tion of geographic information to sustainable development and discusses the role of partnerships in the development of geospatial capacity. The chapter discusses capacity-building research networks and organizations at the national, regional, and international levels. These organizations are described as examples and the committee does not analyze or critique their programs in terms of success or failure to build geospatial capacity.


The first manifestation of society’s capacity is the competence of a critical mass of its citizens. Development of human capacity in a society is accomplished primarily through education and training. The basic health and nutrition of its citizens also determines a nation’s human capacity (Box 8-1).

Developing geospatial capacity in Africa is part of the larger challenge of building scientific and technical capacity and a trained workforce. As in other scientific and technical fields, such as information and communications technology and agriculture (see Aiyepeku et al., 1994; Lindley et al., 1996; Cisse et al., 1998), geospatial capacity-building depends on

  • primary education, including adequate nutrition and health care;

  • secondary education, including interdisciplinary science and mathematics;

  • post-secondary education and training; and

  • continuing, and on-the-job training in relevant sectors.

Primary and Secondary Education

Capacity-building begins with primary education. By the secondary level multidisciplinary approaches may provide an avenue for learning about sustainable development. To be addressed effectively sustainable development issues require a multidisciplinary approach.

In sub-Saharan Africa enrollment rates in primary and secondary school are low and gender disparity is high. Currently girls are enrolled in lower proportion than boys in 26 sub-Saharan African countries (Sass and Ashford, 2002). African governments have made universal primary education by 2015 a major objective (NEPAD, 2001).

Opportunities for linking geographic science activities in secondary schools around the world are emerging. For example, a worldwide network of projects in secondary schools and universities called My Community, Our Earth2 is helping students to use geographic information science to show how their communities are changing and how to make communities sustainable.

The integrated perspectives of geography and the technologies of the geographic information sciences are an integral part of the development and use of information and communications technologies in Africa and should be central to the new African Learning Network (ECA, 2001a). However, at present, geographic information is being developed primarily as an independent higher-level technical specialization in Africa. The same is true of the way geographic information science is being taught at the tertiary level throughout North America and Europe. Even where geographic information science is introduced as part of the secondary school system (such as in Ontario, Canada), the emphasis is on the technology itself rather than on how the technology can be used to deal with issues of societal significance.

Appropriate places in the secondary school curriculum include computer science and other information technology courses as well as interdisciplinary studies such as geography and environmental studies. The format of final secondary school exams is a key element in the integration of geographic information science in the curriculum.

Post-Secondary Education and Training

Post-secondary education and training3 is particularly important for geographic information science and technology because of their scientific and technical natures. The importance of university education is stated in the NEPAD plan (NEPAD, 2001).

The plan supports the immediate strengthening of the university system across Africa, including the creation of specialized universities where needed, building on available African teaching staff. The need to establish and strengthen institutes of technology is especially emphasized.

NEPAD’s argument is supported by two studies that emphasize university education (Bourne, 2000; World Bank, 2000). NEPAD also calls for the establishment of “regional cooperation on product standards development and dissemination, and on geographic information systems” (NEPAD, 2001, p. 47). Such regional cooperation could promote capacity-building in geographic information science.

According to Bassolé (2002), 35-45 percent of human capacity in geographic information science takes place in the formal education system. Education and training in geographic information science in Africa is offered in universities or polytechnics in which geographic information science is part of a broader curriculum, and in national and regional training centers (Bassolé, 2002).




Post-secondary education and training refers to formal education at the tertiary level in universities, polytechnics, and in this case, regional remote-sensing centers.

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