48. Geospatial Friday - Bill & Melinda Gates may soon change the Geo World


Word on the street is that the African continent could soon become a hotbed for geospatial activity thanks to the Gates couple. Not yet content with retiring to the world of golf, sleep-ins and Werther's Originals, Bill and his wife Melinda are combining an industry knack for innovation, growth and efficiency with their shared focus on "making the world a better place". Both Foundation co-chairs now aim to place geospatial right at the heart of decision-making in the world's second largest continent.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has focused on initiatives in the fields of education, healthcare and poverty since 2000 recently advertised it's intention to advance geospatial capacity-building and technology in 39 Sub-Saharan African countries. The initiative's specific objectives are humanitarian in nature - to prevent disasters such as large-scale epidemics in the immediate term and to reduce inequity in the long-term.



The recently closed RFQ which was released by the Global Development Strategy, Planning & Management team states the Foundation's intention to invest in an organization that will advance the quality, completeness and sustainability of geospatial data in Africa. Emphasis will be placed on core demographic, infrastructural and environmental geospatial data layers which are relevant to fields such as health, agriculture, and finance. The initiative will seek to advance and accelerate existing initiatives and efforts and to "advance evidence-based policy change on the continent". As the site explains:

"Geospatial data contains an innately interoperable attribute that serves to connect data from sectors and geographies to inform and improve decision making. Data producers and users alike benefit from the increased utility that comes from geospatially integrated data, systems, and tools."



While decision-makers around the world are busy adopting, becoming more familiar with or remaining completely oblivious to the emerging geospatial world, the Gates couple are helping to make things happen on a continental scale. In true 21st century style, the initiative is focused on developing the 5 integral components of geospatial systems - i.e. the people, the procedures, the data, the hardware and the software. It is also focused on developing a culture of leadership, knowledge sharing and relationship-building across sectors

Africa already has a strong geospatial presence in the form of multiple active OpenStreetMap groups and Rwanda has recently hosted the International Conference on Geospatial Technologies for Sustainable Urban and Rural Development. However, due to the growing amount of investment in African countries from the resource-focused developed and developing worlds it makes sense to establishing appropriate and long-lasting geospatial frameworks and decision-making systems. Regardless of whoever receives investment from the Foundation it is likely that the future of the African continent will forever change for the best.