Tuesday, 10 July 2007

SDI-EA First Handzon Training Changes Life as we Know It

Thursday last week saw twenty eager trainees from 10 Nairobi-based institutions (see list at the end) got their first taste on-line data publishing. In a three-and-a-half hour session they went from a clean slate to having installed the necessary services and data management tools for implementing open web services for geo-data delivery based on OGC specifications.

The training session, in true SDI-EA fashion, was a no-cost no-fuss joint effort by UNEP/DEWA and FAO/SWALIM. We cobbled together a local network, participants showed up with their own laptops, and mwalimu John Mugwe got them underway installing postgreSQL with postGIS as their spatial database, plus geoserver as their web feature service. In many cases trainees also had their first taste of implementing Java and the Tomcat servlet container. Participants also learned how to take their own geospatial data (shapefiles) and ingest them into the database, and saw for themselves the utility of open-source GIS applications like qGIS and uDIG.

All this novelty notwithstanding, and despite having to deal with trojan-infected PCs and confusion caused by previous unclean installations of some of the software, by the end of the session every single system was up and running and participants were accessing each others data across the network and integrating them in their local client. Yes, they had the beginnings of a microcosm of an SDI running then and there. Now, if only the Nairobi internet becomes ready for prime time then we'll really have something to show.

And quite an eye-opener it was for them. I am sure that if we'd offered to keep the training sesion going that these eager beavers would have kept hacking away all afternoon. As it is we'll just have to see when and where else we can host these and follow-up sessions. I am keen to do at least one out here at the UN for other colleagues in Habitat, UNESCO and Unicef, but there's an obvious need for more sessions in more accessible places. There's also the need to follow-up incorporating the Geonetwork Opensource kit, which some local centres are already running but could use further promotion to help get over the metadata authoring hurdle. Perhaps the RCMRD or Survey of Kenya could be coaxed into hosting (the context of KNSDI development rings loudly here), or maybe we get the CGIAR institutions to engage with some local players. However we do it's obvious that John and I can't do all this in our spare time and, invoking our Teflon Approach, look for ways to pass on the Bright Torch of Training to others. Hmmm, I wonder if UNEP's own Capacity Building programme would give us a hand there?

The participating agencies were: African Rescue Committee AFREC http://www.afrec.org/ Data Excahange Platform for the Horn of Africa DEPHA http://www.depha.org Regional Centre for Mapping Resources for Development RCMRD http://www.rcmrd.org/ Somali Support Secretariat CEFA http://www.somalisupportsecretariat.info/ UN FAO Food Security Analysis Unit FAO-FSAU http://www.fsausomali.org UN FA Somalia water and land Information Management FAO-SWALIM www.faoswalim.org/ UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OCHA Regional http://ochaonline.un.org/ UNEP/DEWA http://www.unep.org/dewa UN-Habitat http://www.un-habitat.org UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR-Somalia http://www.unhcr.org/country/som.html

There's an SDI-EA training ulumnis' mailing list at sdi-ea-hackers@als.unep.org

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