The IMS-GIS (Information Management System, Geographic Information system) data centre is building a comprehensive and standardised information system across the UK Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic. This will provide an integrated information network where data can be easily discovered and accessed.
The current situation, with multiple disperse and often unknown sources of data, is in the process of changing. The IMS/GIS data centre will operate within each territory building self-sufficiency and bringing greater independence from external organisations in terms of management, use and analyses of spatial data through GIS techniques.
PEOPLE, DATA and SYSTEMS are at the forefront of this project. As such, the success of the project will depend equally on these three interlinked components.
People are also a resource of any government. This is even more so in smaller communities such as the UKOTs in the South Atlantic, where they are scarce and in high demand. In order to be able to handle spatial data it is important to have skills in data management and a solid understanding of why “spatial” makes data “special”. The major benefit in using spatial analytical and mapping tools, such as GIS, is being able to not only read and derive information from a spreadsheet or a graph, but also from maps. Visualising information and how it is spatially distributed will help people understand the data, identify patterns, retrieve information and consequently make decision.
Data are important assets of governments and non-government organisations; nevertheless this fact is poorly understood and often not fully appreciated by people. Data tend to be considered as only ‘numbers, reports, fact and figures’, but rarely are they viewed as valuable and unique national and international resources. The first step in the process of managing this resource is to ensure data discoverability by inventorying the data that are already available. To achieve this goal, the focus will initially be on the data collected in the recent years and on those for which background information can be easily sourced. The second step is to ensure that the data are stored properly and secured with a system of permissions and backup. The last and final step is to make the data accessible through an efficient and functional data request system. This will include setting up agreements between data owner and those who request them.
Systems are the backbone of this project. Ensuring that there is reliable technology in remote islands, such as those of the South Atlantic, is a great challenge. When planning the management of spatial data, which can be voluminous, it is important to be realistic about the availability of IT support (software, hardware and internet) and IT capacity (human resources and skills). The goal is to keep it simple, but efficient. The aim will be to set up a system which is able to handle spatial data (analysis, access and storage) and that is beneficial to the data users. Hence it is important to be clear about what the priorities and needs of the end users are. There will be an overarching structure for the entire system across the South Atlantic Overseas Territories, but it will be tailored within each territory to the specific requirements of the local government and NGOs.