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Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, has called on countries to continue educating persons about Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and to share resources and experiences, so that all can benefit from its implementation and utilization.

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Addressing representatives from the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and Africa, at the 6th Conference of the Urban Regional Information Systems Association at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa, in Montego Bay, on November 14, the Minister emphasised that there is an acute need for countries around the world to utilize GIS technology and its applications in their planning processes.

“I am sure that many of us, if not all, are sold on the benefits and use of GIS and know that it will provide us with the tools to engage in the critical thinking necessary to deal with the critical times in which we live.   I put it to you that GIS and its supporting technologies can empower us as Small Island Developing States and bring us closer to each other as sister islands within the region,” Mr. Pickersgill told the over 200 delegates at the conference.

Alluding to the benefits of using GIS technologies, especially when implemented and used on an enterprise/national basis, the Minister advised that small countries need to take a co-ordinated national approach, as a sectoral and/or piecemeal approach cannot yield the best returns.

"Governments therefore need to have realistic long term plans with identified financial support to fund national GIS programmes.  What is also needed is a national GIS vision for our respective countries, long term objectives and goals that are constantly being fine tuned, reviewed and implemented in a progressive manner, given the availability of resources. A piecemeal or sectoral-based approach is counter productive to achieving the benefits that may be derived from a national co-ordinated approach,” the Minister argued.

“We need to stop implementing GIS related projects and activities in a vacuum.  We need to share our resources, experiences and data sets and talk to each other.  The answer to achieving successful GIS programmes lies in the sharing, co-ordination and amalgamation of resources.  Governments and project executing agencies need to negotiate to have sustainable projects implemented, that will benefit organizations and by extension their countries in the long term,” Mr. Pickersgill added.

He pointed out that continuous education on GIS technology has its place, as “too many professionals in GIS related fields in the region are not keeping abreast of changes in technology."

“I am therefore recommending that educational institutions within the region meet to spearhead an initiative to encourage these continuous education programmes for GIS professionals.  Indeed, our professionals in the region will soon be left behind, if we do not constantly upgrade our GIS skills sets,” the Minister said

“With the changing trade agreements and the opening of borders and economies, as a region we must be prepared to forge ahead to meet the changes head on or inevitably be trampled along the way.  It is my fervent hope that the issues I have outlined will be addressed at this conference and that all participants will come away with fresh perspectives and strategies for the strengthening and sharing of geospatial information among our respective countries,” Mr. Pickersgill added.

The conference was held under the theme: ‘Spatial Technologies – critical thinking for critical times’.