Creating national spatial data infrastructure

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In Namibia, like in many countries, the government uses geospatial data mostly for inventorying of both natural and constructed landscapes and in spatial planning.

Since nearly 80 percent of government programmes are locational in natural settings, the value of government spatial datasets need to be clarified. Governments across the world do this by developing national spatial data infrastructures (NSDI’s) as a standardised way to collect, maintain, access, use, and share spatial data.
NSDI’s are required because of often incomplete documentation of available government spatial datasets. Systems to find, access, combine and use spatial data at most times function in isolation and are not usually compatible with each other.

Institutional, legal and financial barriers prevent or delay the sharing and reuse of existing spatial data. In many cases spatial planning decisions are based on out-dated datasets, and agencies underutilise spatial data in providing evidence based development planning. Also duplication of data collection by government agencies results in wasteful of government resources.

The government has put in place the legal framework through the Statistics Act of 2011 for the development of a national spatial data infrastructure. Section 47 of the Act establishes the NSDI as the national technical and institutional framework to facilitate the capture, management, maintenance, integration, distribution and use of spatial data. The Act provides for the development of a NSDI policy, which was gazetted in March 2015. The Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) is the coordinating body for the NSDI. The NSA is working to put in place the NSDI institutional environment for Namibia. A five-year strategic plan was developed in October 2015 to guide NSDI implementation and the formal governance structure for the NSDI is now in place.

A regulation on the manner for capturing national spatial data and any application for exemption from such manner has been drafted and is being prepared for gazetting. Two more regulations on the manner of purchasing government spatial data and the manner for dissemination of national spatial data are currently being developed. A draft metadata profile for both geospatial data and geospatial services has been developed and is awaiting public input. Other key standards to be finalised include data quality and spatial referencing standards.

NSA is also inventorying and classifying available government fundamental geospatial datasets, as outlined in the NSDI policy. This shall form a framework for establishing a national advance data collection calendar to avoid duplication of data collection in the country and increase the frequency of data updating.

The social benefits of a national spatial data infrastructure include ensuring availability of, and easy access to current and accurate datasets to government and the public, more tangible value of spatial data through its widespread use and reuse, and national data standards ensure that government and the public get access to quality datasets that are fit for spatial planning and in providing evidence based development planning.
Also NSDI contributes to building an informed society and enhances government transparency, accountability and good governance.

* Alex Muluti Mudabeti is the deputy director for Spatial Data and National Spatial Data Infrastructure at the Namibia Statistics Agency.