The work of GIS, or ‘Geographical Information Systems’, has been celebrated on St Helena since 2007 in a special, earmarked GIS Day. Held every year on the third Wednesday in November, GIS Day is also recognised in the UK and United States – with the aim of demonstrating to the public how important GIS is and how GIS affects our day-to-day lives.

St Helena has its own GIS Office, run by five staff members. This year the GIS team will hold an Open House Gallery at their Office in Essex House, Jamestown, on Wednesday 20 November 2013. Acting GIS Manager, Murray Henry, explains what to expect on the day: “This year there will be displays about what GIS is and how it works, and the equipment. There will also be some hands on demonstrations on the computers to get the public involved and have a play around with the software.”

In the six years since GIS Day has been celebrated on the Island it has been well received by the public and by children. The GIS team this year hopes that the day will be buzzing, with people wanting to learn more about how the GIS software works and how it helps both the St Helena Government and the general public.

This year’s theme is ‘The Importance of Data Sharing’ which Murray explains is very important to GIS: “Sharing data with the GIS Office is important, for example in terms of water infrastructure on the Island. Currently we do not have as much digital data on water infrastructure as we should and we are now in the process of working with Connect Saint Helena to survey all the water lines and produce a digital map showing the specific location of the various water lines throughout the Island.”

Murray has recently returned from a GIS Conference in Gibraltar where he was able to learn how other Overseas Territories use GIS. He commented: “A lot of the Overseas Territories use GIS in different ways but there was one Territory that worked similarly to the GIS Office here – but using a wider range of technology. It was good to see how everyone uses GIS, for example in planning or environmental work.” Something that Murray learnt while at the conference that he hopes to introduce to the GIS Office on St Helena is a new piece of software called QGIS.

Murray explained: “QGIS is the same type of system we use here but it’s free, so whilst we have to pay for some things you can get real benefits from free software. We will be exploring whether we can implement this into our GIS Office to save costs on software.” Interested to learn more about GIS? Then don’t forget that Wednesday 20 November is GIS Day.

Why not go along to the GIS Office and have a browse, you never know what interesting facts you may discover.

SHG 18 November 2013

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