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GCT 2014 Conference in Tunis

March 27, 2014

Patrick and I just returned from a week in Tunisia at the GCT 2014 Conference, meeting with regional GIS organizations and companies working with mapping all over continental Africa. We met with dozens of people focused on many different aspects of geospatial technology – from aerial imagery and remote sensing to surveying and incident reporting from the field. The industries of focus ran the gamut with heavy interest in electric, gas, water utilities, rail and transportation, law enforcement, tax assessment, and more.

Le Temple des Eaux in Zaghouan

With the Arab Spring dramatically changing the landscape of government and civil society in the region, particularly in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, there’s renewed interest in capacity building for surveying and mapping, along with a host of new challenges to undertake to establish new (or revamped) systems for census, cadastral mapping, and land survey. There seemed to be an underpinning of excitement to adopt new technologies that hadn’t been common in pre-revolution Tunisia or Libya. Tools like laser LIDAR scanners for 3D environmental models and photography, UAVs for aerial remote sensing, and digital GIS tools to move from paper and CAD drawings into proper geospatial storage formats. I even had a couple of discussions with Tunisians that contribute to OpenStreetMap.

Scanning the water temple

Scanning the temple

On day three of the event, I gave a presentation on field data collection techniques, covering methodologies for efficient digital data collection. For government ministries in the region, with operational costs high and budgets low, being able to conduct their operations quickly and efficiently is key to adoption and making the most of investments. In this period of transition, a quick understanding of ROI is required for progress and growth.

We even had a chance to take an excursion about 130km south of Tunis to the towns of Zaghouan and El Fahs. In Zaghouan we saw Le Temple Des Eaux, a Roman water temple, and the source of the famed aqueduct that once delivered water northward to ancient Carthage. One of the conference surveyors even brought his laser scanner to image the water temple for historic preservation purposes (he’s a contributor to the Zamani Project, a mission to map and preserve African cultural heritage sites). After that we also visited the Roman ruins of Thuburbo Majus, a fascinating and well-preserved ruin. Here we took some photos and collected tons of data with Fulcrum.

All in all, it was an interesting opportunity to learn where the region is headed with spatial tools, and to see such positivity about bringing new technologies into the mix to enable better governance, decision-making, and data sharing within organizations. Thank you to our friends at the German Geoconsultants Group for the invitation to the event, and the opportunity to showcase new directions in fieldwork management with Fulcrum.