Sunday, May 6, 2012

World Bank: eRwanda project

This 10 min video described the eRwanda project, and its accomplishments from 2006 until 2010. eRwanda was funded by the World Bank in support of the national information communication infrastructure strategy (NICI). eRwanda aims to improve access to information and services to Rwandans. It financed infrastructure and services, as well as connectivity to the district offices, in support of government decentralization. eRwanda contributed to private sector development, skills development and the creation of an innovation culture key to the success of Rwanda's vision 2020. Some of the innovations it financed were Telemedecine, Government information portals, ICT buses, eSoko mobile based agriculture market place which won a UNECA award for excellent in public service delivery.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Aerial Photography and Image Interpretation - third edition published

Extensively revised to address today's technological advances, Aerial Photography and Image Interpretation, Third Edition offers a thorough survey of the technology, techniques, processes, and methods used to create and interpret aerial photographs.

The new edition also covers other forms of remote sensing with topics that include the most current information on orthophotography (including digital), soft copy photogrammetry, digital image capture and interpretation, GPS, GIS, small format aerial photography, statistical analysis and thematic mapping errors, and more.

A basic introduction is also given to nonphotographic and space-based imaging platforms and sensors, including Landsat, lidar, thermal, and multispectral.

This new Third Edition features:
  • Additional coverage of the specialized camera equipment used in aerial photography 
  • A strong focus on aerial photography and image interpretation, allowing for a much more thorough presentation of the techniques, processes, and methods than is possible in the broader remote sensing texts currently available Straightforward, user-friendly writing style 
  •  Expanded coverage of digital photography 
  •  Test questions and summaries for quick review at the end of each chapter 
Written in a straightforward style supplemented with hundreds of photographs and illustrations, Aerial Photography and Image Interpretation, Third Edition is the most in-depth resource for undergraduate students and professionals in such fields as forestry, geography, environmental science, archaeology, resource management, surveying, civil and environmental engineering, natural resources, and agriculture.

Also available in Kindle edition


The late David P. Paine was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management at Oregon State University.

James D. Kiser is an Assistant Professor and Head Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon.??He is also a Certified Photogrammetrist.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Upcoming Google Mapping Technology Workshop

Last year, Google Earth Outreach partnered with the Institute at the Golden Gate to convene 80 environmental leaders spanning 40 organizations and train them how to use mapping technology to create powerful visual messages.

You can read more about that workshop in this blog post. The response to last year’s workshop was so overwhelming that the Institute at the Golden Gate has decided to host a second annual workshop.

This year, the Institute will bring back trained alumni and several Google mapping trainers from the Google Earth Outreach team to train a new cohort of environmental leaders.

The organisers encourage interested parties to apply for this free, for the two-day interactive training workshop.

What: Mapping Environmental Scenarios & Solutions with Google Technology
When: March 19 and 20, 2012, 8:30 am–5 pm
Where: Cavallo Point–the Lodge at the Golden Gate, Fort Baker, Sausalito, CA

To find out more and apply, visit

The deadline for applications is February 17, 2012.

Source: The Google Earth Outreach Team

Thursday, February 2, 2012

GIS improves rainfall data collection and information services in West Africa

Climate researchers have developed a system that uses GIS, computers, and the internet to improve rainfall data management and information delivery to farmers in West Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa is highly dependent on rainfall. More than 90% of the land is used for farming, very little of which is irrigated. Despite this reliance on rainfall, there are relatively few monitoring stations in the region that gather the data that farmers need to plan their seasonal cultivation processes. Even in areas where rainfall data are collected, several weeks can pass before the information is processed and made available in a form that is useful to farmers.

To speed up and simplify the data collection and management procedures, a team of researchers from the University of Oklahoma has developed a geographic information system (GIS) that monitors rainfall and its seasonal patterns. Known as Rainwatch, the system can also automatically generate visual representations of the data that can be easily interpreted by interested parties, including farmers.

The team has initially tested Rainwatch in Niger, where the Direction de la Météorologie Nationale du Niger (DMNN) is responsible for monitoring weather and climate. The country suffered a severe drought in 2009, followed by its wettest year in a generation in 2010, and then a return to severe rainfall deficiencies in 2011. Although there are more than 200 stations in Niger’s rainfall monitoring network, most are ‘rain gauge only’ sites maintained by volunteer observers. They report rainfall data to DMNN’s operations office in Niamey once a day by telephone or radio. Only 14 stations transmit data on an hourly basis throughout the year, using telex and phone.

