Monday, December 08, 2008

Maps with a Twist

Source: WorldmapperHere's an interesting twist on mapping the world: Worldmapper depicts the nations of the world, not by their physical size, but by their demographic importance on a range of subjects. Thanks Victoria Shelley.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ArcMap 9.3 Geospatial PDF output

Just learnt via the MapAction network that ArcGIS 9.3 will produce PDFs ... and when viewed in Adobe Reader 9, "tools for coordinate readout and find XY will be available". Further ... "If that same PDF is opened in any of the pay-for Acrobat products, an extended geospatial toolset is provided, including coordinate readout, find XY, geodesic measurement, and georeferenced markup". [source: ESRI]. More good details here and here.

Seems like GIS'ers - i.e. ArcGIS 9.3 users - have an improved output option more readily available now. The previous look at GeoPDF by TerraGo was not totally encouraging.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

4th Caribbean GIS Conference Update

Things are warming up for the URISA 4th Caribbean GIS Conference in the Cayman Islands this month. Over 170 persons from 22 countries have already signalled that they will be attending. There will be some 19 companies in the Exhibitors Hall - (spaces are sold out) - so it will be a good chance to speak directly with software representatives, solutions providers, satellite imagery agents, hardware suppliers, surveying associations, etc.. There will be a software training course and three pre-conference workshops for those who have signed up; ~79 conference papers by presenters from around the Caribbean and abroad in the main educational sessions, keynote addresses by two distinguished speakers from ESRI and the UK OS and a panel discussion. See here and here for more details.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

4th Caribbean GIS Conference Press Release

URISAMay 20, 2008 (Park Ridge, IL) – Registration has opened for URISA’s 4th Caribbean GIS Conference. The conference will take place August 25-29, 2008 at the Ritz Carlton Resort on Grand Cayman and will feature workshops, keynote presentations, dozens of educational sessions, an exhibition, poster session and networking opportunities.

Preconference events begin on Monday, August 25 with an ESRI user group meeting and an ArcGIS training course, and URISA Certified Workshops will be presented on Tuesday, August 26 on these topics:

  • GIS Program Management
  • GIS Enterprise Architecture & System Integration
  • An Overview of Open Source GIS Software

During the opening session on August 27, the “Status of Caribbean GIS” will be explored through on-stage interviews of key GIS professionals in the region, followed by a keynote address from Dr. David Maguire, Chief Scientist at ESRI. For this Fourth Caribbean GIS Conference, URISA is pleased to announce a second keynote address on Thursday morning from Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and Chief Executive of the Ordnance Survey.

The Program Committee has organized an educational program based upon abstracts submitted through the Call for Presentations within these topical program tracks:

  • Disaster Management, Law Enforcement, Public Health and Safety
  • Standards, Policy and Management
  • Land, Environment, Planning and Natural Resources
  • Utilities, Business and Organizational GIS
  • Hot Topics

Some featured sessions include:

National and Regional Case Studies in Disaster Management
This session will look at examples of Disaster Management Applications using GIS around the region.

  • The Caribbean GIS Community and its Response to Disasters: Lessons Learnt from MapAction LAC - Vijay Datadin, Caribbean GIS, Georgetown, Guyana
  • A Case Study: Tropical Storm Noel, The Bahamas - Sharon Griffith, Ministry of Works & Housing, Nassau, Bahamas
  • Geographic Information Systems and Their Employment In The Management for Risks Reduction of Disasters in Cuba - Silvio Rodríguez Hernández, GEOCUBA Investigation and Consultancy, Playa, Havana, Cuba

Enterprise GIS Systems and Their Profitability
Developing a successful Enterprise GIS is not an easy task and it certainly requires significant investment. This session examines how to put the right systems in place and how to leverage the same in order to generate self-sustaining revenue.

  • The Issues Involved in the Establishment of a National Clearinghouse for Jamaica -Damian Graham, Spatial Innovision Ltd, Kingston, Jamaica
  • Towards an Enterprise GIS System for the BVI-Kyron Adams, Town and Country Planning Chief Ministers Office, Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Lisa Kay S. Lewis, GISP, National GIS Coordinator, Office of the Premier, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
  • Making Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Profitable -Karen Edwards and Sharon Patterson, National Land Agency, Kingston, Jamaica

Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI)
SDI is being touted as the new “hot thing” in GIS. This session will explore ways in which SDI might work for the Caribbean and provides two examples of SDI projects underway in the region.

  • In Search of Policies to Support the Implementation of SDIs in the Caribbean - Garfield Giff, Delft University, Delft, The Netherlands
  • Spatial Data Infrastructure for the Republic of Cuba – IDERC - Tatiana Delgado, SDI in Cuba, Havana, Cuba
  • Creating a Framework for Data Sharing and Access with the Jamaican National Spatial Data Infrastructures (NSDI) - Damian Graham, Spatial Innovision Ltd, Kingston, Jamaica

Conservation Planning: Systems and Methods
In this session, a non-governmental organization and national governments will present innovative systems and methods that are being developed and employed for conservation planning.

