Raising awareness about how to analyse spatial data and how to manage spatial databases are priorities for the success of this project. The philosophy of the IMS/GIS data centre is to use free and open source software that allows full accessibility to data mapping and analyses. The intention of this approach is to break the barriers around knowledge and use of GIS as a supporting tool for the decision making process. Another reason for promoting open source software is to reduce the dependency on external consultancies or on only a few GIS specialists within an organisation. More often than not, only one person is in charge of all the GIS operations because only a single commercial software licence was available to individual government departments or whole organisations. As a result, once the individual with GIS skills leaves it creates a knowledge gap, without anybody able to carry on with the work. With open source software, multiple copies will be available, allowing a greater spread of knowledge within departments. We want to encourage as many people as possible to start using GIS and to become familiar with basic analytical and mapping tools.

QGIS is the open source software we encourage people to use for basic geographical analysis. You can download QGIS here. It is important to always search for the latest stable version and be clear of your PC specs to determine if you need a 32 or 64 bit version.

In the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and St Helena, beginner and intermediate courses in QGIS have been run and had a successful turnover of people. Data managers working in the three islands in January 2016 attended a course on postgreSQL/PostGIS and webGIS. Building capacity and enhancing skills of these two disciplines can result to be extremely valuable and useful as the plan is to move towards spatial databases, integrated systems and access to open data.

A second, but no less relevant aim is raising people’s awareness of standards and consistency in dealing with data. A GIS data centre remit is to try and make people conscious of the importance of collecting data according to best practice rules and using a rigorous method. In this way, not only consistency but also data sharing become feasible and a routine.

A GIS clinic has been provided for everybody who attended the GIS course, either face to face or through a series of “how to” guides have been circulated via e-mail. The “how to” guides are downloadable as pdf documents here.

The aim is to widen the GIS community on each island with the ultimate goal of developing people with more confidence in GIS and spatial data concepts and familiarity with the use of QGIS and spatial databases. For the islands which joined the project acitvely, the plan is to have a point of reference and coordinator in terms of GIS and data management. In Saint Helena this position is currently (2016) occupied by Sam Cherret, who is also receiving support from the Saint Helena Government GIS team, comprised of Murray Henry, Cliff Richards, Simon Bennet, Ron Knipe and Davlin You. In Ascension island Dr Sam Weber, senior scientist at the Ascension Island Governmen Conservation department, is responsible for the management of the local environmental data. In the Falkland Islands the role of IMS-GIS data centre is filled by Dr iLaria Marengo. The data management of South Georgia is carried out by the British Antarctic Survey.