From these data, DMNN compiles rainfall reports that are broadcast on national and local radio and on national television – although TV reception is limited to the major urban areas. DMNN also publishes regular bulletins for the country’s eight provinces, and shares data with policy makers and the national committee for early warning and disaster management systems (Comité Nationale du Systeme d’Alerte Précoce et de Gestion des Catastrophes).

Although rainfall levels are broadcast on radio daily, it can take up to two weeks before DMNN releases data that have undergone any kind of analysis. Users of rainfall data outside the research community are not interested in exact rainfall statistics. Most farmers and other groups who depend on rainfall prefer qualitative information relating to previous seasonal patterns. Farmers, for example, simply want to know if the weather is dry, wet, or normal for the time of year. A long delay in delivering processed data means they cannot rely on the information, and cannot plan ahead.

Rainwatch was developed to alleviate such limitations, and improve the way rainfall data is collected, managed and disseminated throughout West Africa. The system consists of a database and a program that customises several functions of ArcGIS and MapObjects software. The database is linked to a graphics feature, which automatically updates the related charts and graphs as new data are added. The software adaptations make it easy for the user to process and view the data, and prepare it for publication and distribution.

When users log on to Rainwatch, they see a map showing the geographic locations of rainfall monitoring stations throughout the country. Users can click on the relevant icon to view the rainfall data for a particular station, then choose to compare the figures for a particular period of time against the median or with other years or even with the results from other stations. The user can then use the program to produce a variety of graphics to illustrate the data.

The number of sites and/or years that can be seen simultaneously is limited only by the amount of information on the database. Users can also request further analyses of the data to show the frequency and intensity of rainfall in certain areas, or view the occurrence of dry spells; information that is especially useful to farmers.

The results are, of course, only as good as the data. Rainwatch works best and provides the most accurate analyses when an optimum number of observers regularly contribute data to the system. By simplifying the data management processes, Rainwatch could be the catalyst needed for many countries to improve their rainfall monitoring procedures. The researchers hope the system will be adopted more widely throughout West Africa where other more complicated rainfall data dissemination systems have had limited success.

Increased availability
Rainwatch uses self-explanatory symbols and easy-to-understand terminology. When the system was tested, new users quickly became comfortable and could navigate their way through its processes within ten minutes. The test users also found it easy to follow the system’s logic, and fully understand and interpret the graphics they produced.

Based on feedback from users so far, the research team is developing an updated version of the program. Users suggested including a feature that would trigger an early warning system once rainfall, or lack of it, reached a certain threshold. Users also wanted to be able to export data to spreadsheets easily for further analysis. The upgraded Rainwatch will also include other climatic variables, such as temperature, streamflow, and soil moisture – which are linked to activities like irrigation scheduling.

Another important change will be to make Rainwatch compatible with free GIS software. This will make it available to users who cannot afford the product licence for the ArcGIS program, something that has been required up to now. A lower cost version of the system would make it possible to train more observers and equip observation stations throughout the region, which could act as local weather information centres. Providing more localised services could lead to farmers having a greater awareness of rainfall data, and a higher likelihood of being able to use the information. With all these improvements, the researchers hope that Rainwatch will become the African counterpart to Australia’s Rainman rainfall monitoring software.

The current version of the system is mainly suited for use by national meteorological services, and organisations such as the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) based in Niamey, Niger. These centres could rapidly process and share their analyses with the media, researchers, educational institutions and agricultural extension services.

There are already plans to expand the use of Rainwatch beyond Niger. Starting in 2010, the long-term plan is to develop it into a web-based application that would be available to anyone with internet access. It could then be used alongside other climate information initiatives, using radio or cell phones, for example, to deliver weather details to people in rural communities.

The researchers believe that Rainwatch can especially benefit national meteorological services by improving the automation of rainfall data collection and database management. The ability to produce easily interpreted charts and graphics increases the likelihood that the information is distributed to more people. These are critical features in reducing the time lag between collecting the data and delivering it to farmers, and providing it in a format to help them adapt to a changing climate.


Aondover Tarhule
Zakari Saley-Bana
Peter J. Lamb

Reposted with permission from ICT Update

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Adapting to risk: Communities use GIS and GPS to assess climate risks in the Cook Islands

A local NGO tested an innovative participatory mapping approach to help communities in the Cook Islands assess climate risks. The resulting maps highlighted vulnerable areas, allowing the communities to develop strategies to adapt to climate change.

