The purpose of any Geospatial project is to provide information that will assist in quick decision making and effective management. Virtually all the information required for planning and national development are spatial in nature. In essence, geographically referenced data are vital to nation-building.
Geographically-referenced data serve as the foundation for further analysis in the geospace. Notably, maps and cartographic representations tell stories that would require a thousand words; this explains the consistent use of maps to convey information about locations and happenings. Many developed countries have designed special infrastructures for spatial data management and organization. These infrastructures allow for the coordination and distribution of spatially referenced data in a harmonious manner.
When spatial information is available in designed infrastructures, there is a need for a facilitating framework for data sharing. Geospatial Data Infrastructure (GDI) is the technology developed for geospatial data sharing. In developing nations across Africa, there is a lack of a unified system such as a GDI, that collects and stores geospatial data. Typically, the spatial data acquisition process, the maintenance of databases remains expensive for many countries in Africa. Hence, questions are being asked about the quality and accuracy of data being acquired in Africa.
Challenges of Spatial data acquisition in Africa
Lack of unified databases
Many of the existing spatially referenced data and cartographic projects in Africa are available in printed paper format. These papers are locked in cabinets and overtime, get torn or worn out. This makes it impossible to trace and instantaneously access the required information at the time of need. Also, many of these paper-published data have an estimated spatial reference, this is below the bar of accuracy needed in modern-day cartography and geospatial data acquisition.
The quality of instruments used in data acquisition processes around Africa is often, Old-fashioned. This makes it impossible to access some terrains, records some peculiar data sets, and observe rapidly changing vital phenomena. Some instruments have errors that are independent of human expertise; though these errors are usually small on the individual scale, they have a great effect on the outlook of the final information.
Several agencies are responsible for the collection of data in Africa. However, third-party access to these data is very difficult. The stringent process of acquiring data from these agencies make geospatial data acquisition in Africa inaccessible through the government. This also accounts for the redundant data collection processes carried out by various agencies across Africa. A problem that could be avoided if there was a standard framework for data sharing by the government.
Lack of Expertise
Until recently, GIS and geospatial database infrastructures was a strange process in the African ecosystem. Before now, the geospatial space in Africa only involved paper-published cartographic maps and printed land coordinates. The lack of GIS-trained experts slowed down the process of data unification across Africa. However, things are rapidly changing as many geospatial analysts are focusing on revolutionizing the Africa data space.
Development of Unified databases
With the advent of Geospatial Data Infrastructures (GDIs) and Georeferenced Digital Libraries (GDLs), a link is established between all datasets collected. These infrastructures will serve as a database for all the available geospatial data sets in the African ecosystem. Thus, signaling an end to the repetitive collection of data across-board.
Public-Private Partnership in the Geospatial space
Several private startups are currently exploring the geospatial ecosystem in Africa. These companies have the expertise, instruments, and infrastructures to acquire all available data sets in Africa. Governments should develop policies and sustainable frameworks for a partnership that will benefit all involved parties.