Māori and Indigeneous GIS

I recently attended the Maori GIS conference in Auckland, New Zealand. While this event targeted the Māori community as they continue to map their taonga, we all gained an insight into how place and geography links us to the land.

A big and special mention need to go to the Google Earth Outreach team who set the tone of the event from the start with their workshop. Google is a juggernaut in web search engines, but they also exposed to us many ways of engaging with our stakeholders through software, storage and visibility in the cloud using a mix of different tools.

Commercial GIS Vendors have struggled in recent years to get a mobile GIS solution for standard asset capture in the field. These solutions have become custom-built and utilize web services and complex security to saveguard access to enterprise IT environments. However, Google has teamed up with Washington State University to give field workers a complete mobile solution using it’s technology and without requiring a live data connection in the field. ODK Collect provides a simple geospatial access capture solution without significant capital outlay.

The kaupapa for the rest of the conference focused on how technology can be used to help link whānau, hapū and iwi to the land. It is easier to record physical evidence of places and landmarks. But it is more difficult to assess and record the importance of mauri on the landscape such as whakapapa, tūpuna migration, awa, whenua and moana.

Where Central and Local Government see dollars and economic gain, Māori view mauri in the landscape, a quality that is is proving to be difficult to quantify and qualify using standard maps and web mapping. Mauri is the spiritual significance of objects to individuals and Iwi.

The challenge to us all is to explore new ways of using the technology to make a difference in to the way we interact with land and the tangata whenua. I surf the ngaru, I paddle the awa with my waka but I cannot physically interact with groundwater. Yet, groundwater is currently an endangered life force to the future generations of all New Zealanders. We first need an understanding in the importance of groundwater in our landscape to be able to communicate it’s degradation over time.

I believe that the Māori GIS conference has provided a wake up call for the mainstream geospatial community as we search for innovative ways to communicate our findings of our landscape to all concerned.


Landing a GIS Job and GIS Skills Development in 2013

John Donoghue

Note: This post is a 2013 update to my earlier post on Learning GIS and Getting a GIS Job – Some Tips and Tricks which was originally posted in 2009.

In 2009 I wrote a post on how to obtain a GIS job that focused on pathways to learn GIS, critical skills every GIS analyst should know and ways to augment traditional learning pathways to set you apart from other job candidates. Even though this post is well over 3 years old, it’s still read by people interested in the topic and I still receive comments.

I recently re-read the post and decided that an update was in order. Software has changed and old skills need to be replaced with new skills to keep up with the evolving GIS software industry. For brevity, I’ve focused this new post on changes and revisions to the recommendations I made in my earlier post

View original post 3,610 more words

What Geospatial Skills shortage in New Zealand ?

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and the Spatial Information Business Association (SIBA) recently contracted Victoria University to deliver a publication to highlight the shortage of Geospatial Skills in New Zealand. They have been successful in getting their case heard by the Department of Immigration. New Zealand companies are now free to source Geospatial Professionals from overseas.

As a Geospatial Professional with many years of New Zealand industry experience, I do not subscribe to the view that there is a shortage of geospatial skills in New Zealand. Instead, I see an industry that is being shaped by GIS vendors, GIS Services Companies and Central Government who believe that they have a right to determine the future of the Geospatial industry in New Zealand.

Land Information New Zealand, The Geospatial Office and Victoria University have classified a Geospatial Professional into 5 distinct roles. These are:

  • GIS Developer
  • GIS Administrator
  • GIS Analyst
  • GIS Consultant
  • GIS Architect

The Geospatial Skills shortage has been further confused because these roles have not been clearly defined. To this end, we see that Civil Engineering Companies employ school leavers as GIS Analysts, the equivalent of the traditional drawing offices employees.

  • Where, I ask, is the classification for GIS Technician in the list?
  • Does a GIS Technician and a GIS Analyst perform the same role?

Employers face similar issues when preparing individual job descriptions. The Geospatial Skills Shortage Report does not clearly define the skills required of a GIS Developer, a GIS Administrator, a GIS Consultant, a GIS Analyst, a GIS Architect, and now also a GIS Technician. It serves as a broad taxonomy of the tasks required of a Geospatial Professional.

My first role in the Geospatial industry was a GIS Specialist at the Geological Survey of South Africa in 1994, after graduating from the University of Otago. I was expected to perform a range of tasks, not just limited to these general classifications. I learnt to mentor and be mentored along the way. An instant application of technology was not required to enable me to grow as a Geospatial Professional.

Over the past year I have reviewed many Geospatial job descriptions across New Zealand. Most have been vague in stating the skills required of a candidate to fill a particular role.   More often than not these roles go unfilled because human resource managers and recruitment agents do not comprehend what the Geospatial sector requires.

As Geospatial Professionals we must be first too acknowledge that GIS is no longer a niche skill. Rather it is becoming more integrated with the mainstream IT business.

I would be interested to hear how the Geospatial Skills shortage has impacted on other individuals and organisations in New Zealand. 

(a copy of the Victoria University report can be found here)