Friday, 16 November 2007

Sunshine and Happiness

A few months back I realized that, after six months of collective SDI-A effort, there was not actually any more data flowing in East Africa than before when we started the exercise. I got all despondent and sort of lost interest in maintaining this blog. Silly me. Events during the past three weeks have brought the sunshine back into the world of SDI-EA.

The first was the meeting at the end of October that brought together over 40 of the SDI-EA players in East Africa under the theme of Better Data Sooner to consider the question of how best a United Nations SDI would have to be run to be most useful to countries, organizations and societies in the region. Yes, there were all the recommendations about how the UN ought to help SDI proponents with getting policies and standards in place, with finding capacity building opportunities, with getting data flowing out of the UN system while providing opportunities for governments, NGOs and sectoral programmes to publish their data into the UN system. There's more about the SDI-Live effort at and the report should be out Real Soon Now. I'll describe the motivation for the meeting in a later post but suffice to say it s recommendations seem needed as input to the upcoming UN Geographic Information Working Group UNGIWG meeting in Bangkok when we consider UNSDI implementation over the next year.

What was the real surprise was that, having recognized the crucial necessity of communicating clearly with senior policy types, the participants hit on the notion of building SDI showcases around realistic and solid scenarios that managers could associate with. What was even more surprising was they actually went off and started doing it. Within the space of 10 days we went from having only one real internet-accessible source of data on the network in East Africa (that being UNEP) to having nearly half a dozen - FAO/SWALIM, UNHCR, OCHA, UN-Habitat - and can start telling meaningful stories: a lot of the current data being served concerns the floods across Africa during 2007, their potential impacts on refugees and displaced persons. All of this can be spun up in Google Earth, WorldWind, desktop GIS and the likes. Have a look at this bit of KML ( ) or at least the screen caps here and here to get an idea where this might go.

It's actually becoming necessary to think about getting a services registry going for this part of world!

Now, how to maintain this momentum? How to use this profile to get more services running - RCMRD, are you reading this?