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USAID Highlights Importance of GIS in International Development
Source: futuregov.asia
Source Date: Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Created: Nov 10, 2011

The power of GIS first took hold in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the staff who worked in the natural resources management and agricultural sectors. People who work in these sectors have a sense of geographic relationships because it is part of the way they think about managing the resource upon which so many livelihoods depend – the land

A spokesperson from USAID told FutureGov that using GIS allowed them to go beyond making maps of just land cover. It enabled the agency to combine different layers of information from different sectors (e.g. land cover, populated areas, road networks, and health clinics) to see a more complete picture of the places they are currently working to develop.

In several USAID missions, GIS is used to collect data about the in-country projects being funded across all sectors, including project locations. The resulting mission portfolio databases are used to generate maps of USAID projects, track progress, and communicate what is going on, and where.

“geo-enabled” projects
“Long-lasting development requires an integrated approach across sectors, and GIS allows us to better understand the spatial relationships between, for example, an economic growth project and a land tenure project, or a health project and a biodiversity conservation project,” he said.

“For example in Sri Lanka, after many years of conflict, the government did not have an updated inventory with maps of its forest resources. Our GIS specialist at the USAID bi-lateral mission helped provide training, software, and equipment to the Ministry of Environment to help the Forest Department manage Sri Lanka’s valuable forest resources more effectively.”

Meanwhile in Indonesia, USAID has supported spatial planning to protect biological and cultural diversity in the Papua province in an effort to improve governance and transparency. This initiative involved working with the regional planning agency at the district and village levels, in which local people participated in defining boundary lines.

“In addition, we also supported National Demographic and Health Surveys in the Philippines. The information collected by the National Statistics Office included data about fertility, family planning, and maternal and child health, and was used by USAID to plan relevant health programmes,” he said.

Based on multiple applications of GIS throughout USAID’s various projects, USAID in Washington DC is now investing on an enterprise approach for the whole agency to incorporate spatial thinking in its development programmes.

“This effort includes creating maps of our project locations, for communication purposes. Once we have a comprehensive project data collection system in place, we intend to share this information with our partners and the public.”

“We believe these project visualization efforts, combined with more rigorous GIS analysis, will result in more informed decision-making about where to invest development resources,” the spokesperson said.

USAID’s GeoCentre
This month, USAID will officially launch a new GeoCentre which aims to improve USAID’s programme planning, evaluation, reporting, and communication by building the capacity of Agency staff to use geospatial tools and think spatially about development.

The GeoCentre will also set Agency geospatial standards, coordinate disparate geospatial investments across the Agency, and leverage geospatial investments by other US Government agencies, donors, and the international community.

The GeoCentre’s objectives align directly with the Agency’s new focus on the application of science and technology for development. The work of the GeoCentre is expected to help transform the Agency’s development programming.
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