The application of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) at a local government level as a facilitation tool for sustainable development in rural Africa

Hicken, Elizabeth Anne (2009) The application of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) at a local government level as a facilitation tool for sustainable development in rural Africa. (MSc(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


Africa has been typified in the last half century as a region struggling against poverty, debt, conflict and poor governance structures. Less obvious to the world are the inherent effects of this on the environment, biological systems and human livelihoods. Changing global environments are creating further challenges for a resource-rich continent which is already vulnerable to existing imbalances. The establishment of a (worldwide foundation for sustainable development through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000 created a benchmark for progress and cross-border standardisation. All fifty-three of Africa's states are theoretically committed to the sustainable development process and the resulting agendas, plans and protocols.The African continent has reached a level of evolution where the tools for the achievement of these goals have become paramount. Geographical Information Systems (GIS), as one of the Earth observation or geomatics technologies has been identified as a method ideally suited to this task. GIS enable data with a spatial dimension to be processed, and are designed to deal with issues related to the land and resources. In rural developing Africa, territorial and local resource matters are all-important for improved livelihoods, the mitigation of poverty and protection of the natural environment. Furthermore, GIS provide an effective mechanism for the facilitation of MDG indicator data for sustainability reporting. Governance structures are recognised as the underlying paradigm from which sustainable practices should originate, specifically decentralised government units. Local governments are best positioned to respond directly to societal, economic and environmental concerns in their communities. However, despite a broad acknowledgement of the importance of local governments in sustainable development, little evidence exists in practice or reality of the integration of global sustainability objectives at this level. Similarly, the use of GIS in African local governments, particularly rural areas, is limited to non-existent. This study consolidates the interrelationship between sustainable development and Geographical Information Systems, using spatially orientated development data as the primary link. The applicability of this relationship to rural African local governments is examined through a case study within the municipal setting of South Africa.

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