ISO/TC 211 is responsible for the ISO 19100 series of standards for geographic information. Representatives from industry, academia, governments of various countries, as well as international organisations and professional bodies participate in this TC. Representatives from South Africa include Dr Serena Coetzee of the University of Pretoria (Chair of ISO/TC 211’s Programme Maintenance Group) and Antony Cooper of the CSIR (Convenor of ISO/TC 211’s Working Group 7, Information communities, and a member of the resolutions drafting committee).
There was general consensus among delegates that standards are beneficial as they reduce costs, improve efficiency and ensure quality data. It was noted that, where possible, standards should be more accessible and that there should be increased guidance during the implementation process.
Cooper, Chair of the local mirror committee for ISO/TC 211, SABS/SC 71E, noted: “South Africa has an active standards community; we get more participants at our standards committee 71E meetings than most of the other countries get for the meetings of their equivalent committees. I hope that our meetings will also help you as delegates in contributing to the Committee for Spatial Information (CSI) and the development of the South African Spatial Data Infrastructure (SASDI).”
Olaf Østensen, Chair of ISO/TC 211, said the work of standards operating bodies was not being taken up as much as they would have liked. “Standards are state-of-the-art technology and require competence and capacity for effective utilisation,” he noted.
Cooper commented: “More practitioners should get involved in standards development. That will help to ensure that practical, useful standards are developed and that these are tested early in the development cycle. People need to understand the contextual framework of standards, as this will help to determine which standards would be useful to them.”
With his term as Chair having expired, Cooper said: “It is time for the chair to come from a data custodian who has to implement the standards, rather than from the research community. While I am stepping down, be assured of my support; I will continue to be active in both SABS/SC 71E and ISO/TC 211.”
Prior to the plenary week, a workshop on Standards in Action was hosted by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform with the Geo-Information Society of South Africa (GISSA), on Friday 11 November 2011. The CSIR’s Graeme McFerren and Terence van Zyl, and Wim Hugo (a consultant) presented on their implementation of standards at the CSIR.
The workshop and the ISO/TC 211 meetings were very successful with over 120 delegates attending the workshop and 27 South Africans participating in the ISO/TC 211 meetings, including Dr Peter Schmitz of the CSIR.
“The delegates from abroad were full of praise for the arrangements, with the head of the French delegation ‘complaining’ that South Africa had set too high a standard for them, as they will be hosting the 34th Plenary in Toulouse in June 2012,” Cooper reported.