Twenty African countries have partnered to form a geographic data hub for tech-savvy youth.  The initiative is aimed at providing a platform for innovative youth to apply their talents in addressing societal challenges.

The hub, GeoHub will be managed by Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD). Through the platform, the youth will link themselves to various opportunities available from geospatial technologies, to develop products that serve member states in businesses to spur growth.

RCMRD, is a 20-member state organisation comprising Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa among other Eastern and Southern African countries.

RCMRD Director General Emmanuel Nkurunziza noted that GeoHub will provide an opportunity for the youth to tap into latest technologies to meet challenges that the society faces.  

“We are aware that data is going to be very critical. We are aware that internet of things is providing opportunities unheard of,” said Dr Nkurunziza, adding “We are aware Machine Learning and artificial intelligence are going to be the critical things if we will be able to manage what we have been doing mechanically with human brains.”

Experts say young people can solve the myriad challenges the society faces by leveraging geospatial technologies.

During this year’s Geographic Information System (GIS) celebrations at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), experts while recognising the power of geospatial data and technologies, called on young people to seize opportunities presented by the technology which has advanced over the decades.

“There are opportunities that five years ago were not there. One is able to capture accurate data in centimeter and millimeter resolution within minimum effort currently,” said Dr Nkurunziza on Wednesday.

He said new technologies have enabled the processing and storing of huge volumes of data in cloud and other platforms, without many challenges, an undertaking which was almost impossible few years ago.

With high internet speeds thanks to optical fibre network, one is also able to move huge volumes of data from one place to another without much ado.

“You can deploy all these computing capacities, connectivity and ready access to high resolution satellite imagery at very affordable prices,” said Dr Nkurunziza.

“Now, the challenge is for you to make sure that this data that we are getting is harnessed to develop applications and services that are relevant to our societies.”

 He added: “We have set all the administrative structures ready, we had planned to roll out our activities this year but Covid-19 happened,” he said.

David Ongo, a GIS analyst at RCMRD, said one of the courses which will be taught at the GeoHub will be the GeoAI (a combination of GIS and artificial intelligence).

GIS, he revealed, has become quite popular with “a lot of industry players now embracing the technologies including Uber, Glovo, and Tesla.”

Currently, almost all universities have integrated GIS is their curriculum, he said.

According to Dr Nkurunziza, the more young people prepare themselves to be part of the fourth industrial revolution, the better for them.

He said RCMRD will launch the regional resource hub next week, adding that the resource centres is an incubation, innovation and mentorship space.

It will store and disseminate data on various issues in 24 countries in Africa.

“People with creative ideas will be able actualise them under the guidance of the professionals,” said Mr Ongo.

RCMRD was formed 45 years ago to undertake surveying, mapping and remote sensing for member states within the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

“It supports member states to harnessing the power of earth observation and geospatial information in managing natural resources and other areas where we need decision-making,” said Dr Nkurunziza, adding that counties can send requests for collaboration on various issues affecting them.

Some of the geospatial data that can be obtained from center include information on disasters, pandemics and emergencies.

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