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Afghanistan Developing National GeoInformatics Centre As A Foundation for National Sustainable Development and Investment

16012018MAfghanistan Developing National GeoInformatics Centre As A Foundation for National Sustainable Development and Investment

“We are lacking an accurate and reliable accounting of our national resources – this is a must if we are to make the important decisions required to build our country effectively”.  These were the words of Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani at the October, 2017 meeting of National GeoInformatics Centre (NGIC) Executive Committee which was held to review alternative scenarios that had been defined by the NGIC team with GPC Group support.
In 2016 the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) recognized the need for a more coordinated approach to the development, dissemination and utilization of geospatial resources, which currently are scattered in dozens of government and international organizations.  It has been suggested that today there likely exists over $1B in geospatial assets that have been developed in the context of projects and programs supported by many international organizations, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, bilateral aid agencies, United Nations, international security forces and others.  At present there is no comprehensive accounting of this information and these data are not generally accessible outside of the original project owners.  The NGIC was conceived to address this situation and an NGIC Executive Committee, comprising Cabinet Ministers and chaired by H.E. the President, was formulated to provide strategic oversight and guidance to its development.  A small NGIC team based at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and Technical Committee comprising members from all the relevant ministries was also established to participate and provide technical input to the program planning process.
The GPC Group was commissioned to work with a small team under the auspices of the President’s Office to review the current situation and to work with the committees to shape the form and function of the NGIC and to lay out a roadmap for its development.  The study involved consultation with 14 government ministries, agencies and international organizations who provided the information and insights needed to shape the initiative in a manner that is directly responsive to the special needs of Afghanistan.
At the October meeting of the Executive Committee, held at the Presidential palace in Kabul, Mark Sorensen of the GPC Group presented the results of the study and three potential scenarios for the NGIC.  These were debated by the Committee members and final direction was given by the President for the NGIC to be joined institutionally with the Central Statistical Organisation and to partner directly with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MoICT) and ARAZI (independent lands authority) to shape the details of the program and a final plan for its implementation. 
The GPC Group has unique experience both within Afghanistan and internationally in working with national and regional governments and international organizations to address both institutional and technical frameworks required to effectively coordinate, manage and share the development, dissemination and utilization of geospatial and statistical information.  Beyond the legacy notion of “National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)” that has traditionally focused specifically on “supply side” data sharing, the GPC Group has pioneered a new perspective we call “Smart Development Infrastructure (SDI+)” that establishes a more direct connection between data and the national development priorities it is intended to support.  We have been applying this new perspective to the promotion and development of SDI+ in developing countries, fragile states, small island developing states and other contexts where this perspective is especially important.