Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Using GIS to Help Manage Assets: A Report

Over the last 15 years Pacific islands countries have moved away from using physical maps to converting geographical information digitally for decision-making.1 January 2008
Last month, the University of the South Pacific hosted the Pacific GIS and RS conference bringing together over 200 regional professionals who are using GIS/RS in their work. Each year, the range of GIS/RS technologies presented, cover an array of applications including the management of resources of small islands nations.

Shallow water bathymetry derived from satellite imagery, forest function maps to identify areas to be protected, areas identified for developments in flood zones are some of the applications where the development of GIS and RS in the region have been applied in various sectors.From the presentations at the conference it is evident the Pacific is no longer isolated from the technologically advanced world.

Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission’s GIS expert, Dr Wolf Forstreuter says over the last 15 years Pacific islands countries have moved away from using physical maps to converting geographical information digitally for decision-making. “Over the years, the power and water utilities as well as government departments have used GIS and RS technologies to make decisions and develop their services and improve the lives of Pacific Islanders by understanding their needs from a geographical perspective.”

Thanks to funding from the European Union’s EDF Project, “Reducing Vulnerabilities for Pacific ACP countries”, GIS and RS have been introduced to over 14 Pacific Islands governments to help them manage their assets better and improve their productivity. For Pacific governments, the utilities sector is the major user of GIS and RS including power, water, telecommunications and roads.

In Fiji, the Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) is already enjoying the benefits. They use Global Positioning System (GPS) and GIS to manage their assets. It also assists FEA to detect faulty power-lines and transformers which in the past had led to major power cuts. It also helps to plan the distribution of their services to areas that do have access to electricity allowing FEA to locate customers and areas for possible extension of service.

The same applies to Fiji’s Public Works Department where GIS helps in detecting leaks and faulty pipelines, avoiding water cuts and sewerage problems. Fiji-based SOPAC has adapted the GPS/GIS technology which is made for the European and US markets for use in Fiji and the rest of the Pacific. During its field work, SOPAC identified residences that hadn’t been billed for the past three years.

For Solomon Islands Electricity Authority, GIS has helped save a lot of money by tracking bypassed meters.

Tuvalu’s power company, Tuvalu Electricity Corporation uses GIS for asset management among other things.

Samoa also uses GIS to monitor power poles before they’re faulty. GIS and RS are also used for vegetation mapping like forestry, environment, agriculture which involves digitising the vegetation boundaries from the new satellite images and monitoring the change helping Pacific communities deal with the destruction of natural resources.

These days the quality of maps available has improved with up to the minute information. Most lands departments in the Pacific are now equipped with GIS technology for storing land information. Fiji’s Land Information System boasts a fully developed system which allows the user to see the exact border of land ownership and lands titles.

Coastal monitoring with the help of GIS shows important changes in coastal topography. Satellite images can be utilised as a reference to rectify historical aerial photographs, which could not be analysed in quantitative approach as they are not in map projection.

This to a large extent has assisted countries monitor the effects of sea level rise and climate change. Disaster management is the latest GIS and RS focus area where new satellite providing radar images of one metre resolution will help map the extent of flooding after a cyclone through cloud cover.

GIS allows emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster. Many countries around the region have started using it for disaster risk management on tsunami and flooding.



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