APLIC-International, The Communicator, Spring 1997, Issue #64


By Jean Sack

On Monday afternoon Geographic Information Systems expert Charlotte Hsu hosted a dozen APLIC-I members in a verbal and real tour of the World Bank GIS workshop. She explained that many Bank projects use GIS for natural resources management and biodiversity conservation. GIS integrates computer software, hardware, and data handling procedures together with spatial analysis and computerized mapping to "overlay" census, health, ecological information to determine the extent of spatial relationships. Most countries conduct census and surveys but interpreting data for decision making is often an overwhelming challenge -- "GIS becomes a tool that can make a difference". Charlotte herself developed software tools to assess the spatial aspects of malaria incidence in the Philippines, over time; locate concentrations of the poor and women at reproductive ages; and to evaluate conditions in slum communities. In Indonesia GIS projects evaluated need for primary and secondary teacher training according to size of student populations in designated encachement areas. GIS programs are equipped with statistical and analytical capabilities so that new data can be mapped -- it is more than just a digitizing mapping procedure. Powerful GIS software now fits on desktops. We were shown many examples, examined a paper map being digitized, and collected handouts about GIS at the Bank.

Ms. Hsu pointed out that the most difficult and expensive part of implementing GIS is people. An employee who has social sciences training , analytical ability and is comfortable with computers is ideal. Now, with prices of GIS software dropping, often GIS is only a fraction of a total project cost. Thus GIS not only makes better use of data in project preparation, planning, targeting and monitoring, it also is a formidable communication tool with small cost and big payoff.

APLIC member Christine S. Windheuser met the group for a tour of the brand new Sectoral Library at the Bank [ http://jolis.worldbankimflib.org] where she is the Head of Reference Services. Careful spatial planning provides quiet alcoves for electronic resources and adequate shelving for print as well as enviable staff work room. This library houses over 70,000 circulating items, 800 periodicals, microfiche, CD-ROMS and a specialized reference section. With access to databases from around the world and a staff with international expertise, the services of this library are constantly evolving to fit the demands of new technology and new Bank projects. Following a welcome snack, Chris took the group on a walking tour and a virtual trip into the newly released World Development Indicators 1997 CD-ROM. Buyers of the World*Data 1995 are entitled to this new CD-ROM at reduced rates and may welcome the better interface for searching and data extraction. We all enjoyed these tours very much!

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