate commissions at United Nations (UN) level, in order for both communities to avoid waging separate battles. Lehohla warned against control of geospatial data falling into commercial hands, and emphasised that it was in Africa’s long term interests for the UN to handle data governance.

View photos from Day 1 and 2, Day 3 and the exhibition.

The international keynote speakers hosted at Geomatics Indaba 2016 included:

  • Rob Mahoney, the former honorary secretary of the UK’s Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He spoke about the future of the geomatics profession, and the increasing need for ethics and consistent easily understood standards for land measurement.
  • Dr. Hussein Farah, the director general of the Regional Centre for the Mapping of Resources for Development which is based in Kenya. He spoke about his 20-member organisation, the projects it is involved in, and the challenges it addresses.
  • Gary Gale, the chief technology officer from what3words. He spoke about the challenges of geocoding, provided examples of various modes of addressing, and stated that mapping is a task than can never be finished as the world is always evolving.

The final day of the Geomatics Indaba 2016 saw a closing keynote address from Dr. Solomon Bhunu who spoke about how geomatics can contribute to the economic value chain. He stressed the need to increase the quality of basic education in order to generate a skilled and capable workforce in order to support an inclusive growth path, and stated that the geomatics profession needs to look at how geomatics can influence the core economic value chain. He also questioned whether professional work boundaries are a hindrance to value additions and innovation.

The paper programme for Geomatics Indaba 2016 included a peer-reviewed academic track and a general paper track. The academic committee for Geomatics Indaba 2016 was headed up by Dr. Fred Cawood from the Institute of Mining at the University of the Witwatersrand. The peer reviewed papers prepared for the indaba were published in a special issue of the South African Journal of Geomatics which is edited by Dr. Julian Smit.

The award for Best Academic Paper at Geomatics Indaba 2016 went to Zinhle Mashaba, George Chirima, Joel Botai, Ludwig Combrinck and Cilence Munghemezulu, from the University of Pretoria, the Agricultural Research Council, the South African Weather Services, and the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory for their paper “Evaluating spectral indices for winter wheat health status monitoring in Bloemfontein using Landsat 8 data”.

View photos from Day 1 and 2, Day 3 and the exhibition.

The award for the Best General Paper at Geomatics Indaba 2016 went to Matheri Kangethe (Agizo Solutions) and Dr. Walter Musakwa (University of Johannesburg) for their paper “Identification of strategically located agricultural land for land reform using GIS and multi-criteria decision analysis”

An interesting innovation of this year’s Geomatics Indaba 2016 was the inclusion of a Technology and Field Training Day. The day proved very popular with delegates who enjoyed the varied presentation programme and the practical demonstrations of the latest scanning, mapping and total station technologies available from the commercial geomatics sector. Highlights of the day included the GeoGeek Go Challenge hosted by Esri South Africa , the RPAS/drone flight by Premier Group, the underground penetrating radar and railway track alignment demonstrations by Optron, the map-a-thon hosted by the University of Pretoria, and Transnet’s international grade train simulator which is used to train its locomotive drivers.

The following companies supported Geomatics Indaba 2016 and the South African geomatics industry by sponsoring this year’s geomatics gathering:

Diamond sponsor – Topcon

Gold sponsor – Aciel Geomatics

Silver sponsor – Optron

Bronze sponsor – Esri South Africa.

Geomatics Indaba 2016 is a joint venture hosted by the Geo-information Society of South Africa (GISSA), the Institute of Mine Surveyors of South Africa (IMSSA), the South African Geomatics Institute (SAGI), and EE Publishers. It was held from 12 to 14 September 2016.

View photos from Day 1 and 2, Day 3 and the exhibition.

Contact Clare van Zwieten, Geomatics Indaba, Tel 011 543-7013,

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