G.I.S. User Group revived in Samoa

A Geographic Information Systems (G.I.S.) User Group has been revived in Samoa with its members confident that it will pave the way for the development of standards in the use of spatial data in the country.

The reestablishment of the G.I.S. User Group was done in an hour-long side-event last Friday at the "Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) State of the Map (SotM) 2020 Ocean Conference" that was held virtually and attracted participants from around the world including Samoa.

According to a statement issued by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.), time was set aside for the Samoa-based G.I.S. User Group to meet, where they reviewed the mission and goals of the original GIS Users Group in Samoa and put in place a leadership structure as well as discussed next steps and ways forward to maintain the sustainability of the group.

According to the Chief Technical Officer of local firm Skyeye, Nomeneta Saili, the revival of the G.I.S. User Group in Samoa is an initiative that many local G.I.S. practitioners have long expressed interest in for reasons such as the development of standards for spatial data in Samoa.

"If we have the same standards across organisations, government ministries, and the private sector, we can ensure good quality data is collected consistently and stored and shared adequately,” Mr. Saili said.

The virtual conference last Friday saw stakeholders and practitioners sharing their cases addressing the importance and power of G.I.S., open data, open-source software, spatial data sharing and data standards.

The S.P.R.E.P. through the Inform project partnered with SkyEye Pacific to host the Apia Hub. It is the Pacific region’s chapter of a larger global community which forms the FOSS4G, an annual recurring global event hosted by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation with a mission to foster and promote the adoption of open-source geospatial technology and the SotM. 

The conference was opened by Roger Conforth, S.P.R.E.P. Deputy Director-General, who welcomed all participants and briefly touched on the importance of GIS as a tool to inform key decision-makers. 

"It is a privilege for S.P.R.E.P. to host you here today. This is an important and exciting event that brings together geospatial data practitioners from Samoa’s public, private and NGO sectors. I am encouraged to see the high level of interest on GIS as shown through the large number of participants registered for today’s event,” said Mr Cornforth.

“S.P.R.E.P. is particularly pleased to co-host this event in collaboration with SkyEye Pacific and the Samoa G.I.S. user community. This is an excellent platform to strengthen and enhance public and private partnerships to promote and encourage open-source software for geospatial that ultimately informs proper planning and decision making.”

Representatives from Samoa’s Electric Power Corporation, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and SkyEye did presentations on their G.I.S. use cases and applications, which highlighted the need for the development of national standards for spatial data to ensure quality data collection, storage and sharing for all. 

To'oa Brown from the M.A.F. presented on the benefits of using GIS in the agricultural sector which has led to low-income farmers and fishermen becoming more commercially-oriented. 

“At the Ministry of Agriculture, G.I.S. has been useful in helping us support low-income farmers and fishermen to become more commercially oriented,” she said.

“Using QGIS, a free and open-source cross-platform desktop GIS application that supports viewing, editing, and analysis of geospatial data, we can track and identify farmers illegally using other people’s land as their own in order to solve disputes.

"We also map and track the distribution chain of farmers based on different agricultural sub-sectors, for example, crops, livestock, and fisheries.

“These maps also provide leaders and key decision-makers, including donor partners, access to information and data showcasing project activities and implementation, and maintain transparency.”

The virtual conference last Friday was originally scheduled to be held in Suva, Fiji but was switched to a virtual event due to the closure on international travel brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

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