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By [email protected] - 18th January 2008 - 11:30

The ESRI Eastern Africa User Conference, held in Kampala, Uganda, 13 â 14 September 2007, attracted around 140 participants from across Africa, Europe and the USA.
The Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, Uganda provided a unique setting for the 2nd edition of this now annual event. People travelled from far and wide to attend this milestone event, organized by ESRI Eastern Africa and Geo-Information Communication, its appointed representative for Uganda. Regional and international facilitators joined forces to organize the following pre-conference seminars:⢠GIS for Law Enforcement and Homeland Security⢠Eastern Africa Utility Seminar for Energy, Telecom and Water / Wastewater⢠Design Methods for Sustainable SDI (SDIDM â07)The seminars were well received, since they not only presented an overview of the use of GIS within a particular field, but acted as a platform for information exchange between the technology providers and the intended users and networking among the participants.The user conference was officially opened by Dr. Ham Mulira, Ugandaâs Minister of Information and Communication Technology. He aptly expressed the importance of geo-information for a developing country like Uganda and mentioned how recent technological advancements in ICT and GIS have redefined time and geographic space and have collapsed these into a âVirtual Worldâ where people live together in a âGlobal Villageâ. The minister then officially opened the exhibition which demonstrated partner solutions from HP East Africa, ITC Netherlands, Oakar Services and Ramani Communications of Kenya and Spatial Dimension of South Africa. In his presentation Willy Simons, Managing Director of ESRI Eastern Africa, listed the companyâs key achievements during its short existence, and mentioned that improved service to existing ESRI customers is one of the companyâs growth strategies for the coming years. The keynote address by Mitch Garnett, ESRI Utility Marketing, presented the product vision and technology direction of ESRI as a global company.After lunch the meeting broke into two parallel sessions consisting of a technical workshop track and a paper presentation track. A total of 10 technical workshops on topics such as geodatabases, data management, geoprocessing, geovisualization and cartographic production introduced the participants to the many exiting new features of ArcGIS 9.2. A total of 20 paper presentations demonstrated the application of GIS in a variety of fields ranging from natural resources management, and mapping of critical infrastructure to education, community development and poverty alleviation. The increase in the quality of the presentations and the use of the analytical capabilities of the GIS was particularly encouraging.Participants shook a leg during the cocktail reception on the first day, which was graced by the Ndere Troupe traditional dancers and the social commentary of the group leader had attendees rolling with laughter. The closing plenary on Friday recognized some of the key achievers in GIS and two participants from Nigeria who took the plane after seeing the conference announced on the Internet. Everyone present agreed that the conference had been a great success, so we are looking forward to next yearâs conference which will once again be held in Nairobi from 23 â 24 October, 2008.Author\'s contact details: [email protected].

Author: Willy Simons

Bio.: Managing Director, ESRI Eastern Africa

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