Views of PNG from the heavens

Papua New Guineans can take a virtual look at their home villages from 800 km above in the sky — thanks to a ground-breaking world-first service being offered by the University of Papua New Guinea.

UPNG’s Remote Sensing Centre has launched its interactive mapping portal — a vast computer database available on the Internet at no cost to users.  It draws together stunning satellite images and aerial photographs, linking them with masses of interactive information including villages, aid posts, schools, national, provincial and local-government boundaries, roads, resource and conservation areas.

The mapping portal can be accessed on the Internet at:    http://www.rsc.upng.ac.pg/

Project director Phil Shearman said while the portal was designed for professional natural resource managers, anyone would be able to log on and use the site:   “Anyone from school students through to provincial planning officers will find they can log on and create their own high-quality maps and overlay them with whatever levels of information that they require,” Mr Shearman said.  “They can also search the database and generate lists of information — like find a village anywhere in the country, or assess the number of people within a user-defined region.”   “The site includes a complete set of satellite images of the country and detailed aerial photography of Port Moresby. But perhaps its most eye-catching feature is a complete three-dimensional map of Papua New Guinea,” Mr Shearman said.   “It’s taken us quite a while but it helps to understand the amazing geography of the country.”

The mapping portal has been developed with help from the United Nations Development Program, the European Union, Conservation International and the German Development Service, under the direction of the Department of National Planning and Rural Development.   Department Secretary Valentine Kambori said the portal would be especially helpful in dealing with natural disasters.   “It’s easy to get an idea of how many people live in a certain area and then create the sorts of maps that would be useful to response teams,” Mr Kambori said.   “In the past such needs often took days to fulfil — now they can be satisfied within a few minutes.”    “It is a major breakthrough in strategic planning and a milestone achievement for PNG. Macro planning and strategic assessments must be done with the most up-to-date information through a geographic outlay available at the press of a button.

“The facility is going to bring PNG under a birds-eye view from Waigani as well as dealing with the intrinsic deficiencies currently in place where Waigani becomes inward looking and, through tunnel vision, forgets the rest of PNG. The project management, the University of Papua New Guinea and the donors are to be highly commended.  “It is another example of a collaboration with the premier academic and research organisation contributing to nation-building”.  Thanks to the portal, PNG is now one of the few countries on the planet able to access satellite imagery and national information in an interactive manner on the Internet.  Other countries often charge for access, but in PNG’s case the entire site is available at no charge.

UPNG Vice-Chancellor Les Eastcott said it was hoped the mapping portal would become an “access point” for information in the national interest.   “That means we could add more information in future,” he said. “For example, if a company or government agency had geographically-oriented data, we would be happy to put it online and link it to the mapping portal.”

The UPNG Remote Sensing Centre is housed within the Biology Department of the School of Natural and Physical Sciences. It is currently offering Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing Courses to undergraduate students and is supervising several postgraduate degrees.  Over the coming year, the centre will be providing the opportunity for people outside of the university to attend short practical courses on the application of GIS and Remote Sensing to their areas of work.  These courses will be specifically targeting both government and NGO employees involved with database management and spatial planning. In addition to its teaching role, the Remote Sensing Centre serves as a portal for wider civil society to gain access to both PNG datasets and spatial analysis services.

The mapping portal can be accessed on the Internet at:    http://www.rsc.upng.ac.pg/

[ Source: 2004, Post-Courier Online ]