[OSGeo Africa] [Sdi-ea] Invitation for Expession of Interest to participate in an East African SDI Mashup

Byron Anangwe banangwe at rcmrd.org
Sat Mar 24 08:26:06 EDT 2007

Dear Mick,

Please include our participation (strongly) in this initiative. At the
moment as part of our greater goal of geo-information capacity
development/building we are propagating the SDI gospel by including it as a
core component in all our programmes. In this regard we are happy with
GeoNetwork and promoting its use in the region. We have just upgraded the
capacity of our GN dedicated server to 1.5TB with support from WFP-ODK.

Kindest regards 
Byron A. Okubasu Anangwe
Data Management & Dissemination Office
Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development - KASARANI
P.O. BOX 632-00618 Ruaraka, 
Nairobi. KENYA.
TEL: +254 20 8560227/1775/0265 (Fixed) 
         +254-722-357528/723-786161/735-981098 (Mobile)
FAX: +254 20 8561673/8563767
EMail: banangwe at rcmrd.org, remotesensing at rcmrd.org,
byron.anangwe at yahoo.co.uk
Visit RCMRD on the web at http://www.rcmrd.org and

-----Original Message-----
From: africa-bounces at lists.osgeo.org [mailto:africa-bounces at lists.osgeo.org]
On Behalf Of Mick Wilson
Sent: Saturday, March 17, 2007 5:23 AM
To: sdi-ea at als.unep.org
Cc: lance at itc.nl
Subject: [OSGeo Africa] [Sdi-ea] Invitation for Expession of Interest to
participate in an East African SDI Mashup

Greetings, ppgis and sdi colleagues, and with apologies for cross-list

The following is wordier than it ought to be but, please, hack along with
me to the end.

I am looking for motivated and capable individuals and institutions to
participate in a real-world demonstrator of openSDI and ppGIS capabilities
focussed on East Africa.

Lots is written about the philosophy and benefits of opens source/ open
standards efforts to get important geographically- related data flowing for
the benefit of society as a whole and the institutions within society. So
far, however, the the vast majority of real examples we have to learn from
are government mandated or funded. And most (all?) of these are based in
OECD areas where institutional problems may remain but the technology
issues are being resolved - consider the likes of the US NSDI and INSPIRE.

Meanwhile, in the real world, such as here in East Africa, hurdles abound.
Meanwhile, East Africa hosts a community of practitioners as rich in
expertise as you'll find anywhere -and- with the added incentive of having
to respond to pragmatic demands in their own backyard, every day of the
week, using geo-information issues. Nairobi alone hosts over 25 UN
agencies' offices, plus two CGIAR centres, numerous national govenment
agencies plus international NGOs ALL using spatial data in our day-to-day
work. Add to that the commercial companies and the training institutions
helping build GIS capability and innovation. Factor in our neighbours in
Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia to the count. Their combined area of
operations extends to south Sudan, eastern DRC, Somalia, the African Great
Lakes region and beyond. Any and all of these players are paying heavily to
duplicate each others data, services and intellectual expertise. I want to
look for a better way.

My thesis is that, in East Africa, we have requirements that -demand-
rational use of geospatial information coupled colocated with the
concentrated expertise to put SDI words into practice. Sure, we are
constrained by the reality of horrid, narrow, unreliable and expensive
telecommunications. Yes, we have all the usual institutional disparities
over policies governing data discovery, access and use. Fine: let us find
clever ways to use SDI principles to combine our expensive technical
resources to create valuable, light-weight and accessible geo-information
products. Let us identify and work closely with real-world partners lacking
these resources but closest to those dealing with social and environmental
problems that our agencies are charged to address. Let us at least start to
expose and tease aport some of the governance and policy constraints.

