I think that very often the true value of a robust data collection, monitoring and management strategy is not fully understood or appreciated. It seems as though the approach thus far as it relates to the collation of geo-spatial and hydro-met data has been somewhat ad hoc with little consideration as to how they contribute to a broader management strategy that would be needed to support the goal of disaster risk reduction. I think that sustainability of the effort can be partly achieved if a comprehensive strategy which highlights benefits and successes in a clear and concise way is endorsed by decision makers and policy makers. The obvious caveat is resources. However, a robust strategy should support more efficient resource allocation.
In agreement with Shawn I would further like to add that, in most if not all OECS island-states, data and information is often scattered across government ministries and the private sector with little or no knowledge of what exist. In building a resilient society, policy-makers and the public must have access to the right data and information to facilitate good and informed decisions. This very fact is what hampers data management in the OECS island-states. We need for policy makers to understand how import data is in making informed decision and take the “guess” out of decision making. The message of data management will bear fruit once the importance of data gets to the relevant authority.
Yes, I do agree with you Shawn and in particular with Dornet, about the importance of policy-makers in the equation, but lets move ahead and focus not so much on the roadblocks, but in our efforts/responsibility as part of a very important variable in the equation, and move ahead in setting the basis to improve data management / data sharing in-country, with the vision of the region as a whole.
So as technical professionals, lets use all opportunities at hand, starting with the implementation of GeoNode in-house and also take it to a regional level. Lets make it a success and ready for when the policy-makers realize their importance and need.
On the technical side, and to improve data management for local/regional integration, is important to mention:
- We need to have datasets with standardized map projections and ready for geonode uploading: all countries should be working if it have been not done so yet, in defining their national projection standards, and/or in the eventual case that different map projections are use within the country (due to special data needs), should request assistance to their land and surveys offices, and have define parameters for transformation to a common projection (e.g. WGS84). This will make an easy task to re-project and share datasets between government offices, and at the same time, once this roadblock is passed we will have an easier way forward to re-project to geonode native projection.
- We also need to have dataset standards, with common fields and name conventions for easier local/regional integration.
The two above mentioned are part of a long list of SDI (Spatial Data Infrastructure) topics to cover, but I think will be a good starting point if we manage to have this ready for the right moment.
Financial constraint and the policy and decision makers who may not be totally aware of the importance of Data Management. Though they are informed of its significance and benefits; they do agree, but yet nothing is done to get it started. And we know how politics could affect these decisions in the OECS.
Thanks for your comment. I resisted the urge to tackle the political aspect, but now that you have mentioned it, I guess I can add my two cents.
One of the hurdles we have to overcome is that of bringing the subject of climate change from the back burner (to something that is of urgent priority and is high on the political agenda). As we can see from the recent devastation in the US, it is only after we have been severely impacted or ravaged by mother nature, that our politicians feel inclined to act. I don't know whether it is something we can attribute blame to, because the politician's agenda and priority is focused on what is going to happen within the next four years (their term in office), and the 'perception' is that climate change is something for the next generation to be concerned about. For the politician (with limited resources) the focus is on addressing immediate or short term problems and resilience building and adaptation is perceived as a long term goal or objective.
What we have done in Saint Lucia, realizing that we had faced some of the issues I have just discussed, is to hold one-on-one discussions with Ministers of Government, Permanent/Deputy Permanent Secretaries and other agency heads, to sensitize them on the issues relating to climate change, GIS, data sharing, GeoNode, the importance of having the proper legislative framework for what needs to be done, and to ensure that we have the political backing for any efforts we want to undertake.
One of the things we have to understand is that politicians love to take credit for everything - it makes them look good and it affects votes (which is what the average politician is concerned about). We can only get so far if we do it without their involvement. What we have tried to do is, at every available opportunity to get them involved in activities we undertake. Making sure that GIS initiatives are mentioned in budget addresses, that agency heads are invited to meetings, workshops etc., making sure that we break down the technology and simplify it ways they can understand. It is a simple element of advertising and marketing - the more we are flooded or inundated with information about a product, the more inclined we are to embrace and endorse it. So I think we have to make sure that we sell what we want them to buy and that we say it loud enough and often enough so that it becomes part of the culture.
Things move from being mere scientific speculations to real life issues and concerns when we are personally affected or impacted. In the US after Hurricane Sandy, climate change has once again become a political issue. As in the example of the earthquake in Haiti, in Saint Lucia, we were able to use Hurricane Tomas as a catalyst for some of the activities and initiatives we have undertaken. Perhaps in the region we are selling it wrong, maybe we need to move the subject of data sharing from being merely a scientific or technological one and to focus on the human aspect – saving lives and winning votes. This is language the politician understands.