UK Research and Innovation | Survey

1st Submission Idea

Sustaining the sustainable... The spatial data infrastructure approach

The United Nations SDGs cannot be sustained, and therefore attained, without access to data in the right format. Developing an inter-operable spatial data infrastructure remains one of the key challenges for most African countries especially re the management of environmental problems resulting from human activities. Once data access and data sharing is enabled, almost half of the environmental problems can be easily solved... because you can't give what you don't have. Most solutions to environmental problems (both short and long-term) are domiciled in the empirical data collected as part of either cross-sectional or longitudinal research design.

How could digital technologies provide a solution to this challenge?

The processing of empirical data requires robust data analyses techniques and the outputs can be made more applicable to everyday life (e.g. solving environmental problems) through digital technologies often off the back of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) developed around design science. I do not want to 'steal the thunder' of my former PhD student, Tubolayefa Warekuromor, who recently graduated with a PhD  having successfully defended her contribution to knowledge in this area.

Josephine Muchogu 1 month ago

Hi Dr. Afinowose,
You have captured the critical gap - data access and data sharing. There is a lot of data that has been collected that could provide solutions for our environmental problems. A lot of time and resources can be saved if we can avoid constant re-collection of the same data that is readily available elsewhere.

I guess that this is the thrust of the "Open Data" movement.

Reply 1

Dr. B. Anifowose 1 month ago

Hello Josephine, I couldn't agree more with you on this point - you're so spot-on. In fact there are certain stages within c. the EIA process (e.g. baseline data collection, scoping, impact prediction) that can easily benefit from data inter-operability and data sharing. With digital technologies we could take the solution beyond this and introduce new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

For instance, the baseline data stage may have unstructured ‘big data’ relating to a biome (the three major biomes are desert, Mediterranean forest and tropical forest) and ML can then be designed to learn repeated patterns and improve same thereby eliminating the hitherto laborious human efforts. There are lots of anecdotes out there but I’m yet to see any practicality on the example I suggested above but if we can crack it, that will be good for environmental sustainability particularly in the oil and gas industry. The UNDP/IFC/IPIECA published a draft report last year on the mapping of the oil and gas industry to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which, amongst others, basically seeks smarter processes that can aid exploitation of petroleum resources in a manner that minimises negative impacts and enhances sustainability.

Reply 2

Josephine Muchogu 1 month ago

Hi Dr. Afinowose,
Mistrust (at individual, institutional, national and regional level) is one of the underlying factors in the hesitation in data sharing. In this age of terrorism, I believe that it is justified to have the desire to know who you are sharing your data with, and for what purpose they intend to use it.
Perhaps, we should consider tackling the issue of cyber security (development, operation, constant upgrading and maintenance), which is a widely neglected sphere of digital innovation in Africa, to encourage data sharing across agencies and nations in Africa.

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Dr. B. Anifowose 1 month ago

I think trust is important amongst agencies of government in any nation and shouldn't be a problem. The challenge re cyber security will be more pronounced when data sharing attempts to cross national boundaries.

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Dr. B. Anifowose 1 month ago

Hello Josephine, I couldn't agree more with you on this point - you're so spot-on. In fact there are certain stages within c. the EIA process (e.g. baseline data collection, scoping, impact prediction) that can easily benefit from data inter-operability and data sharing. With digital technologies we could take the solution beyond this and introduce new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

For instance, the baseline data stage may have unstructured ‘big data’ relating to a biome (the three major biomes are desert, Mediterranean forest and tropical forest) and ML can then be designed to learn repeated patterns and improve same thereby eliminating the hitherto laborious human efforts. There are lots of anecdotes out there but I’m yet to see any practicality on the example I suggested above but if we can crack it, that will be good for environmental sustainability particularly in the oil and gas industry. The UNDP/IFC/IPIECA published a draft report last year on the mapping of the oil and gas industry to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which, amongst others, basically seeks smarter processes that can aid exploitation of petroleum resources in a manner that minimises negative impacts and enhances sustainability.

Reply 0

Davis Ntwiga 1 month ago

Dr Anifowose, data sharing has always been a big challenge in Africa. Developing an integrated system as you observed could be the way forward.

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Dr. B. Anifowose 1 month ago

We are getting there... and with platforms like the UKRI sky is the beginning

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Claudia loggia 3 weeks ago

I totally agree. And we should look at webGIS platforms, user friendly, accessible and open source.

Reply 2

Dr. B. Anifowose 3 weeks ago

Yes, webGIS is the way to go, though this is not without its technicalities which i believe are surmountable

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Charles Clerck 2 weeks ago

Status label added: 1st Submission Idea

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Dr. B. Anifowose 6 days ago

OK Charles. And the next is....?

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Charles Clerck 5 days ago

Up to you Dr Anifowose. Either you continue the current debate with those who have commented previously or look to those who have agreed, commented or liked your idea to see if there is a chance of some sort of collaboration to take your idea forward or alternatively post a new idea to the platform.

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