KINGSTON — Government intends to revise the National Geospatial Policy and begin drafting the National Spatial Data Infrastructure Act, as it looks to put a more effective legislative structure in place for the management of the country's resources.
"The aim is to have a fully functioning national geospatial data infrastructure, inclusive of data, systems, and guidelines which provide householders, businesses and research scientists with access to geospatial information to support decisions they make in their daily lives," said Minister of Housing, Environment, Water and Local Government, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang.
He was speaking on November 9 at a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Business Executive forum at the Knutsford Court hotel in Kingston.
Organised by the Ministry's National Spatial Data Management Division and the Land Information Council of Jamaica (LICJ) the forum was held as part of activities to mark Geography Awareness Week from November 9 to 13.
Held under the theme: ‘GIS: Generating Innovative Solutions, the forum sought to expose members of the business community to GIS, and how they can benefit from its numerous customised solutions.
The Minister pointed out that GIS, which is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyse, manage, and display all types of geographically referenced data, has been an effective tool for the Ministry and its agencies in planning developments.
He noted that that without the planning that GIS facilitates, "we would develop in a haphazard manner, resulting in the waste of millions of dollars in resources to correct what would otherwise have been prevented."
"GIS allows for the layering of information, which presents a comprehensive profile on a particular area. We can look at the physical layout of the land and ascertain how it can be apportioned for development. GIS provides us with the ability to determine the proximity of water resources; enables us to provide sewerage and electricity services and establishes whether an area is prone to flooding or other hazards," he pointed out.
Dr. Chang noted that this layering of information is vital when governments take into consideration the needs of expanding world populations, which according to the United Nations, is at seven billion, and could reach between eight and 12 billion by the end of 2050.
"Policy makers cannot consider these numbers in a vacuum. Seven billion of us are already jostling for food, shelter, water, transportation and a share of the planet's dwindling resources. At the same, we are adding to the volume of pollutants and waste in our environment and atmosphere. The challenges this brings are already being manifested through phenomena such as climate change, drought, floods and famine,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Minister said he was pleased that in Jamaica, a growing number of entities have already bought into GIS technology and are employing it to improve the way they do business. He said that at last count, there were approximately 35 public sector entities and more than 20 private and educational institutions that utilise GIS and related technologies in their work and daily activities.
He said that the technology is being used for land information management and maintenance of the fiscal and titling cadasters; road maintenance and safety; the preparation of development plans and the facilitation of the development approval process; environmental management and community development; mapping crime spots and deploying resources; and hazard mitigation and management.
Dr. Chang further commended organisers of the forum for the sterling work they have been doing to shape policy, provide strategic direction, promote awareness and conduct training in GIS and related technologies.
"I believe that in order to make Jamaica ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business', Geographic Information Systems and Geospatial Data Management will have to play an even greater role to make this objective a reality," he added.
The event featured technical presentations, booth exhibitions and workshops, to showcase GIS software applications such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and TUMP, which are widely used to find places, services and events.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter