Monday, October 30, 2006

Notes from Atlantis

There must be something poetic about people meeting to talk about location-aware technology in a resort named after a place that's never been found, but you wouldn't hear any complaints, I'm sure. Even a rainy day could not diminish the visual feast of the location including a spectacular marine aquarium, accessible underground, with sharks including sawtooths and hammerheads, piranhas, barracudas, grouper and giant rays gliding an arms reach away from the viewer. But about the Conference ...

The URISA 2006 Caribbean GIS Conference had an excellent, well-organised start. There are lots of attendees (300 odd), and the pre-conference workshops were well attended; the one on Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) went well past its scheduled closing time of 5pm due to attendee-interest. The programme ahead has something of interest in several areas; Conservation, Urban Planning, Coastal Zone Management, Cadastre Management, Disaster Management, Modeling, etc. are probably expected areas of interest, but the schedule also includes presentations in Archaeology/ Forensics, Law Enforcement, Web GIS and Mobile GIS.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What do you do; what do you do?

A look back at the hinterland flooding in Suriname in May 2006.

In times of disaster, information is key. In this case too the affected area was not well known and not very accessible. MapAction, the UK-based international charity, mobilised and started to produce maps with what data were available. A short email or two later, CaribbeanGIS - four time zones away - pitched in to place these on the Internet for easy access (see below). Since responders/responses were coming from outside of Suriname as well as inside, this simple cooperation between MapAction and CaribbeanGIS was quite useful. There were a few lessons learnt:
  1. The Caribbean Region, or much of it, remains poor in spatial data and this is a significant disadvantage in planning for and responding to natural disasters
  2. The Region needs better spatial data - and a region-wide initiative building on the public and private sector nodes that do exist, should be considered.
  3. Along with data the Region also needs a strongly-associated way(s) of swiftly and conveniently providing such data and related information to persons/ agencies in all parts of the Caribbean. It's the only way to leverage the available brain-trust for (i) planning and (ii) when time is of the essence; and to leverage the media in educating the public.
    1. Say 'Internet'? A simple example: 4SHORE Web provides data as well as maps of the Guyana Coastal Zone. Free. It's an always-on source, so academics, graduate students and specialists worldwide can do analysis of their own, on an area of great interest to the country.
  4. (What you can do, do.) Providing simple information (see map gallery below) in a convenient manner, especially in lieu of anything else, can be helpful, as some responders or potential responders may know very little of the affected area.
    1. I know the Guianas can be heavily forested terrain with little access; and I know how dramatically the rivers can rise when driven by torrential tropical rain (e.g. 10 feet higher and flooding up to 1km on either side) - but it may be a challenge for persons outside to find/visualise the Region's less-well-known countries at all. In fact, many first-time visitors to the Guianas from the Region's own Island States are utterly surprised to find estuaries wider that their homeland
Maps of the May 2006 Flood in Suriname

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Disaster Planning in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is a zone of hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes and floods. If the Caribbean stops at this list, it has overlooked another major threat to the small island states and the coast of Latin America; many researchers have proposed the theory of global warming from climate change which will lead to sea level rise. Sea level rise further increases our vulnerability and associated risks.

Map shows 'live' volcanoes in the Eastern Caribbean (Source: http://www.uwiseismic.com/Volcanoes/volc_hpage.html)

Disaster planning and management is utilising Geographic Information System (GIS) by using its technology and application. Whether it’s preparing evacuation maps and zones of influence, to the cell phone messages of warnings within a certain radius, the use of GIS is expanding with the pace for improved planning to save lives.

The compilation of websites for data and information provides a clear understanding on the strides made to use GIS for better planning and preparation in light of the recent heightened activities occurring in the Caribbean. Over the years, much research has been compiled and reports presented on these disasters. We will proceed first with volcanoes.

Check these websites for current research on the Volcanoes in the Caribbean:-

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ready or Not?

Dr. Tatiana Delgado of the National SDI Commission of Cuba (en español: CIDERC) is studying the state of readiness of SDI (Spatial Data Infrastructure) of countries in Latin America & the Caribbean; i.e. the degree to which a country is prepared to deliver its geographical information in a community. Download the questionnaire to participate (instructions inside). The results could contribute to the enhancement of national SDIs in many countries.

Destination: Atlantis

CaribbeanGIS highly recommends the Caribbean's biggest event for GIS: the URISA 2006 Caribbean GIS Conference - Shattering Barriers ... Building Bridges. It will run from Oct 29 - Nov 2, 2006 at the Atlantis Resort [], Bahamas. Previous events in Montego Bay (2002) and Bridgetown (2004) were informative, well-organised and fun, and the 230+ persons attending this year can expect the same. The Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister of The Bahamas will give the keynote address.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Caribbean GIS Reloaded

Hello/ Hola/ Bonjour/ Ola,

This is the new home of Caribbean GIS, the resource formerly located at CaribbeanGIS.com. It serves the GIS and wider community, particularly that of the Caribbean and surrounding areas. Technology (i.e. the application of) is a significant factor in development. The UN Economic & Social Council said this in more detail in 2004.

In particular, meeting the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals for 2015] will require building a solid national science and technology base to enable the generation, use and diffusion of scientific and technological knowledge. Academia/government/industry partnerships are essential in building scientific and technological capabilities and fostering market-oriented policies and developments. Also essential is access to new and emerging technologies, which requires technology transfer, technical cooperation and building a scientific and technological capacity to participate in the development, mastery and adaptation of these technologies to local conditions.

GIS is relatively new technology (e.g. Waldo Tobler in 1959, Roger Tomlinson in 1963 and Jack Dangermond in 1969 - snapshots by CASA UCL), and with its explosive growth in complexity, an emerging science. The countries of this region face unique circumstances and deficiencies when it comes to the adoption of new technologies/ solutions; and with GIS being powerful, its concepts and utility are not easy to grasp either. So, even with the successes it has certainly had in the region, GIS has not made the wide inroads into agriculture, disaster management, coastal zone management, health care, criminology, etc., that it could.

CaribbeanGIS.org will be talking about policies, developments, successes and issues in GIS. We hope the new format suits you the viewer, and further encourages your participation for the region's benefit.