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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Esri’s Africa GeoPortal Provides Technology, Data and Training for Users

May 11th, 2018 by Susan Smith

Esri announced the launch of its Africa GeoPortal, #AfricaGeoPortal, a cloud-based platform that provides rich content and solutions from Esri and its partners for those wanting a vast resource for African nations.

Users will be able to use the geoportal to access Esri’s ArcGIS Online service as well as geographic data and imagery for Africa, making it a lot more expansive than an open data site. Continental as well as international agencies such as the African Union, African Development Bank, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), academia, businesses, and national government funds will be able to use the geoportal to address the most urgent development challenges—from economic development and climate adaptation to conservation and health care.

African citizens, NGOs, and international development agencies will be able to take advantage of this software-as-a-service technology to support African nations for positive economic, social, and environmental outcomes. The geoportal offers access to industry-leading spatial analytics capabilities and authoritative content for charting compelling, educational, informational, entertaining, and beautiful maps of Africa.

“Access to this Africa GeoPortal powered by the ArcGIS platform will provide my colleagues at the iLab, and others in the network of African Technology Hubs (AfriLabs), with the information and analytical capabilities that we need to make the most effective development interventions for our citizens and communities,” said Luther Jeke, Manager of iCampus at iLab Liberia.

“We are deeply committed to helping the people of Africa discover, explore, and understand the vast information available to them through the power of maps,” said Jack Dangermond, Esri founder and president. “Through this service, we hope to provide our users with the benefit of ongoing developments and investments at Esri so they can foster missions to the best of their abilities.”

Matthew Pennells, Digital Transformation Lead, Esri Global, Dubai Regional Office, answered some questions for GISCafe Voice about the Africa GeoPortal.

Has there been any data portal for Africa in the past, and if so, how does this one compare?

A number of attempts to create a digital geospatial portal for Africa or regions of Africa have been attempted before but have mostly failed due to lack of long term funding or investment. The Africa GeoPortal is different as it comes with the backing and commitment from Esri to keep it maintained, updates with continued data inputs and supported with training material. It is also different as it comes with access to analytical tools to work with the data so is not just an open data site.

African internet users are up by 20% according to some statistics, an increase of almost 6x since January 2017. Is the portal built in response to this increase in usership?

This and similar facts showing technology penetration and adoption growing in Africa strongly ratified Esri’s plans to invest in Africa and support the continent with the latest technologies.

Any special considerations made for ease-of-use, data access, etc. as it appears that most users are on mobile devices?

Yes, the initial content has purposefully been designed for simple consumption via mobile devices. The full platform will also make adaptations for this although the most powerful analytics tools will perform best from a tablet or computer.

Is the internet providing consistent coverage in Africa? If there is a lack of consistency still in service, what measures are being taken to make offerings like the portal more consistent and available?

Esri has not undertaken extensive research in this area but can summarize from on the ground experience and conversations that full connectivity is still a challenge in many areas.

What type of educational support is available in the portal to guide people to be able to use simple GIS?

The Africa GeoPortal delivers the three necessary components for success: the technology, the data and the training. So yes, a full complement of training materials will be available to support the tools.

How will the marketplace work out?

The Africa GeoPortal Marketplace will come shortly after the main launch. It will be a simple marketplace which will enable transactions based on value add services. For example, if a local entrepreneur develops an Agriculture app for farming coops he can promote it via the marketplace.

What type of vetting process will be in place for citizen provided data being included on the portal?

The Africa GeoPortal will leverage Esri’s existing community contributors’ workflows which curate content.

To learn more about the Africa GeoPortal visit

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Categories: agriculture, analytics, ArcGIS, ArcGIS Online, Big Data, citizen science, climate change, cloud, cloud network analytics, crowd source, data, developers, disaster relief, emergency response, field GIS, geospatial, GIS, government, handhelds, lidar, location based services, location intelligence, mapping, mobile, Open Source, photogrammetry, remote sensing, satellite imagery, spatial data

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