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Geo-based data system in operation

Geo-based data    system in operation


A geo-based data system that can “assist in more scientific decision-making in the utilisation of our resources” is now operational within the Physical Planning Unit, in the Ministry of Housing, Informal Human Settlements, Lands, Surveys and Physical Planning.{{more}}

The Geographic Information System (GIS) developed out of the National Land Information Management project in 2007, and acts as a “central repository” for all geo-based data.

Dornet Hull, officer charged with the development of the GIS Unit, explained that the system manipulates data to helps make decisions regarding resource management; land usage; structure development, and planning social programmes that meet the needs of the country.

“The GIS is a tool that you can use… to assist in making more intelligent decisions… It takes the ‘guess’ out of your work,” said Hull.

The GIS Unit has created a national data base that will house spatial data from all relevant government bodies and non-government organisations.

Town planner Anthony Bowman said that the GIS Unit currently has five staff members, but this number will increase as the database develops.

He also pointed out that although the Physical Planning manages the system, it does not own all of the information, because other government agencies have contributed to the presently-collated data.

Hull explained that some of the system’s information will be made available to the public, but most of it will be confined to the relevant Ministries and dispensed on a need to know basis.

“You don’t want to put all your data out there,” said Hull.

“There is certain data that is sensitive, so you would manage it properly, and give it on demand, based on the situation.”

Because the data is “extremely expensive” to acquire, there are plans to charge a nominal fee to access it in future.

Bowman and Hull noted that the GIS has already been used in several situations.

When Hurricane Tomas struck in October 2010, the Physical Planning Unit was able to use the GIS data to inform NEMO of the maximum holding capacity at hurricane shelters, in order to avoid over-crowding.

“Instead of creating another disaster in the emergency shelters, they could have gone to correct it; either by gettings people out quickly or moving persons to other shelters,” said Bowman.

He said that Hull has also worked with the Fire Department to determine possible new locations for fire hydrants in Kingstown.

GIS data has also been applied to projects involving the parrot reserve and in assisting WINFA.

Hull added that data collection is an on-going process, and although there is a wealth of information available now, there are still gaps that need filling.(JV)