  • Conservation Information System in the Meso America and the Caribbean - Steven Schill, The Nature Conservancy, Orem, Utah, USA
  • GIS and Conservation in Bermuda: Challenges and Solutions - Mandy Shailer, Bermuda Government, Flatts, Bermuda
  • Using GIS to Conserve the British Virgin Islands’ Marine Environment - Nancy Woodfield-Pascoe, National Parks Trust, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

The previous three Caribbean GIS Conferences took place in the Bahamas (2006), Barbados (2004) and Jamaica (2001). The Chair of the 2008 Conference Committee is Alan Jones, Director of Lands & Surveys for the Cayman Islands. The committee is comprised of well-respected GIS professionals from across the Caribbean region, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

As in the previous conferences, the conference objectives are:

  1. To inform broad cross-section of Caribbean users about GIS technology and applications
  2. To share experiences regarding GIS implementation and management issues
  3. To establish new relationships with the vendor/consultant community
  4. To provide workshops and sessions that are application driven, and are relevant to the Caribbean community of GIS users
  5. To foster a Caribbean GIS network

Visit for detailed conference information.

Caribbean GIS Snapshot - Caribbean GIS professionals are also asked to participate in a survey to include country information in an overview of the 'status of GIS' in the region. The results of the survey will be presented at the URISA Conference on Grand Cayman.

Wendy Nelson
Executive Director

Friday, May 16, 2008

Open Source Rolls On

So, now the NY Stock Exchange runs on Open Source software. Whilst there are quite a few good Free and Open Source GIS packages that run on the Windows Operating System, is it time for the major vendors like ESRI, Intergraph, AutoDesk and Leica-ERDAS to port versions of their popular packages for the Linux Operating System?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The annual Open Source Geospatial Software conference, Free and Open Source Geospatial 2008 (FOSS4G2008), will be held in Cape Town, South Africa from September 29 - Oct 3 2008. The theme is Open Source Geospatial: An Option for Developing Nations. The Conference Chair writes, via a widely released email:

FOSS4G is renowned for its hands-on Workshops and Labs. 2008 is no exception. The Workshop/labs track has been going well in terms of submissions. We have (as of 9th May 2008) 26 interesting and relevant submissions to choose from, ranging across a wide spectrum of GIS topics. Desktop GIS (with spatial analysis and geovisualization to the fore) is a common theme and there is a strong representation from the broad Internet GIS field (web map servers, rich internet applications/web clients, OGC web services). Themes also making an appearance are geoportals, metadata, spatial ETL and the use of spatial databases. There is also some focus on programming/scripting. The emphasis is heavily on showing what is possible with FOSS4G through practical "how-to's", getting software/services up and running quickly and trying them out. Many of the workshops emphasise the excellent Java-based tools and frameworks.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

4th Caribbean GIS Conference Schedule

The schedule for URISA's 4th Caribbean GIS Conference - Evolution & Next Steps, Aug 25-29 2008 in the Cayman Islands - and other details are now online on the URISA website.

Aside from keynote addresses by Dr. David Maguire, Chief Scientist and a corporate director of ESRI, and Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and Chief Executive of the UK Ordnance Survey; and technical presentations related to disaster response, public health, policy, land, environment and utilities, there promises to be vibrant discussion of the future of GIS in the region including the issues of copyright, costs and access to data.

Register by July 1 to get US$50 off the regular rate. Students do the same and get 82% off the full conference registration (US$60)! Presenters must register by July 2. Discounts on accommodation are available only until July 24 2008, and discounts on airfare are available as well. Previously provided information may be found here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GIS Snapshot

Here's an effort to develop a simple sense of the "state of play" of GIS in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean - the GIS Snapshot 2008. It's a brief survey anyone can take online.

It's simple and short - 16 questions including your name (optional) - and respondents don't have to be "experts" to answer it. So don't worry about being super accurate; tell me about GIS in your country as best you can. The responses for each country will be combined for the best overall picture.

The survey will be available from today to the end of July 2008. A summary of the results will be emailed back to all respondents and made available in August at the URISA 4th Caribbean GIS Conference in the Cayman Islands.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Paper maps are probably the most common form of GIS output. However digital products are obviously important too. Exporting maps from one's GIS as JPEGs is one easy way to provide users with digital copies - these can be posted to websites and/or emailed to your audience who can easily view them on their computers, insert them into reports, etc. . Here's an example set of free maps of Tobago.

GeoPDFs seem to provide a more sophisticated option for the GIS professional to consider. The GeoPDF format is proprietary and it needs a piece of software (Map2PDF from TerraGo Technologies) to produce. GeoPDFs are normal PDF documents, but with interactive maps - map layers can be switched on/off, users can zoom in/out, measure distances, view coordinates and attributes and change projections. They allow a fuller presentation of your GIS dataset to your audience. Acrobat Reader is needed to view the PDF, and in order to view the interactive elements in a GeoPDF, one must first install a free Acrobat Reader plugin (GeoPDF Toolbar). The plugin is 19MB. One needs to provide contact information to get it, which seems fair.

