Monday, 7 May 2007

A Satisfied Customer!

I know this is likely to come across of blowing one's own trumpet but, on the other hand, when there's a happy and satisfied customer who sees further potential and value flowing from their first foray into this interoperability stuff then that's an important message to get out. Part of the hope of SDI-EA since the outset has been the idea that being able to take incremental steps and demonstrate success every step of the way is key to ensuring management support and community acceptance for these SDI-type activities. Maybe we start seeing justification for that approach.

Anyway, the short version of the story is that UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) prepare periodic reports based on field asessments of the movements of internlly displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia. As you know from the news hundreds of thousands have fled Mogadishu in recent months and the humanitarian agencies and NGO's scramble (sometime literally) to keep their supply lines up to those in need. UNHCR have distributed the location of the IDP camps as lat/lon coordinate pairs coded in Excel sheets and/or as accompanying maps.

What DEPHA (the Data Exchange Platform for the Horn of Africa, offered to do with some support from UNEP was take those data and publish them as an open-standard Web Feature Service. One consequence? The same data can be output as KML and viewed via Google Earth. And our man at UNHCR is very happy about this, and sees real utility in not only having a new vehicle for communication but also for integration with other types of data. Download or try the WMS at, or try the WFS at

As an aside, a colleague here at UNEP who saw UNHCR's data coming up last Friday was very quick to see the potential for integrating with his existing ArcIMS service depicting refugee camps across Africa. He was even more impressed when he saw that he didn't need to copy and integrate the data but could just link them in via the WFS interface. Yea. Interoperability. Getting our own back yard in order.

Now all we have to do is get the IDP data showing up in the context of UN Habitat's urban areas data and I will be glad to say that this humble little SDI-EA effort will have passed a major milestone.

PS FAO, UNEP and DEPHA are contemplating a (couple of?) hand-on session(s) for technical types where we'd actually set up a network and have practitioners bring their data, set up their own WFS's and start interoperating at least on a local scale. As usual there's no budget or blessing for this but we figure that we can scrape together enough PCs and network gear and a meeting room for half a day to make it work. The whole session would not take more than a morning, starting from scratch with the server intllations (takes about 10 minutes), setting up the spatial databases, and transforming existing static data into exciting dynamic content being integrated across institutional boundaries. Think of it as a "train-the-trainers" exercise; if we're successful then, who know, maybe RCMRD might offer to host a followup at Kasarani, or add such offerings to their schedule of courses.


Mick Wilson
Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA)
United Nations Environment Programme
PO Box 30552 - Nairobi 00100, Kenya
Tel: +254 20 7623436
Fax: +254 20 7624315

----- Forwarded by Mick Wilson/UNEP/NBO/UNO on 05/07/2007 04:19 PM -----
"John Marinos"
05/07/2007 03:12 PM

, ,
Re: Fw: IDP settlement coordinates to be hosted by DEPHA..also onGoogleearth

Thanks John,

I think this looks great. Really. I will share with our HQ because they love stuff like this.
It seems I need to get an update to my ArcGIS before using the WFS files. Nevertheless, I think the information on Google Earth is super-cool.

In theory there is no reason we couldn't merge this GIS file with a whole bunch of attribute data - pop, major area of origin, whatever... I suppose that this can easily be updated on GE, right? We'll work on that when I'm back from leave.

Thanks again. Seriously this is really good.


>>> John Mugwe 05/07/07 02:40PM >>>
Sorry all for that UNEP logo...It was just a proof of capabilities.

We have now a new kml file ( see attached ) which is also going to be
uploaded on by close of the day

(See attached file: idpSomalia.kml) where anyone access it.

Best regards

John Mugwe

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