JIS News

A two-day workshop, designed to share information for the creation of a National Spatial Data Infrastructure to enhance development, got underway yesterday (May 26) at the Jamaican Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.
The National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) is a facility that allows access and integration of spatial data to minimize duplication of tasks among state agencies and enhance the decision-making process. Required records are readily available to be analyzed to make decisions that are critical to national development.
The event, organized by the Land Information Council of Jamaica and the Meso-American and Caribbean Geo-Spatial Alliance (MACGA), comes against the background that most decisions have a spatial component and geographic information can greatly assist decision-making and resolve development issues such as those that usually arise after natural disasters.
The main objective of the workshop is to share information on how the country can learn from the common experiences of the Caribbean region and utilize it to help identify areas of vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters and facilitate national and regional planning using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Permanent Secretary in the Land and Environment Ministry, Donovan Stanberry, who addressed the opening, said issues such as ownership and copyright of geo spatial data, data quality, accuracy, completeness, cost, accessibility and standards were among several issues that could be addressed through the creation of a NSDI.
He noted that GIS and NSDI were critical in making decisions regarding economic growth, trade, municipal planning and development, disaster preparedness, risk reduction, agriculture and food security, humanitarian assistance and environmental conservation.
Mr. Stanberry said the government’s cognizance of the importance of GIS and spatial data use in planning was demonstrated in the formation of the Land Information Council of Jamaica (LICJ) 13 years ago, which brought together over 40 entities sector wide. He commended the entity on the success of its efforts to secure GIS satellite imaging maps for the entire island.
Through the LICJ, the Ministry has been promoting the use of the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology, which is being utilized by the island’s Meteorological Office, as well as land surveyors and engineers.
The Permanent Secretary said it was hoped that the technology, which is also being used in the Ministry’s Land Administration and Management programme (LAMP), would further revolutionize and accelerate the land titling process.
Meanwhile, Director of the Office of the Environment in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Howard Batson said that given the changing landscape, there was dire need for support to improve the way spatial data is produced, managed and distributed within Jamaica and the rest of the region.
He commended the Jamaican government for it’s instrumentality in lobbying national and international institutions to participate in developing the regions geo spatial capacity, noting that the country was “taking the lead in the region to establish a local geo-spatial infrastructure.”
Mr. Batson said GIS was an important planning tool for all countries, as it acted as a repository and a means of monitoring and managing current information in real-time.
It is expected that by the end of the workshop, participants would have drafted reasonable clearinghouse work plans for 2005, based on existing institutional resources, capacities and priorities.
Jamaica already has a healthy degree of awareness about spatial data, but further work is needed to institutionalize the components in annual work plans, budgets and performance measurement.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) is funding the workshop with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).