Samoa Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Users’ Group Revived at Regional GIS Conference
Environmental Monitoring and Governance

Samoa’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) practitioners and stakeholders have utilised a one-day regional conference as an opportunity to revive the GIS Users’ Group in Samoa. The ‘Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) State of the Map (SotM) 2020 Oceania Conference’ aimed to raise awareness on the importance and power of GIS, open data, open source software, spatial data sharing, and data standards across the region.

A hybrid event, the conference had both in-person and online participation, merging to form the wider FOSS4G SotM 2020 Oceania Conference happening across the region. The Apia Hub, organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) through the Inform Project and SkyEye Pacific – a private sector user of GIS in Samoa and the co-host of the conference, was hosted at the SPREP campus. Other national hubs convened on the same day, at different times due to differing time zones, across the Pacific region.

A special one-hour session during the conference gave an opportunity for the first informal meeting of the Samoa GIS Users’ Group, facilitated by Mr James Atherton, Vice President of the Samoa Conservation Society who was among the original members of an earlier GIS Users’ group. Formed in October 2004 with a focus to share updates on GIS activities and data amongst member agencies, ,  improve collaboration  and coordinate training and professional development of members. According to Mr Atherton, the group eventually became inactive after a few years as key members moved overseas without a clear mandate in place to guide the group’s activities and goals.

During the special session discussions were held on the structure of the group and how the group would operate with particular attention to the Spatial Information Act of 2010, overseen by the Spatial Information Agency (SIA) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) of the Government of Samoa.

“It is important for us to align with the Spatial Information Act 2010 to support our work and push for collaboration of all GIS stakeholders and practitioners,” said Mr Atherton. “Currently data and information exist in silos, inaccessible to stakeholders and decision makers who require key information to make informed decisions that impact sustainable development, resource management and conservation efforts at national, regional and global levels.”

The revived group reviewed the mandate and goals developed by the 2004 group with constructive discussions held around what the newly revived Samoa GIS Users’ Group could look like in the future. A working committee was also established to guide the further development of the group.

“Reviving the Samoa GIS Users’ Group is crucial if we want integrated GIS development at the national scale, improved collaboration and sharing between users, and standards, protocols and MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) for data collection, sharing, storage and affordable pricing,” said Faaso’otauloa Sam Saili, Chief Executive Officer of SkyEye Pacific.

“The Samoa GIS Users’ Group is open to all and we encourage anyone working in GIS, stakeholders and practitioners to get in touch with us and join the group.”

The conference was held on 20 November, 2020, with the Apia Hub held at SPREP’s Pacific Climate Change Centre (PCCC).

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