» » The Department holds a two weeks refresher course for Alumni of Netherlands institutions on Modern Satellite – based Digital Data technologies

The Department holds a two weeks refresher course for Alumni of Netherlands institutions on Modern Satellite – based Digital Data technologies

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Makerere University’s Department of Geography, Geo informatics and Climatic sciences (GGCS) conducted a two weeks refresher course (2nd to 15th August 2015) for people who studied in the Netherlands institutions 4 years and backwards in modern satellite technology.

The participants were awarded certificates of attendance at a colourful dinner held at Sheraton Hotel Kampala. The training was held at the Computer Laboratory of the GGCS Department on second floor of the CIT building. The course titled, “ Earth Observation and Spartial Analysis for enhanced climate and Disaster Risk Management for Societal Benefit in Africa”, attracted 25 participants from six countries including Uganda, Kenyan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Namibia and Ghana and is a basis for a larger conference to be held next year 2016 in which Makerere is taking lead.

The course was jointly run by Makerere University jointly with ITC university of Twenty in the Netherlands funded by NUFFIC – a Dutch funding agency that particularly focuses on education aspects.

Instructors included Dr. Ben Maathuis from ITC university of Twenty in the Netherlands, Dr. Yazhidhi Bamutaze, Prof. Basaliwa, Dr. Saul Daniel Ddumba and Dr. Bob Nakileza of Makerere University.

Presiding over the closing ceremony at Sheraton Hotel Kampala, the commissioner for Relief and Disaster Management in the office of the Prime Mister Martin Owor handed over the certificates of attendance to the participants.

The commissioner observed that more than 80% of the society suffering is caused by climate and weather related events because majority of people depend on rain fed agriculture. He said studying the cause of climate change was in the right direction to reducing people’s misery.

“You are a few people but with immense opportunity. One person can sit down and view and view the whole country, Satelite technology is interesting because it is difficulty to dispute and very easy to use it as evidence to influence policy because technology brings out facts”. The commissioner said.

Commissioner Owori expressed the need to bridge the gap between the data sources and the policy makers and relating national development programs with research institutions and academia. He added that the office of the prime minister was more interested in risk and management to relief people.

Mr. Owor appreciated Makerere University for the knowledge generation expressing commitment to frequently work with the university to increase her capacity to produce and store data.

“The storage capacity at Makerere University is not enough and needs $ 6000 for 48 terabytes. We need to show that production can increase as a result of satellite technology. How do we make satellite technology lead to Operation Wealth Creation succeed. Let the farmer get the right information on rainfall patterns to guide him on when to plant”, Mr. Owori said

The other way Makerere would like to work with the office of the Prime minister is to enter into a tripartite agreement with the telecom companies to install her equipment at an outside station say at Mt. Elgon to download, communicate and transmit data at a distance. This would cost $7000.

The commissioner urged the participants to come together as a team when it comes to modelling and to tap into ICT experts and increase awareness on the subject of remote sensing as one of the effective ways of disaster management.

Dr. Ben Maathuis from ITC university of Twenty in the Netherlands said the refresher course was trying to address the fact that in the last 10 – 15 years there has been enormous development in ICT and development affecting data dissemination.

“I observed that we have an experiential capability but limited in linear capability to take up the technology hence the need to introduce once more what has been going on so that you get familiarized with new development so that you can apply them back home”, he said Dr. Maathius told participants that the Danish government was sponsoring the course to keep in context with what was going on in Dutch institutes. He said they started off by writing a proposal and were lucky to be selected this time.

“We have been going through an experience of trying to integrate information currently at disposal. When we started the course, the problem was soft ware available, after software, data was not available”,

He urged participants to utilise the software, data and facilities available to incorporate data in their systems saying, this is a moment where organisations have no excuse of not using satelite information.

“ Geonet is offering you access to manage your data. If you cannot afford to set up such a station, then you better shut up the organisation because its a low level investment.

Everything is basically locally available. Ensure that you support your services with data available, share with everyone available because it is meant to exist so that policy makers can make the right decisions” Dr. Maathuis went on and said:

“ You have a beautiful Africa, I have visited more countries , you are leaving in a beautiful continent but with some challenges. What you have been given in two weeks is very critical for your governments and policy makers for a better Africa”.

The head Department GGCS Dr. Yazidhi Bamutaze said the people who participated in the refresher course must have studied environment, climate, natural resource management and ICT in Netherlands or Dutch institutions sometime back and between the time when they finished their studies and right now, there are lots of things which have changed especially in terms of technology.

“The assumption is that these participants are not abreast with those technologies. So the refresher courses are formulated and designed to bridge that knowledge and technological gap within that time period to make sure that when these people go back to their institutions they are able to operate in a more efficient and smooth way”.

Dr. Yazidhi said the central idea of the refresher course is to be able to use software technology which was received through a system and be able to use and form a range of analyses which can be used to improve climate change and disaster risk reduction.

All participants, according to Dr. Bamutaze, were picked from professional organisations and all working, and therefore, the knowledge and skills acquired will immediately be applied.

The two weeks training was mainly practical with a lot of exercises. The participants also had to work on their individual projects in that each participant can take out an application which is directly to the job demand and is able to work on the problem.

“The relevance is massive both in skills and knowledge also in accessing a range of dataset that is available that we are not familiar with particularly satellite based digital data for their countries and organisations.”

The technologies included NDVI which looks at the vegetation index and can tell the greenness of an area and give the status of that area for instance the status of the crop health, the potential productivity one can get from an area shown in a particular NDVI range.

So if one is working in agriculture he /she can look at field related issues; those working in ecosystems or forestry camps, you can see the relevance of this remote sensing, and those working on water related or water stress and want to know more about issues of drought say in Karamoja, satellite technology will interpret all images for easy understanding of what is happening.

According to Yazidhi, Makerere has software through which participants have been using in order to process and bring out information directly of use to a policy maker or field researchers. The department has a well installed satellite system connected to a well established computer laboratory.

“What is also important is that the system we have gives more less real time data that is, within 15 minutes there is new data coming on. We are able to look at weather or climate related information, temperature overview of the whole country/ continent, relative humidity, wind speed etc. So in terms of simplicity and application, there are massive, whether you are looking at the possibility of flooding you are able to use this system and its a kind of tool that looks at the reception component of data but also its processing” He said the training is line with Makerere University, core mandates of training, research and outreach.

“First of all we get imagery data which can be used by staff for their scientific purposes, could be used by students for their learning and project work, we have also put up a system that will enable us to disseminate and share these data with government agents”.

The commissioner for relief and disaster preparedness and management attended the training at the university to understand what was going on. The department is in the process of developing strong linkages between the University and the Office of the Prime Minister particularly looking at disaster and hazard related issues. There are already on going discussions and as part of that the university also gave OPM an offer to bring on board some of their professionals who participated in training.

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