African Media Get to Grips with Geospatial Science


ECA Press Release 150/2012

Addis Ababa, 18 September 2012  (ECA) - Media professionals endorsed today, the establishment of the African Forum for Geospatial Information systems. The conclusion followed two days of training aimed at improving the quality of geoinformation, Geospatial Science and Technology reporting and the impact of this area of work on the livelihood of African citizens,

The first of its kind, the two-day training of trainers was organized by the ICT, Science and Technology Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Participants hailed from western, southern and eastern of Africa.

Speaking at the opening session of the training workshop, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of the ICT, Science and Technology Division said that geospatial technology, or geomatics used the measurement, analysis and visualization of spatial features or phenomenon.

"As a tool, geomatics is enormously important for decision-makers across a wide range of disciplines, industries and sectors," she said and added: "The tool is radically changing the way information is used for development planning."

"What Journalists in Africa need to understand is how geospatial technology supports the management of Africa’s development, said Ms Opoku-Mensah. For instance, in the mining sector, resources on the earth’s surface require sophisticated technology to discover, extract, and manage and since mining is inherently spatial, requiring accurate knowledge of areas of the earth’s surface and subsurface, geospatial technology is best suited to oversee all phases of mining operations", she emphasized.

Similarly, projects such as roads and waterways require geospatial technologies for planning, construction and implementation", she added and noted that unfortunately, the geo-information sector is not effectively communicating with the general public, leading to low uptake of geospatial science and technology sector in Africa and its contribution to Africa’s development. As such, said Ms. Opoku-Mensah, the engagement of media professionals and researchers become vital to overcome this communication gap.

Mr. Mekonnen Teshome, President of the Ethiopian Association of Science Journalists (EASJ) said that the organization of this training workshop "comes at the right time when we African Journalists are well organized and seeking for better information on science and technology."

He underlined that the workshop will "greatly add to media professional career development." He also noted that a better understanding of geospatial technologies would assist with effective reporting on the subject.

Mr. Kwami Ahiabenu, Director of Penplusbytes and chair of the meeting said that all over Africa, technology is playing an important role in transforming life, society and economy of its nations. He underscored that Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) are becoming important tools for effective and efficient strategic planning and decision-making processes at all levels, ensuring development and growth is a reality for all citizens.

He emphasized that awareness creation and advocacy about GIS success stories and its huge potential in the near future becomes very urgent and “we are excited that UNECA is taking a bold step to provide skills and knowledge needed by journalists in Africa in order for them to perform this important function”.

Mr. Sultan Mohammed, Director-General, Ethiopian Mapping Agency (EMA) in his keynote speech emphasized that only societies using information efficiently and wisely will succeed in their development endeavors. He noted that more than 80% of all the data and information generated and disseminated nowadays is location based information involving geospatial information.

He underscored that Location based Geospatial information services, which are a coalescence of fields such as surveying, mapping and remote sensing, have matured and become key contributors to evidenced based policy making processes. They can be used to understand and integrate social, economic, and environmental perspectives at specific locations at local, regional and global scales.

He concluded that the workshop is timely and will enhance the capacity of the media in promoting Geospatial Information advocacy and awareness in the Continent.

A number of recommendations were adopted to promote Geospatial science journalisms for sustainable development. The African Media Forum for Geospatial Science and Technology was formed and members were required to promote the creation of National Geospatial Science Journalists Association in their respective countries.

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© 2012 Economic Commission for Africa