by Nashon Adero
Pioneering Pre-Conference Training
The International GIS Day matured into its 20th year in 2019. Though for the young Taita Taveta University (TTU) it was just the fifth GIS Day, it was highly eventful and record-setting. Unlike the past GIS Day celebrations at TTU, this year featured a successful pre-conference GIS training facilitated by experts from Esri Eastern Africa and TTU. The pre-conference training took place on 12th November 2019.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Research and Outreach, Prof. Christine Onyango, gave the opening remarks on GIS education at TTU. The CEC in Charge of Mining in the County Government of Taita Taveta, Gertrude Shuwe, was the chief guest. She elaborated on the power and promise of GIS technology for mineral resource management in Taita Taveta County. She challenged the university community to conduct innovative research that would help optimise decisions on mining and sustainable development.
Since 2015, when the first GIS Day was introduced at TTU out of the dedicated championship rolled out by the GIS lecturer, every year has been witnessing a unique GIS Day celebration bringing together the university community, policymakers from the county and national governments, researchers, the local community, and industry experts. The thematic areas so far handled are shown below.
Pushing the Boundaries
Taita Taveta is a mineral-rich region on the Mozambique belt with unparallelled gemstones such as Tsavorites. Iron ore and industrial minerals are found in the region, including kaolin, limestone, and sand. Manganese, a key mineral for the glass industry and industrial catalysis, has recently been discovered in blocks 4 km from Taita Taveta University.
GIS is the inspirational backbone for maintaining a confident and upright posture in transparent and objective decision-making. It is not just a good idea, but an essential domain for global competitiveness and a critical employability skill for today’s graduates.
Taita is semi-arid with several critical ecosystems around Taita Hills. The Tsavo National Park takes up 60% of the county measuring some 17,000 sq.km. These key facts make sustainable resource governance an urgent and critical responsibility for all stakeholders: public, market, and civil society. This insightful realisation led to the choice of a fitting the theme for 2019: Pushing the Boundaries of Resource Governance with Location-Based Intelligence.
Packed, Productive and Motivating
The GIS Day celebration was packed, both in terms of delegates and presentations. Participants came all the way from Finland and locally from as far as Eldoret and Homa Bay. The speakers presented GIS applications in the areas of urban planning, health, mining, land management, environmental monitoring, among others.
How drones can improve mine planning and how GIS can be applied to effectively plan health infrastructure for societal impact were among the main presentations by young GIS experts and recent graduates, who challenged and motivated TTU students in equal measure. The students resolved to up their game in GIS and come up with innovative GIS-driven projects.
A special session with consultants, experts and public servants from the Kenya Vision 2030 Secretariat, the Meteorological Department, Base Titanium Company, and universities discussed further collaboration strategies for GIS education and training. From Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, Germany, Nashon Adero joined the meeting through a live Skype presentation entitled Five Years of GIS Day Celebration at TTU: Milestones, Lessons, and Prospects for Democratising Intelligent Resource Governance. He identified Geosciences, Geomatics for mineral resource management, Mine Surveying, and computer programming for predictive algorithms that can inform predictive risk management as the foremost avenues of industry and training collaboration. He emphasised the role of GIS as a catalyst in democratising multi-stakeholder decision support across the public, private and civil society sectors, as shown in the diagram. “GIS is the inspirational backbone for maintaining a confident and upright posture in transparent and objective decision-making. It is not just a good idea, but an essential domain for global competitiveness and a critical employability skill for today’s graduates,” was his parting shot.
Social media was full of comments under the hashtags #TAITAGIS, #GISday, @EsriEA, @hopadero, #HEIICI.
The GIS Day exceeded expectations by having an impactful pre-conference training and a particularly well attended and eventful conference. The next GIS Day is expected to be on 18th November 2020.