So: this is an invitation for (informal) expressions of interest from any
and all of of you working in East Africa, or with interests this region, to
partipate in an unfunded, unofficial but unfettered exploration of SDI in
practice. It will need identified users with real requirements. It will
require assessing the real likelihood of adding value or reducing cost. We
will need to identify assets and line them up against needs. We'll have to
identify gaps in our capabilities and work to bridge them. We'll need to
find ways that we can incrementally approach Perfect Solutions within our
existing work and budgets while demonstrating success at each step along
the way. We will walk face-first into all the issues of institutional
policy and practice that define the realities of makeing data exchange

Let me be clear upfront: I have no money from the UN Environment Programme
nor any other source to put into this exercise. I cannot say that it is an
official designated element of the current programme of work. I can say
that it clearly fits into efoorts to reform the UN ao it's "delivering as
one", with the increased emphasis for the UN to be responding to countries'
requirements, and in UNEP's own Bali Strategic Plan for capacity building
and technology transfer. I can offer limited in-kind technical support to
help practitioners add SDI capabilities to their existing technical assets
- help with metadata authoring and publishing tools like GeoNetwork; help
with setting up open source map servers and feature services (I hope to
help setting up discovery for those services, as well); and help where
necessary with on-line fora or listservs to carry the debate on governance
and policy. I hope to maybe host a couple of technical workshops at UNEP
around mid-year, but that's it. Okay, I'll also help document and publicize
the effort, and to work with my contacts to cast it into wider audiences
such as the GSDI (http://www.gsdi.org ),
GEOSS(http://www,earthobservation.org ) and UN efforts such as the UNSDI
(http://www.ungiwg.org/unsdi ) and UN-ECA CODI ( www.uneca.org/codi/ ), and
to use the experiences gained to guide contributions to any re-writes of
the GSDO Cookbook that seem to be underway.

What I'm relying on is our collective sense of frustrated opportunity
combined with a willingness to pool capabilities for collective benefit. Is
this sustainable? Of course not. Is it a distraction from real work? Of
course. Might it yield real-life practical exemplars that can be taken to
funders for future support? You bet. Might it all blow up and reveal that
SDI is not yet ready for the Real World? Quite plausibly, but I think it's
worth a go. And, just maybe, it'll provide an exemplar of how the UN can
get its act together to better support its member countries. Meanwhile,
UNEP will learn valuable lessons for its continuing operational development
of the Africa Environmental Information Network... I'd hope the same might
be true for other UN bodies active in this region.

There's a core group of us within the UN in East Africa, half a dozen
people or so, all with real jobs to do, who will take on the task of
getting at least one small corner of the UN's back yard in order - that's
FAO, UNEP, UNHCR, OCHA, UN-Habitat and UN-ECA - trying to show that a UN
SDI is feasible. The plan is to try to gather similar 'clusters',
communities of common interest, whose work impinges on or depends upon a
functioning UN spataial data infrastructure - conservation, humantitarian
response, food security, infrsatructure development, social equity, what
have you. We six cannot do the whole job, but we can have a go at it in a
way that then boosts the prospects for our friends and neighbours.

Call it grandiose but I believe our East African community is perhaps the
most exciting and likely places on the planet to pull this off, and that we
could be literally writing the book for others around the world to learn
by. It's too good an opportunity to -not- try it.

PS: many of you are getting this from a list that distributes to other
lists, such as OSGEO. Please respond to those lists OR directly to me at
mick.wilson at unep.org - most of you are not individually known to this
particular list so your responses, however valuable, will get needlessly
held up.


Footnote: Much of the blame for this mail must lie with Kate Lance. Kate is
a keen and critical watcher of SDI development all over the world but with
especial focus on developing coubtries. My original thinking, back during
the UN Geo-Information Working Group meeting last September, was to just
try and get the UN agencies in Nairobi working SDI-ishly. Kate lambasted
that as a narrow-minded and silly approach. She was right - the UN and the
Real World do actually work together in this corner of the world, and an
SDI-East Africa task must look beyond the narrow confines of the UN.
Thank you, Kate.

Mick Wilson
Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA)
United Nations Environment Programme
PO Box 30552 -  Nairobi 00100, Kenya
Tel: +254 20 7623436
Fax: +254 20 7624315
Email: mick.wilson at unep.org
Web www.unep.net, www.unep.org

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