05/12 16:47

Geographic Information Systems Laboratory Opens at the University of Central Asia

Bishkek, December 5 / Kabar/. Gudrun Sraega, German Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic, officially handed over Geographic Information Systems (GIS) servers and workstations funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to support the University of Central Asia’s (UCA) GIS lab in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic on 4 December 2014.

The grant was awarded within DAAD’s support for alumni framework. Dr Zheenbek Kulenbekov, a UCA Central Asia Faculty Development Programme (CAFDP) Fellow and DAAD alumni, applied for the grant to continue his GIS research. Kulenbekov is one of 16 CAFDP fellows who enrolled in German universities through a UCA partnership with DAAD.

The ambassador was accompanied by Dr Bohdan Krawchenko, UCA Director General, Dr Horst Weyerhaeuser, Director of UCA’s Mountain Societies Research Institute (MSRI) and Ms Jana Duemmler, Head of DAAD Kyrgyzstan.

“The German government, through its various programmes, supports the development of Kyrgyzstan. DAAD’s contribution of technology and equipment to UCA will significantly enhance access to the latest spatial data analysis for Central Asian scholars and researchers. We are proud to support UCA’s efforts and look forward to many more future engagements with the University,” said Ambassador Sraega.

The new laboratory will generate opportunities to create and share GIS and spatial data. It was installed with support from DAAD, Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA), the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canada, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment.

“In the mountainous landscapes of Central Asia, GIS capacity is critical to capture the realities of both untapped and diminishing resources in the region,” said Krawchenko, “This facility will enhance regional capacity to generate, analyse and apply data. We are grateful to all our partners who have made it a reality and look forward to putting it to use.”

GIS and spatial data analysis are indispensable tools for researchers and practitioners focused on mountain societies and environments. GIS is an information system for creating, storing, editing, and analysing data related to locations on or near the Earth's surface. It allows for interdisciplinary connections and highlights relationships that are not apparent in other data analysis systems. In a data scarce environment like Central Asia it is important to generate new information linked to locations and activities and make it freely available for any user through knowledge hubs. 

Currently, MSRI is developing pasture management maps to support pasture committees in Naryn and in Alai and Chon Alai, and databases on climate and soil maps will be developed. The equipment will be used to develop a socio-economic and natural resource atlas of Kyrgyzstan. Other MSRI projects ready to utilise the facility are UCA’s Learning Landscape Initiative, which is conducting research and monitoring on the socio-ecological systems at the University campuses and MSRI’s mobile digital library eBilim.

The laboratory will also be used as a GIS training centre for students and practitioners and will be available to MSRI partners, such as the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme and Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation. 

“Creating an online open spatial data repository will provide various actors, including communities, implementing agencies, research institutions and government policy makers, with access to crucial data and information for improved decision making,” said Weyerhaeuser.

Building GIS capacity and demonstrating the utility of applied research is a critical goal of MSRI. UCA has been involved in building GIS capacity in Central Asia since 2009, as a member of the 2009-2012 partnership Geoprocessing for Natural Resource Monitoring - Capacity Strengthening in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, Tajik Agrarian University and the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern.

During her visit to UCA, Sraega also observed a class on Methods of Policy Analysis taught by Dr Tamara Krawchenko of Mount Saint Vincent University to 18 Afghan civil servants enrolled in the Institute of Public Policy and Administration’s Certificate Programme in Policy Analysis. The programme is offered under UCA's Research and Public Policy Initiative, supported by the International Development Research Centre and Aga Khan Foundation Canada.


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