Conference Highlights the Importance of Geographic Information Systems in Samoa
Environmental Monitoring and Governance

A one-day conference aiming to raise awareness on the importance and power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), open data, open source software, spatial data sharing, and data standards was held today in Samoa, bringing together GIS stakeholders and practitioners to share their use cases and experience.

The conference titled, ‘Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) State of the Map (SotM) 2020 Ocean Conference’ is a hybrid event with participants attending at a local hub venue organised by in-country GIS practitioners which feeding into the regional livestream broadcasted FSS4G 2020 Oceania Conference:

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) through the Inform project, has partnered with SkyEye Pacific to host the Apia Hub. It is the Pacific region’s chapter of a larger global community which forms the FOSS4G, an annual recurring global event hosted by the Open Source Geospatial Foundation with a mission to foster and promote the adoption of open sourced geospatial technology, and the SotM.

Opening the conference, Mr Roger Conforth, Deputy Director General of SPREP welcomed participants and touched briefly on the importance of GIS as a tool to inform key decision makers.

“It is a privilege for SPREP to host you here today. This is an important and exciting event that brings together geospatial data practitioners from Samoa’s public, private and NGO sectors. I am encouraged to see the high level of interest on GIS as shown through the large number of participants registered for today’s event,” said Mr Cornforth.

“SPREP is particularly pleased to co-host this event in collaboration with SkyEye Pacific and the Samoa GIS user community. This is an excellent platform to strengthen and enhance public and private partnerships to promote and encourage open source software for geospatial that ultimately informs proper planning and decision making.”

One important session in particular allowed participants to hear from representatives of Electric Power Corporation (EPC), Ministry of Agriculture (MAF), and SkyEye Pacific on their GIS use cases and application which further highlighted the need for developing national standards for spatial data to ensure quality data collection, storage and sharing for all.

“At the Ministry of Agriculture, GIS has been useful in helping us support low-income farmers and fishermen to become more commercially oriented. Using QGIS, a free and open-source cross-platform desktop GIS application that supports viewing, editing, and analysis of geospatial data, we can track and identify farmers illegally using other people’s land as their own in order to solve disputes. We also map and track the distribution chain of farmers based on different agricultural sub-sectors, for example crops, livestock, and fisheries,” said Ms To’oa Brown, Delivery Associates, Samoa Agriculture & Fisheries Productivity and Marketing (SAFPROM-MGP) Project, MAF.

“These maps also provide leaders and key decision makers, including donor partners, access to information and data showcasing project activities and implementation, and maintain transparency.”

The conference also provided an important opportunity for the revival of the GIS Users’ Group in Samoa, where time was set aside for the group to convene for the first time in with a large turnout, for one hour during the conference. During this meeting the group reviewed the mission and goals of the original GIS Users’ Group in Samoa, put in place a leadership structure, discussed next steps and ways forward to maintain sustainability of the group.

“Reviving the GIS Users’ Group in Samoa is a something many GIS practitioners in Samoa have expressed keen interest in for a number of reasons such as the development of Standards for Spatial Data in Samoa. If we have the same standards across organisations, government ministries, and private sector, we can ensure good quality data is collected consistently, and stored and shared adequately,” said Mr Nomeneta Saili, Chief Technical Officer of SkyEye Pacific.

The conference was originally planned to be an in-person international event hosted in Suva, Fiji however due to travel restrictions in response to Covid-19, the hybrid event was created.

The SPREP regional Inform project shared GIS applications and user cases from the regional perspective and provided a brief introduction on the Samoa Environment Portal, showcasing freely available OpenStreetMap data for Samoa and the rest of the Pacific.

A total of 85 participants attended the Apia Hub hosted by SPREP and SkyEye Pacific.

The SPREP Inform project is a four-year Global Environment Facility-funded project, implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme and executed by SPREP in 14 Pacific island countries, including Samoa.

For more information on the FOSS4G SotM 2020 Oceania Conference, please contact Mr Tavita Su’a, Environmental Information Systems Developer and Analyst, Inform Project, at [email protected] or visit