Jean-Nicolas Poussart of the CEP, who first mentioned this product to me, offers a user opinion of Map2PDF:
I tested the free trial to create GeoPDFs and it worked fine. I am not aware of a similar free product to make GeoPDFs, but it wouldn't surprise me if we would see this soon. As Acrobat is so popular, you can imagine how interesting it becomes to use this format (PDF) to distribute interactive maps.

Jean-Nicolas also points out that each GeoPDF is only one (interactive) map. I suppose to make a mapbook, or to include one's GeoPDF in a report that also includes text and pictures, one could collate the GeoPDF(s) with a PDF(s) of the text pages - with Acrobat.

Though it's free to try, Map2PDF has a cost - but neither the company's website nor its sales representative for the LAC region is immediately forthcoming about the amount. When a company doesn't state the cost of a predefined product, a person could feel like the customers are being kept at arms length, especially when the sales department doesn't reply to enquiries. (It's understandable if the cost of a service varies, as this may depend on what the individual customer wants and/or the circumstances). In addition, a GeoPDF on the manufacturer's website - their map of sales districts - seems to have an odd error. If you can download and examine it - with the abovementioned GeoPDF Toolbar installed - you'll notice that the Equator is apparently further south than it should be. It's a small scale map, but last we knew the Equator is just north of the mouth of the Amazon, and in this GeoPDF, when queried, the Equator seems nearer to the Tropic of Capricorn. See the screenshot at left. Again, the sales representative has not responded to a request for advice on this.

So, though I haven't tried it yet myself, and I very much like the concept of distributing GIS outputs as interactive PDF maps, I'm not overly impressed by the company's approach to the outside world. For now I might just stick to my trusty Export ... JPEG.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Informatica 2009

The Informatica 2009 13th International Convention & Fair will be held in Havana, Cuba on Feb 9-13 2009. The conference will be held in Spanish and English and the deadline for submission of abstracts and papers is Sept 30, 2008. More information can be found on or

Sunday, March 02, 2008


GSDI 10 was held last week at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad. 'Open' - as in the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), open access to data and Open Source GIS - seemed to arise as technological, administrative and social aspects of building a spatial data infrastructure were elaborated on and discussed by presenters in technical and plenary sessions. More thorough information can be had from the GSDI website (abstracts, and often slides and papers).

Mark your calendars for GSDI 11. It will be held in Rotterdam on 15-19 June 2009.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

4th Caribbean GIS Conference Brochure

You may well know already that the URISA 4th Caribbean GIS Conference - Evolution & Next Steps - is coming up this year in August. Need more information? Here's the Brochure (1.25MB PDF). The URISA and Cayman Islands Lands & Surveys Department websites also carry programme, accommodation and other details along with useful contacts, for potential attendees.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Disaster Risk Reduction Workshop

The Centre for Disaster Risk Reduction of the University of the West Indies, the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy (CASLE) and the Institute of Surveyors of Trinidad and Tobago invites abstracts for a workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction in the Caribbean: the role of the Land-based Professionals. The workshop will be hosted by the Department of Surveying and Land Information, UWI, St. Augustine, Trinidad on Mar 1st 2008. The workshop seeks papers that focus on practices and ideas that would lead to improving surveying practices to the extent that it can effectively support disaster risk reduction in the Caribbean. Inquiries/ submissions please contact:

Dr. Michael Sutherland
Department of Surveying and Land Information
The University of the West Indies
St. Augustine, Trinidad, West Indies
t: 1-868-662-2002 ext 2108
f: 1-868-663-7383
e: michael.sutherland AT

Friday, January 04, 2008

We will track you ... maybe

As mentioned in the SDI-LAC mailing list, the Jamaica Observer reports that Jamaica wants to track criminal offenders, but will not provide its digital maps to the private contractor they've hired to build the tracking system. "Absolutely not" is what the Ministry of National Security has said to the request for maps.

There may be more to the story than meets the eye, as the total price tag is some US$750,000, the contract was awarded by a previous government administration and the contractor is a Jamaican company, but headquartered in California; with a website registered less than two months ago (Nov 5, 2007) and obviously put up in a hurry (if the developer/owner reads this, the first link on the home page is broken and your pages don't have Titles - not a professional job at all). The company doesn't seem to have any particular expertise in GIS, just classic accounting/financial/networking, and no visible previous customers of their tracking system.

Whilst I'm encouraged by the effort to make wider use of GIS technology in Jamaica, this issue also raises the ghost of data-sharing past/ present ... and so far the future, of the Caribbean.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Geospatial Framework Initiative - Gravity Observations

On December 20, 2007, NOAA's National Geodetic Survey announced the release of the GRAV-D project. The project area includes part of the Caribbean. Comments and/or questions from the region are beneficial and can be forwarded to the NOAA/NGS contact(s) found in the GRAV-D documentation.

National Geodetic Survey -
GRAV-D documentation -