A report on coastal and marine environmental data in Tanzania has been published. The work was done by COWI Tanzania. This article gives a general overview of the inherent challenges in environmental data management as well as an overview of the report.
Environmental data management is a crucial part of any decision making related to the local, regional, national and global aspects of the environment. Good quality, up-to-date, accessible and relevant information is the foundation of good decision making in governments. Likewise, emergency response systems rely on sound information about sensitive areas and resources.
Since my first professional meeting with the management of spatial data in Tanzania back in 2004 I have struggled with issues related to collection, storage and dissemination of environmental information. As a GIS professional one soon discovers that the path towards a good spatial data infrastructure for environmental information is complicated by access to resources, thematic knowledge, economy, legal issues and the will to make data available. Tanzania is no exception – and it is not the only country with these challenges.
Earlier this year COWI Tanzania was contacted to undertake a “Study of coastal and marine datasets in Tanzania”. The background for the study was that many government offices, organizations and companies in Tanzania struggle with the different aspects of collecting, storing and disseminating their own information. I am happy to have been part of principal contact persons for this project on behalf of NEMC and NEA. The work done by COWI is solid and comprehensive.
Scope and definitions decided used in this report:
- The geographical scope covers districts in Tanzania with a coastline, the coastline itself and coastal and marine areas.
- Stakeholders are governmental agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others. A shortlist of institutions, based on the EIN workshop in October 2014 is provided, which does not limit the scope, but serves as a point of departure for the study.
- Key informants are persons working in the institutions identified or related to the operations of such institutions.
- Environmental data/information in this respect include spatial data files, reports containing tables and maps, Excel sheets, data collection methods description, etc. It is not restricted to ecological/biological data, but can also be other relevant baseline data (e.g. infrastructural, bathymetrical, meteorological and socio-economic data, etc.).
- Spatial data can be understood as data that indicates geographic information related to features and boundaries on Earth, such as natural or constructed features, oceans, or similar.
- Metadata is information that describes key characteristics of some original data, e.g. its content, conditions or locations.
- Spatial Data Infrastructure is understood as a system for indexing data through metadata that enables users to describe or understand the scope, type or relevance of the original data.
The deliverables requested and delivered from the assignment includes:
- A list of all visited and all contacted stakeholders;
- A list of existing coastal and marine data, gaps in this data and data gathering projects;
- Information about the datasets or documents, with a special focus on coastline and mangrove datasets, documented in an Excel sheet designed by the Consultant in collaboration with NEA. The information includes geographical extent, categories, custodians and owners;
- Where possible, additional information about source for data and a brief note about
- A description of metadata attributes according to the provided category system and, where possible, ISO/TC 211 and ISO 19115 2003;
- Indication of the stakeholder willingness and ability to contribute to a collaboration under the Environmental Information Network with their data;
- An overview of current developments/status related to a national spatial data infrastructure in Tanzania;
- Suggestions for further work; and
- A presentation at a marine data workshop,
The report has now been published and is available for download here in both pdf- and word-format:
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At the Environmental Data Management workshop held by National Environment Management Council (NEMC) in October 2014, the stakeholders present concluded that the establishment of an Environmental Information Network (EIN) headed by NEMC and supported by the stakeholders represents a rational way forward. NEMC’s workshop in October 2014 and associated processes were funded by the Norwegian government through the Oil for Development Program (OfD) coordinated by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). The above report is part of bringing a national coordinated effort forward.
I have earlier written a blog post about Geoinformation Policy in Tanzania. Together with the authors of this report we will present this work as well as an evaluation of the environmental spatial data infrastructure in Tanzania at the TAWIRI conference early in December 2015.