Extreme weather events, such as tropical cyclones, long periods of drought, sea level rise and higher temperatures, lead to loss of soil fertility and land degradation, reducing food security in farming communities. The Cook Islands, like many small islands, are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. They comprise small land masses surrounded by ocean, and are located in a region prone to natural disasters.

With limited long-term meteorological data available, it is difficult to make accurate predictions on how climate change will affect the Cook Islands. However, there is consensus that the region is likely to experience more frequent extreme weather events, including floods, droughts, periods of extreme heat, an increase in cyclone intensity, increased climate variability and rise in sea levels.
Observations by Pacific Island communities indicate that predicted climate change effects are being experienced, and are causing considerable social, economic and environmental pressures. The ability of the communities to adapt to a changing climate is generally low, due to lack of information and awareness of the potential effects of changing weather patterns. Traditional natural resource management practices, however, still practiced in some parts of the Cook Islands, provide important tools for resilience in the face of environmental change.

In response to growing concerns about the possible effects of changing weather patterns, a local NGO, Te Rito Enua (TRE), tested the use of participatory GIS to assess climate vulnerability and adaptation planning in the Cook Islands. Together with the country’s government and with the support of the Asian Development Bank, TRE worked with four communities on the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
Both islands face similar problems of water shortages, deforestation and soil erosion as a result of climate change. Their terrain, however, is quite different. Rarotonga, the most populous island in the country, is mountainous, steep and heavily forested. Aitutaki is mainly atoll and lagoon, and so is flatter with some steeper land on the remains of the submerged volcano around which the atoll formed.

The project began in 2010, and lasted 10 months. In that time, TER worked with the communities to develop the practical tools and skills necessary to produce their own specific climate risk analysis. The organisation gave training courses in participatory mapping, with components in vulnerability and risk assessment, climate models, GPS and GIS, and map interpretation.

Participants, mostly volunteers, came from a cross-section of the community demography, ranging from school-aged youth to elders, including community leaders, resource users and professional resource managers. As a result of the training, all participants had a basic knowledge of the methods to be employed in the project, which they used to collect data from the field, and record assets that could be included later on maps.

This data, which participants within their own frame of reference, helped them identify issues that could affect the vulnerability of individual households and their wider community. They looked at facilities such as energy provision, water supply, sanitation services, port facilities and even civil defence. Important risks associated with climate change were identified through the assessment and mapping processes that were neither considered nor evident during national-level vulnerability assessments. One example is the waste management facilities situated near the pilot communities. Runoff from these landfill sites at times of heavy rain can adversely affect the adjoining aquatic ecosystems. The communities rely heavily on these vulnerable coastal resources for their livelihoods, and so future waste management solutions need to include these considerations at the early planning stages.

Additionally, the mapping information showed that disaster response shelters are often placed in areas vulnerable to sea-level rise and storm surge inundation. Also, some households could experience a shortage of water as the climate changes, which will mean enhanced water conservation measures, such as developing programmes for better rainwater harvesting. Rarotonga in particular is dependent upon surface water supplies for domestic consumption and has suffered periodic water shortages in recent years as sources have dried up. Another significant factor revealed by the project was the extent of invasive plant species in the environment. Observers had noticed that the watersheds of both Rarotonga and Aitutaki were infested with Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine), Merremia peltata (kurima), and Mikania micrantha (mile-a-minute weed). Rising levels of carbon dioxide create conditions that promote the growth of such invasive plants, and because their spread is facilitated by cyclones, it appears likely that they will continue to thrive as the climate changes, with – as yet – unknown implications for biodiversity and for water security. Available evidence shows that the species are having a devastating impact on the native vegetation and natural watershed systems. The implications for water supply in this already water-stressed country are not clear, but are a cause for concern.

