3 November 2005
Canada is willing to share its Geographic Information System (GIS) expertise with South Africa.
Canadian high commissioner Sandelle Scrimshaw told delegates from both countries at a GIS seminar in Pretoria on Wednesday that her country had amassed skills in research, development and technology and was willing to share with the rest of the continent.
“We are keen to share these with South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world,” she said, adding that Canada viewed South Africa as a strategic partner for science and technology on the continent.
“I know that our companies are also willing to collaborate with their African counterparts,” she said.
Delegates met at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria to explore potential areas of co-operation in science and technology between the two countries.
Earth observation and geosciences constitute strategic priorities for South Africa and play a crucial role in informing policy and decision making.
GIS is a system that manages, analyses, and disseminates geographic knowledge.
Canadian Director for Natural Resources Martin Aube said they had already embarked on earth science activities in other African countries such as Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique and Senegal.
He said his country was also supporting African countries to address environmental challenges such as natural resource management and environmental impact assessment.
General Director for the Canadian Space Agency Paul Engel said they used space to monitor areas at risk for malaria and other diseases.
Space Affairs Advisor for the Department of Trade and Industry Mothibi Ramusi said South Africa was currently developing a space policy.
He said there is a satellite centre at the Hartebeespoort that could help the country in terms of disaster management.
Ramusi said Africa faced challenges of poverty and climate change and that the information and analysis GIS provided could help the continent to deal with these issues.
He said that access to satellite data at an affordable rate was a problem. “Other challenges [are getting] operating licence and hardware costs as well as availability of basic information such as statistics,” he said.
However, Ramusi acknowledged that earth observation had societal benefits in terms of monitoring service delivery, especially in South Africa.
“In South Africa, government is embarking on service delivery programmes so earth observation can be used as a monitoring tool in this regard,” he said.
Ramusi recommended that the co-operation between South Africa and Canada focus on exchange programmes of domain experts and well as exposure to technological development relating to GIS.