GIS For Ghana
'And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself’. (Genesis 3:9-10). Adam could not tell his location. Right from the beginning of human existence humans have had problems with locations.
Maps were then made for navigation purposes, boundary protection, and resource allocation. Maps were made on stones, woods and later on papers. A good map contains the right information and gives you decision advantage. Based on the London Cholera Outbreak Map John Snow made in 1854 he discovered that cholera was water-borne rather than air-borne. Therefore in order to prevent Cholera drink clean water.
It is very difficult to work with a lot of paper maps however it is easier when the maps are in digital formats. Geographic Information System (GIS) then became important. GIS is a computer based tool to capture, store, and process, analyse and visualize spatial information in order to understand the relationships, patterns, and trends of geographic information. Simply, GIS is a tool for working with location information. Remote sensing is GIS which involves the use of sensors to obtain information from an object without having direct contact with the object. GIS helps in better decision making about a location, improves communication, helps for better record keeping and managing space.
GIS is applied in many fields. Environmental System Research Institute (ESRI) is one of the leading GIS institutions. ESRI supports many sustainable development efforts on the continent of Africa in the following fields: Water Resources, Urban Development, Road Construction, Health Education, Agriculture, Marine and Coastal, Environmental Resources, Land Conservation and Park Management.
GIS has been applied in Ghana in few fields of study. During an Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) initiative in Ghana supported by the World Bank, the significant environmental problems in the coastal zone that directly affected human health, economic productivity, social wellbeing and environmental quality were displayed using a GIS presentation for the ‘impact zone' of the coastal zone. Using the forecasts, the Geographic Information System (GIS) presentation displayed the extent of future degradation by the year 2020, if the current problems remained unaddressed and projected growth targets are met. In Ghana, a Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS) of the University of Ghana supports the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to evaluate various rural communities’ capacity and capability for agriculturally related development. CERSGIS also works with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency to help rural communities develop and maintain potable water supply systems under acceptable sanitary conditions. The Ghana Town and Country Planning of Department of Ghana uses a GIS based Land Use Planning and Management Information System (LUPMIS) to streamline a sustainable use of lands in Ghana.
However GIS is less often used in Ghana. There are few geospatial technologies available for the collection of geospatial data in Ghana. There are few experts available for the use of geospatial technologies. There are not enough geospatial data for Ghana. The use of GIS in Ghana can increase by the following strategies.
First, there should be capacity building for GIS by the universities in Ghana. Although Ghanaian universities collaborate with foreign universities for Ghanaian students to study abroad and most public universities in Ghana offer courses in GIS. GIS should be introduced as full programs to award more students with Diplomas, Degrees and Post-Graduate Certificate or Diploma in GIS. This will attract foreign students to study GIS in Ghana and the country will earn foreign exchange. Both the public and private universities, various government and non-government institutions should incorporate the use of GIS and purchase geospatial technologies in solving problems. Also the government of Ghana should award Scholarships to Ghanaian students to study GIS programs in Ghana or abroad.
Second, there should be pioneering of Government or Non-government GIS Groups, Associations and Organizations in Ghana for the collection of spatial data to aid in decision making. These groups can be at the community, district or the regional level. Geo-Heads Ghana is one of the first ever GIS organization pioneered by Environmental Science Graduates of the University of Cape Coast for Geospatial data collection to aid in decision making by individuals, government and non-government organization. Tutorials, Seminars and Conferences should be organized by these organizations and tertiary institutions to equip interested persons with the skills on the use of GIS software and technologies. Data should be collected on conspicuous problems associated with electricity, land degradation, coastal water and fresh water contamination at specific locations since it is not easy to handle huge data. Geospatial data can be obtained by using data collected from existing and self-created maps, conducting surveys and examining archival materials, online crowd sourcing and satellite images.
Third, there should be collaboration between institutions such as Ghana Town and Country Planning, Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS) of the University of Ghana, Ghana School of Survey and Mapping (GSSM), Department of Geomatic Engineering of KNUST; and non-government organizations such as ESRI; and GIS groups; and individuals in and outside Ghana to share geospatial data. This can foster an intensive collaboration between stakeholders, scientists, engineers, policy experts and managers. Through the collaboration there should be a creation of a GIS planning program in Ghana. This will also enhance comprehensive planned governance for GIS to be applied in decision making and identify conflict areas and bring together wider community participation. In addition, this will aid in levering and coordinating institutional resources and applying them to issues in planning and governance.
Most problems in Ghana are spatially related so GIS will provide creative, effective and long-lasting solutions to these problems. GIS will give policy makers and planning agencies in Ghana the foresight to manage growth and change today in a way that is useful for tomorrow. There is no doubt that Ghana that needs GIS.
By Janix K. Asare (Geo-Heads Ghana)