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GDEST 2008 Conference Sessions 

Theme 3 - The African Data Stream
GIS (Geographical Information Systems) as a Facilitation Tool for Sustainable Development in Africa
Elizabeth Hicken, Kingston University, South Africa

Africa has been typified in the last half century as a region struggling against poverty, debt, conflict and poor governance structures. Less obvious to the world are the inherent effects of this on the environment, biological systems and human livelihoods. The establishment of a global foundation for sustainable development through the Millennium Development Goals of 2000 created a benchmark for progress and cross-border standardization and comparison for development.
The continent has reached a level of evolution where the tools for the achievement of these goals has become paramount. This refers rather to the facilitation of the methods used in the measurement and communication of the associated baseline data than to the direct mitigation of the issues themselves, which is a function of national policy.
Information Systems are integral to this process, being the primary vehicles of data communication and exchange. This specifically includes Geographical Information Systems (GIS) which enable data with a spatial dimension to be processed. GIS are one of the principle technologies of earth observation and provide a multi-platform operating environment for data comparison between types, sectors and geographical regions, making them an ideal mechanism for development information.
This paper consolidates the interrelationship between Sustainable Development and Geographical Information Systems through the common paradigm of Development Information, with examples from the Local Governance setting of South Africa.