THE INTERNATIONAL GIS DAY SCORES MANY FIRSTS AS TTUC TAKES CHARGE
BY NASHON ADERO-Lecture at the MMPE dept. TTUC
Realizing the first International GIS Day in the Tsavo region on 18th November 2015 took the support of the Management of Taita Taveta University College (TTUC) and dedicated efforts by the Department of Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering in networking with Esri Eastern Africa. The organizing committee was led by Nashon Adero, who registered this first event for the Tsavo region and gave it a theme. He was ably supported by fellow lecturers in the Department including William Baya and Kosgey Kiprotich. Teresia Wacera Ngunje assisted with secretarial matters. Lucas Mwangala facilitated logistics from the Deputy Principal (AROs) office. Francis Gitau, a mining student on attachment at Esri Eastern Africa, directly handled the Company’s collaboration with TTUC on receiving publications and badges for the GIS Day. He was joined on the day of the event in ground preparations and guest reception by ten of his fellow students, led by Hilary Otieno.
NASHON ADERO //Lecture MMPE Dept & the GIS organizer
This was the first International GIS Day to be celebrated in the Tsavo region, since the event was created in 1999 by Esri in the USA. Coming 16 years later for the Tsavo region, the GIS Day attracted an impressive number of 220 participants drawn from all parts of Kenya. The interactive map showing the spread of GIS Day events across the globe positioned TTUC as the unrivalled leader in Kenyaâ€™s coastal region, the only point of convergence this year.
As per the tradition of this important educational event celebrated globally every third Wednesday of the month of November, the speakers showcased the applications of GIS technology and the promise this technology holds for the Tsavo region, which has many comparative advantages as Kenyaâ€™s rich mineral belt, tourism zone, and vast conservation area.
The top management of TTUC graced the occasion.
In her welcoming remarks, Prof. Christine Onyango, the Deputy Principal in charge of Academics, Research and Outreach, stressed the benefits of GIS technology in all disciplines, including agricultural and environmental sciences. She revisited the fact that GIS is key to adding value to teaching and research in the modern era.
The Deputy Principal in charge of Administration, Finance and Planning, Prof. Fred Barasa, gave the official opening speech on behalf of the Principal. In his speech, he described GIS as the powerhouse of concepts and tools for effectively addressing policy questions and producing visual maps that â€œWanjikuâ€� (Kenyaâ€™s metonymy for the common man at the grassroots) can easily relate to, thereby effectively addressing the elusive issues around public participation and inclusiveness. He urged all stakeholders to embrace GIS technology to ensure transparent, fair and inclusive decision support. Page 2 of 4
The GIS Day presentations addressed the theme of Leveraging Spatial Dimensions of Local Development Agenda. Nashon Adero explained the theme, beginning with a rich narrative on how GIS traces its roots back to the old practice of surveying and mapping in Egypt, through the developments in geometry around 120 BC in Greece that led to improved survey accuracy, then Dr. John Snowâ€™s 19th century dot map that helped to discover the epidemiology of cholera in London, followed by the great work by Jack Dangermond in the 20th century that led to the establishment of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), and finally the present Digital Revolution era powered by cloud-based GIS and Big Data analytics. Nicholas Muthama, the Chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Informatics, gave an exciting talk on how GIS can simplify the teaching and understanding of mathematics. The ICT Manager, Kibwana Zamani, highlighted the technology infrastructure plans being put in place for an irreversible takeoff in GIS-based education, research and resource management at TTUC.
Mwaita K. Mwagodi, the Chief Officer in charge of Lands and Mining under the Office of the Deputy Governor of Taita Taveta County, was the Chief Guest. He was accompanied by other county officials including the County Surveyor, Physical Planning Assistant, and County Gemologists. Mr. Mwaita emphasised the need for integrated planning in the County. He rightly placed GIS at the centre of the infrastructure and techniques that will deliver on the goals of the County related to spatial planning, land and mining information management, and conservation efforts across the Tsavo. The university community consequently noted the great opportunities for collaborating with the County Government of Taita Taveta to create wealth and influence sustainable development.
James Gachanja, a Policy Analyst at KIPPRA, presented a case study on how GIS has been applied by the public policy research institute to inform decisions on equitable development planning. ArcGIS was used for spatial modelling and production of maps showing different service levels.
GIS is the powerhouse of concepts and tools for effectively addressing policy questions and producing visual maps that â€œWanjikuâ€� (Kenyaâ€™s metonymy for the common man at the grassroots) can easily relate to, thereby effectively addressing the elusive issues around public participation and inclusiveness.
This was also the first time that the students of Taita Taveta University College made industry-standard GIS presentations before distinguished guests from Taita Taveta County and beyond, winning their hearts through the high quality of delivery. Francis Gitau, a student of Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering and by this time an intern at Esri Eastern Africa, started with a presentation and a live demo on how the ArcGIS platform including ArcGIS Online powers location-based decisions on mine site planning, conservation, and safety in the mines that bestride wildlife conservation areas. These are fitting examples in the Tsavo region. The demonstrated flexibility of ArcGIS Online was appreciated by all participants. Page 3 of 4
Godfrey Otieno, Willy Korgoren and Cokins Phillip, all students of Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering, shone at the event with their spot-on presentations on how GIS is applied to address the challenges of geothermal energy development at Olkaria, conservation in the Tsavo, and environmental degradation caused by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), respectively. There was one presentation by a former IT student showcasing an IT-enabled application for monitoring the health and grazing patterns of elephants.
Guests from Taita Taveta County and hosting team during a photo session
The Media Bonus
Social media went viral with enthusiastic students tweeting comments to @TaitaTavetaUni, #gisday, #gisdayselfie, #gisdayKE, and #geogeeks. Even students out of session like @AnneMakarios threw in insightful compliments, which combined with the others, displayed their love for GIS mixed with intellectual vigour. It was exciting to follow tweets from Esri Eastern Africa and the rest of the world on the wide screen. Top motivational presentations on GIS were played to entertain the audience during interludes. Bill Davenhallâ€™s TED talk on Geomedicine was voted the best.
The PR team, led by George Kasamani, captured the event through photo sessions with guests, staff, and students. Job Ogwenoh, a BCom. student and entrepreneur, recorded videos of the event which will be made available on DVDs as a lasting memory of the first International GIS Day in the Tsavo. Towards Page 4 of 4
closing, Chris Njehu (a final-year engineering student) presented a catchy summary of the key episodes of the day, from the start at 9:45 am to the end at 4:50 pm.
The Way Forward
In their closing remarks, Nicholas Muthama, Nashon Adero, Dr. Marianne Maghenda and Dr. Maurice Ogada appreciated GIS and urged their respective Departments and Schools to take lead in ensuring GIS-driven teaching and research. One message remained stark, as clearly communicated by the Master of Ceremony: GIS is a wonderful servant of any human imagination and it respects no disciplinary boundaries.
For the next International GIS Day to be held on 16th November 2016, TTUC will register earlier and work towards exceeding the standards set by this pioneering event.
GIS is a wonderful servant of any human imagination and it respects no disciplinary boundaries.
Appreciation goes to Esri Eastern Africa for availing the information and support towards realising the first GIS Day in the Tsavo. The County Government of Taita Taveta is highly appreciated, through the Office of the Deputy Governor, for availing the Chief Guest and his team to grace the International GIS Day. The opportunities for collaboration between TTUC and the County Government in utilising GIS technologies will be explored.
This content is credited to the Editorial Board of voi2day. A team that aims to tell stories and run conversations that matter, in the process ,inspiring readers to think differently, at least about this beautiful Town