Why institutions should embrace GIS services in data collection

There was a time when getting precise and credible geographical data before venturing into an undertaking at a given area was a labourious manual process. Even if one did, it would take them time to study the area during data collection.
GIS remote sensing centre at the University of Rwanda. / Courtesy
GIS remote sensing centre at the University of Rwanda. / Courtesy

There was a time when getting precise and credible geographical data before venturing into an undertaking at a given area was a labourious manual process. Even if one did, it would take them time to study the area during data collection.

But since the Geographic Information System (GIS) was introduced in Rwanda seven years ago, different public institutions found a long-term solution in terms of data collection, processing and analysis to help them in their decision-making in their project implementation.

The technology is used for making better decisions about locations like real estate site selection, route or corridor selection, evacuation planning, conservation, and natural resource extraction. Making correct decisions about location is critical to the success of an organisation.

Kaspar Kundert, the managing director of Esri Rwanda, the firm that develops and supplies GIS software applications in the country, said the system can help the country discover the locations with favourable and sustainable infrastructural project development.

“Many government’s infrastructural projects are linked to Geography and this is a professional mapping system that can be used to capture and store information of different features across the country for a better planning to achieve development goals,” he said.

“Rwanda’s Vision 2020 can be achieved if more institutions, public or private, are increasingly using GIS in geographical locations to know what is happening where and make better decisions on what to do at a given area.”

Among GIS software applications supplied to institutions to use for a variety of purposes, include ‘Collector,’ which is used, especially in cellphones and tablets to fill data in a designed form while ‘Survey 123’ is a map-centric package collecting data based on maps.

The data collected are analysed using ArcGIS software.

The system’s apps can be accessed by installing its software applications in portable devices like smart phones, tablets or personal computers, where one can easily send and receive data from a certain area as soon as possible.

The system facilitates users to easily access open data on given locations like roads, habitat, schools, health centres, playgrounds, banks and other locations during the mapping.

During a roundtable discussion last week, different organisations and government institutions working with GIS presented different tools and platforms they used for data collection, analysis and visualisation, and how efficient and sustainable they are in helping the user in decision-making on spacial analysis.

Rwanda ranked highly in open data campaign in the region coming in second in the sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 Open Data Barometer.

In the same year, Rwanda also topped African countries in global open data index and is achieving more milestone even challenging on the global Open-Data scene.

Different government institutions are using GIS system during open data analysis.

The system can be used in mapping and spacial location in land management, agriculture, construction, transport, water and energy, among other infrastructural activities.

For instance, the system has been used by the City of Kigali in designing the City’s Master Plan’s infrastructures like roads, housing, markets and transport among others.

It is also used in sophisticated data collection and processing by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda for seasonal agricultural statistics while the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources uses it to help foreign investors on where to invest their money.

Moise Irankunda, a GIS surveyor at EDCL, hailed the system’s advanced data gathering capacity, which is facilitating working environment with credible and efficient data collection, analysis and decision-making on the activities going to be done at a certain area.

“The system has become a solution to an extent one person can manage and control the whole country alone as it has facilitated geographic planning of a given area, a situation which is totally different from when a big team of people would spend their time travelling to a given area to tour and evaluate the sustainability of a planned activity,” Irankunda said.

“It saves time and makes our work easy by giving us all data while in our offices. Before our institution used the system, we would struggle with planning where to locate and place electrical lines or pipes for water distribution at a safe line where they cannot be damaged.”

Speaking about the affordability of the system, Kundert said GIS application cost varies depending on the package and versions.

“It depends on what you want to do and the package of your preference. But we also have a number of packages for people who do not have budget,” he said.

GIS helps to manage maintenance schedules and daily fleet movements while typical implementation can result in saving operational expenses through reduction in fuel use and staff time.

GIS Day is an international event taking place all over the world with the goal to popularise the concept of Geographic information System. It was, this year, celebrated under the theme, ‘Practical Tools with Real Impact’.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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