In addition to mapping and GIS solutions for humanitarian emergency response and human security, UNOSAT is strongly engaged in helping countries and UN organizations develop their capacity in satellite derived analysis and the use of geospatial information for territorial planning and monitoring. Several in-country programmes are ongoing. Nigeria is a case in point where strong tangible results have been achieved in just one year.

UNOSAT capacity development and training programme in Rivers State, Nigeria, is one in a series of flagship projects developed by UNOSAT territorial planning experts to respond to requests from member states wishing to develop capacities within their country to better benefit from satellite data and build integrated GIS solutions able to serve various functions of central and local governments.

The increased availability of commercial satellite data together with the growth of GIS applications for urban planners and territorial managers is creating a new wave of user requirements, moving away from the previous vision of “guaranteeing access for all to space based resources” and moving closer to “actual use of GIS solutions, satellite data and applications to meeting practical needs”. UNOSAT’s functional area “capacity development and technical assistance” has been developed in 2009 and 2010 to respond to this reality.

In the case of Nigeria, one of the most substantial in-country programmes carried out by UNOSAT in 2011, activities included a mix of training in Geneva for up to five weeks combined with technical assistance missions, in-situ refresher training, the set up and maintenance of a GIS Situation Room, and also joint technical work on map production. As a result, Rivers State GIS experts are handling satellite data and producing maps for emergency response and disaster preparedness using skills matured at UNOSAT and then transferred and adapted to the local reality. Ravi Santhana Gopala, an urban planner and GIS expert at UNOSAT explains: “we work under the assumption that countries do have capacities and that these, once developed, are able to produce analysed information in support of various governmental and community needs. This will ultimately end the current system placing the providers and the users in two distinct categories, especially when we talk about developing countries”.

A recent live exercise, run for three days from 2-5 August 2011, demonstrated that with technical support from UNOSAT in Geneva through remote desktop and voice communication the experts in Nigeria were in a position to rapidly produce operational mapping in the context of heavy rainfall and flash floods.

UNOSAT Nigeria rivers map

Image: Example of joint products – a map produced by Rivers State ICT department, Nigeria, on 5 August 2011