Sustainable Development Success Stories

Establishment of subregional GIS training facility for the South Pacific

Location  Fiji.
Responsible Organisations United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Environment Assessment Programme for Asia and the Pacific (EAP/AP); South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP); and the University of South Pacific (USP).
Description In Agenda 21 of UNCED, the need for timely, reliable and usable information for a sound decision making towards sustainable development has been emphasised. In the Asia Pacific region, the capacity to collect, manage, analyse environmental information is variable. Commencing in 1993, consultations with the government and intergovernmental organisations showed the need for timely and accurate environmental information in support of decision making activities. In partnership with the subregional organisation SPREP, arrangements were made to identify national institutions which could also serve as training institutions for GIS/RS at the national and subregional levels. Agreements were finalised with the University of South Pacific in Fiji. Collaborative arrangements resulted in the establishment/ enhancement of a GIS training facility at the university. Two programmes were identified: bridging the data gap and improving information availability. In general, the programs aim to develop and strengthen local, provincial, national, regional and international capacity to collect, analyse, use and disseminate multisectoral data and information for decision making in more cost-effective ways.
Issues Addressed Education, Information for Decision Making.
Results Achieved Training facilities were established to assist planners and decision makers by developing and increasing their capacity to use and apply GIS technology in the different eco-zones of the region; and different sectoral applications were disseminated in different eco-zones.

For examples, in 1994, the GIS Training Facility at the University of the South Pacific, Laucala Campus (Suva, Fiji) was in its early stages of operation. By 1995, the Unit comprised of 20 PCs, 11 digitising tablets, a pen-plotter and 10 ARC/INFO licenses, headed by a faculty member from the Geography Department and had three technical level staff. Initial activities included conducting entry level GIS laboratory classes for courses offered by the Geography Department for its undergraduate degree program. In November 1994 and January 1995, two technical training in GIS were held hosted by the Department of Environment (DoEnv), with participants from other government departments that have close links with the DoEnv (10 participants in each training representing 8 government agencies). By late 1995, SPREP together with UNFPA jointly hosted a sub-regional workshop on the "Use of GIS for Population and Environment Integration" at USP. Participants were from Environment Departments and Statistics/Planning Departments from the region. In 1996 the facility planned to offer Diploma Pass as it attracted the focus of the many disciplines and courses offered at the University. It has acquired additional ARC/INFO licenses/software to enhance its capacity. To help with its training materials, a case study was subcontracted to the Landcare Research to conduct a Land Use Assessment for Atiu, Cook Islands. This case study currently serves as a pilot study on the use of GIS for land and resource management. SPREP and other regional organisations with GIS related programs have been using the GIS Training Facility at USP, Fiji.

Lessons Learned The needs assessment efforts brought forward the available technology and capabilities, and helped set the basis for cooperation among users and producers of environment information in the region. Promoting the use of GIS technology gave incentives to update or produce data, and to promote its availability in compatible formats that can be exchanged among the countries.

There are many advantages in establishing the GIS training facility in an established academic institution, mainly because resources are pooled and there is a better chance for continuity, enhancement and use of the facility. Its development signifies the increasing recognition given to GIS technologies and applications. Its continued collaboration with SPREP will go a long way in supporting the environment information needs for the sustainable development of the South Pacific Region.

Contact  Surendra Shrestha, Regional Coordinator,
UNEP Environment Assessment Program for Asia and the Pacific (EAP/AP)
Outreach Bldg, AIT, PO Box 4
Klong Luang, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand
Tel. (66 2) 524 5365; Fax (66 2) 524 6233 or 516 2125
E-mail: grid@ait.ac.th