By Kory Korir, Kenya
Geospatial is a conglomeration of myriad specific professions that appertains to design, creation and maintenance of spatial databases. These professions include Cadastral Surveying, Construction and Engineering Surveying, GIS and Mapping, Remote Sensing among others.
The first two professions are classical and have been there for quite some time. The latter are an offspring of the advancement in technology. Use of location analytics and spatial data has proved to be inevitable in different sectors ranging from the local government, water utilities, transport, engineering, and environment among others.
According to Geospatial Media and Communications, United States, Great Britain, Canada, Germany and India are among the top consumers of geospatial products and services. At the bottom is the African Continent with only South Africa whose score card is excellent compared to all other African states. This is a sure indication that probable something is missing.
With close dissection of African countries, there are few geoscientists. Many people feel that it is a profession in its infancy stages and venturing into it can prove to be a hurdle. This skepticism shies away prospective scholars, which subsequently reduces the capacity building in Geo-information science.
The education system in most of the African countries in terms of individual capacity building is below average. The system is always intensive in a way that turns people to be like machines. All the students do is cram, get good grades then get employed and proves to be a curriculum that nurtures the scholars to be job seekers rather than job creators and innovators. The syllabuses sometimes are outdated such that most of current crucial aspects of the profession are skipped. As a stakeholder in the making of a geospatial professional, learning institutions should repeatedly review its syllabuses in accordance with the market needs and amend the curriculum where necessary.
Advancement in a certain profession requires enhanced research for the same. There are a chunk of graduates each year who should be rigorously absorbed for research purposes. This will enable the players in the profession unearth new ways of arriving at solutions. This should be a collaborative task that should involve learning institutions and research companies. Research organization such as ICRAF (World Agroforestry Center), ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology), and ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) should also present research opportunities to graduates trough programmes like graduate trainees and internship. This is an avenue that will enable graduates learn and in their own capacities devise newer exciting ways of solving pertinent issues at hand.
There are universities like University of Twente, ITC that has proven to be the leading university that is supporting Africa in terms of capacity building by providing short courses and postgraduate diplomas and degrees in Geo-information science. Recently, the university has started two capacity development projects in Africa that targets Land Administration in the East Africa’s lake Region, Geothermics and gas extraction in Tanzania and Zanzibar. These will go a great way in capacity building and will help Africa to grow and realize its potential through the use of geospatial science. This call for African universities to up their game, form partnerships, introduce more post graduate programmes and other initiates that will equip Geo-enthusiasts with a platform to further their studies and use the same for the betterment of the society.