Practical solutions
After the data collection phase, the project team integrated the information into existing government GIS files to highlight areas where a changing climate could potentially affect the environment. The resulting map layers were combined with information from a climate model commonly used for planning in the region. The new data were shared with the government to be integrated into their GIS database and made accessible to the National Environment Service, and relevant ministries. Each community received a paper map, known as a ‘vulnerability atlas’, showing the information specific to their area. The project team also facilitated meetings to discuss the implications of the mapping and the surveying process, and to gauge community perceptions of climate change. These discussions identified the main risks and developed plans for priority actions. Each community set up a Climate Change and Disaster Committee to ensure the plans would be followed. In some instances, the communities identified traditional practices, including organic farming and resource management methods, as having considerable value as adaptation measures to reduce the greatest climate change risks. One example was the traditional ra'ui system of resource allocation, which two communities identified as a way to improve the resilience of vulnerable water resources. Communities in Aitutaki also suggested promoting traditional building practices and styles, which could help mitigate the effects of the anticipated increase in extreme heat events.
Some community participants were initially sceptical about the project, because they felt that the government had already mapped everything that was important. However, once they were able to re-envision maps, and given access to mapping tools, the communities became enthusiastic. As one of the senior participants of the Aitutaki planning process observed, ‘I've lived on the island most of my life, and have today seen things I’ve never noticed before.’

Being able to participate in the production of maps that were explicitly for and about them gradually led to discussions on their social and physical environment that went well beyond the more obvious dimensions of climate change and climate adaptation. The discussions touched on deeper social issues such as cultural erosion, loss of language, unsustainable resource use, invasive species and out-migration.
Planning for climate adaptation became a way of framing the broader suite of development issues. Because of this, the communities were able to take ownership of mapping their environment and the assets within it that are important to their identity and survival.

The project showed that a community-based participatory approach is a valuable tool for bringing the reality of climate change to bear at the local and household level. A process of discussing, debating, and problem solving produces more resilient communities that are more able to organise themselves and prepare for a changing climate.

Not only does participatory mapping provide communities with tangible evidence of the risks associated with climate change, but the community mapping process also highlights behavioural and development issues that affect the vulnerability of individual households and the community at large. There was a discernable sense of empowerment by participating communities in developing vulnerability maps and having them available. Without exception, all the pilot communities requested printed copies of the vulnerability atlases for display in public places to engender support for change and implementation of their proposed action plans.

Measures to build upon this project would include using the existing capacity as an emerging centre of excellence. The centre’s prime role would be to educate trainers to improve the ability of community mapping practitioners to convey techniques and best practices to other communities.

To overcome the bottleneck in trained personnel, and the high costs of using commercial products, the training of young and motivated community members in open source GIS products, such as Q-GIS, will make the adoption of this technology for community mapping possible. A regional facility to build capacity for community mapping and access to remote sensing analysis will go far towards helping Pacific island communities to adapt to climate change.

The project found that the participatory processes generated local knowledge unavailable to high-level planners. The process also generated a strong sense of ownership of the outcomes by communities, and increased the knowledge and awareness of participants about climate change risks and the implications for their families and communities. Finally, it increased the skills needed to develop more communities that are more resilient.

This approach allows adaptation strategies to be developed from the bottom-up – from the family through to the community, island and eventually the national level – at the same time as the national strategy is developed from the top down.

It should be noted, of course, that a community-based approach is no substitute for a technically rigorous national approach to climate change. Some important technical issues lie outside the competency of communities, and the scale can be too great; a patchwork of community approaches could potentially result in the geographic division of responsibilities that require a more unified approach. For example, ecosystem-based approaches require interventions at ecosystem scales.

However, it is also clear that the communities are not fully engaged on the realities of climate change. This is clearly an issue of environmental awareness and ownership. Climate change issues have so far been the 'government's role' in the eyes of many communities, largely due to government officials being the ones engaged in the climate debate and conducting climate change vulnerability and adaptation activities.
Linking the national efforts to local communities, therefore, is best demonstrated through the community-based approach of site-specific adaptation planning. Adaptation thus becomes everyone’s business.


John Waugh
Mona Matepi
George de Romilly

Reposted with permission from ICT Update

Web 2.0 in Africa - Agriculture and New Technologies - Web2forDev

An eight minute Business Africa/CTA video production documenting actual cases on the use of Web 2.0 applications in the development sector, specifically among farmers in Africa.

Top Seven Reasons Why Most ICT4D Projects Fail

Dr. Clint Rogers shares interviews and insights from Teachers and Professionals around Africa for why they feel most ICT4D Projects FAIL? Included are important questions for reflection and discussion. Let's not waste time and money doing the same things that don't work -- Join the discussion, Your thoughts matter... Much of the film was captured at the ICT4D Poverty Reduction Summit and this video was first released for the 2010 IPID Meeting, later presented at the European Union EDULINK Stakeholders Event Thank you for your help in translating!