The potential for future impact can be seen with Pema, another participant of the UNOSAT training. Only two years into her job with the National Land Commission as a survey engineer, Pema has a different scope of work than Sonam. Nevertheless, the training has already had some impact, with Pema raising the use of the Epicollect5 tool in meetings, with plans to explore the use of the app further with her colleagues. They have already used it to carry out surveys and field work. She has also carried out a project to collect information on plot and building details for a local project using the app. She is a member of a taskforce which is carrying out a sustainability assessment for the construction of a power plant in 2040, using a weighted index method and multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA).
In the quarterly taskforce meetings Pema attended before the training, she at times felt she was slightly lost and found it hard to follow some of the discussions. Equipped with knowledge from the training, in the latest meeting she could follow the MCDA, understand the uses of GIT and could contribute in a meaningful way. This may not be a broader impact, but for her confidence and potential for advancement in her career, it is profound. The most exciting impact of the training is still to come. She has plans to write a paper on the use of GIT, linked with her bachelor thesis on urban planning and spatial transformation. She says she has been inspired by this course. Again, the impact that is most clearly visible stems from fostering people with a passionate understanding of the importance of evidence-based decision making, in jobs where they can make a real difference, equipped with the tools necessary to do so.
A plan to follow up with Pema and Sonam in 6 months’ time has already been set, to see if and how they have continued to use what they have learned thanks to this course. Touching base with them again will allow us to follow them on their journey as this training hopefully continues to have an impact with them further down the road. This will include a discussion on the monitoring of performance with NLC supervisors, as envisioned in the project document. The NLC sent 15 participants to this training, and if the impact is similar for these participants as it has been for Sonam and Pema, then evidence-based decision making will be integrated into the NLC for some time to come.
The UNITAR Operational Satellite Training Programme (UNOSAT) contributes to human security, peace and socio-economic development by providing integrated satellite-based solutions for governments as well as relief and development organizations within and outside the UN system. As part of its capacity development activities, a two-week training programme took place in Bhutan, with support from the State of Qatar. With funding through the newly-established Strategic Framework Fund, the programme aimed to enhance the use of geospatial technologies for evidence-based decision making at the national level. This in-country training was organised in cooperation with the National Land Commission (NLC) Secretariat of the Royal Government Bhutan, an institution that was only created in 2008. It brought together government officials from the Ministry of Information and Communications, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (specifically the NLC), and Ministry of Economic Affairs.
The training developed knowledge and skills on applications of Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) and its operational use in various domains: land-use, urban planning, forestry, environmental monitoring, hazard mapping and disaster risk reduction. The GIT lab exercises using datasets and real case scenarios (e.g. finding the optimal location for a new hospital in Thimphu using multi-criteria evaluation) helped participants practice and apply what they learned from theoretical lectures. For a longer lasting impact of the learning experience, UNOSAT set up an online community of practice where participants can request technical support during and even after the training. There are also plans to monitor performance improvement of participants together with the NLC to support knowledge retention and to establish ad-hoc live web map platforms that participants can benefit from when they carry out the national projects.
In an evaluation conducted immediately after the training, all but one participant agreed that the content of the session was relevant to their work (figure 1). Additionally, all agreed that they will use the information acquired in their work (figure 2). When this information is taken and combined with the experiences of Sonam and Pema since the training, the focus of this impact story, we can begin to get a picture of the impact that this training has had, and hopefully will continue to have in the future.
This Impact Story was written only four weeks after the end of the training. As such, we were worried about any potential impact being measurable so soon after the event. While this may be true in the sense we cannot yet measure a wider impact of the course, talking with Sonam and Pema it was clear that in some respects the impact has been immediate. The training has changed how they work, increasing efficiency and data reliability. More importantly, it has allowed them to think about data differently, presenting them with a different perspective. Integrating the use of data for evidence-based decision making will have a profound impact on the work of Sonam and Pema, and by extension the NLC. If they do so, and the evidence suggests they are up to the task, this will help contribute to the SDGs, benefit their institution generally and by extension Bhutan, in whatever small way. UNOSAT will continue to be a partner in their exciting journey towards evidence-based decision making through technical backstopping services from its programming centre in Bangkok.
GIT and how it contributes to the SDGs
Over the past two decades, Geo-spatial Information Technology has rapidly developed and is now being called an “enabling technology” due to the benefit it offers across different application domains. GIT can help analyse and better understand why and where things have happened in the past. By extension, it can also show us why and where something might happen in the future, allowing for more informed decision-making and better use of resources.
GIT applications and their use for evidence-based decision making can contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The clearest link that can be made with this training is with SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. It may also have knock-on effects to several others, due to the interrelated nature of the goals. For example, one of the projects discussed above relates to the construction of a new power plant in Bhutan, and is therefore linked with SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. Sustainable use of land also potentially has an impact on SDGs 6, 8, 13, and 15. The link with SDG 13: Climate Action, is particularly pertinent to Bhutan, the world’s only carbon negative country – it takes more carbon out of the atmosphere than it puts in. Ensuring this continues to be the case, through sustainable land management, allows Bhutan to be a guide for the rest of us. Finally, there is a hope that this will be the start of a joint venture between UNOSAT, the National Land Commission, and other agencies in Bhutan, thus contributing to SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.
UNITAR is grateful to the State of Qatar for its contribution to the Strategic Framework Fund. The Strategic Framework Fund is a facility to support the implementation of the UNITAR 2018-2021 Strategic Framework and to help UNITAR contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Emphasis is placed on helping countries in special situations achieve the Goals, including the least-developed countries, the landlocked developing countries and the small island States.