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Pacific Island countries to build geo-spatial databases, with help from AIT

Representatives from eight Pacific Island countries are on the path of creating their national geo-spatial databases courtesy of a UNESCAP project being implemented by AIT’s Geoinformatics Center.

Pacific Island countries to build geo-spatial databases, with help from AIT

From left:Mr. Tae Hyung Kim, Dr. Lal Samarakoon, Ms. Tiziana Bonapace, and Mr. Hitoshi Kozaki.

Twelve participants from eight countries from the Pacific region have begun a month-long training program at AIT to learn about creating national geo-databases and geo-portals for disaster risk reduction. The participants hail from Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

“The aim is to work together to develop a system that is customised for every country, “ Dr. Lal Samarakoon, Director, GIC told participants. He stated that AIT, with its vast experience in satellite data had worked as a node with Sentinel Asia, and it had taken the lead in disaster risk assessment and disaster risk reduction. Expressing his gratitude to both UNESCAP for associating AIT for implementing the project, and the Government of Japan for supporting the project, Dr. Lal added that the training will be followed by on-site visits to three countries by AIT experts.

Mr. Hitoshi Kozaki, Head of International Organization Department and Deputy Permanent Representative to ESCAP, Embassy of Japan to Thailand, stated that the aims of the month-long training program went beyond capacity building. “This is also an opportunity for all participants to build networks with experts from the entire region,” he said. Mr. Kozaki stated that the program fits into the twin aims of achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

Ms. Tiziana Bonapace, Director, ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction Division, ESCAP,  spoke about the importance of establishing geoportals for Early Warning Systems (EWS) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). She also appreciated the role played by AIT, particularly in capacity building. Ms. Bonapace added the $200-300bn is lost annually due to disasters, with the Pacific region being particularly vulnerable to cyclones. “Disasters are here to stay, and we have to modify our response,” she told participants. Geo-spatial information becomes valuable in assessing hazards, and it is crucial that the right information is provided to the right people at the right time, she added.

Mr. Tae Hyung Kim, Economic Affairs Officer, ESCAP, facilitated the opening session organized at AIT on 6 February 2017. Mr. Ramesh De Silva, System Administrator, GIC, provided the course introduction and the template for the mid-term national action plan.

The training program will run from 6 February-3 March 2017, and it will be followed by pilot projects in three countries, where AIT will work with the host country to install Geo-Portals and Geo-Databases, and conduct further capacity building activities.