Geoinformatics

Monday, February 19, 2007

About Geo-informatics

Geo-Informatics is the spatial hub of the IT industry. Town and regional planning and environmental and biodiversity management are increasingly becoming reliant on Spatial Information Systems together with the use of air- and space-borne observation platforms. Huge amounts of data are being collected which needs to be analysed. The derived results from such analyses need to be disseminated in user friendly formats that are regularly updated. The Internet has become the de facto instrument for disseminating information to broader audiences. With technological advances comes the need for training in the use and development of such systems. It is this milieu that the intended MSc and PhD programme in Geo-Informatics wishes to address.

Our principle aims are to harness the latest technology with an emphasis on Open Source technologies to develop and host web-enabled Spatial Technology Applications and provide training in both the development and use of such applications. The core to this technology is Web Map Services (WMS) which utilise Geographical Information Systems (G.I.S.) and spatially-enabled databases.

The CSIR and UWC are supporting the Meraka Institute and Department of Science and Technology (DST) with the development and strengthening of South African capabilities in Geo-Informatics. The specific outcomes of this initiative are:

  • The offering of a practical MSc level course in Geo-Informatics using an e-Learning environment.

  • The production of graduates who have capabilities in the use and application of relevant geo-informatics systems, tools and applications suitable for supporting the developmental and growth needs of all tiers of the South African government and industry.

  • The registering with SAQA of a Doctorate Programme in Geo-Informatics which is awarded through a thesis.


Offered at the MSc level, the course has three pillars (or focus themes), namely Natural Environment, Built Environment and Disaster Management. Selected modules from existing DST sponsored courses in Ecological Informatics and Disaster Management are used as a basis. New modules for the Built Environment theme are being developed.

Some of the benefits of this approach are:

  • Being Internet based, the course is open to anyone in South Africa, Africa and the World. The only requirement is for the person to register for the course at UWC.

  • The course is undertaken from wherever the person is located - the only major requirement is access to the Internet.

  • Students will get first hand experience in the use of existing and newly developed geo-informatics tools and support systems that are set to become the norm within all levels of government in South Africa.

  • Although the main objective is to deliver as many MSc level graduates after 2 years, the course has an earlier exit level, namely a BSc Honours in Ecological Informatics after 12 months. Those that qualify can continue with the MSc in Geo-Informatics for a further 12 months. An option to complete a PhD in Geo-informatics will also be available.

  • Specific modules (duration 4 - 6 weeks) or customised short courses are on offer for reinforcement or skills enhancement under the UWC’s Division for Life-long-Learning programme. These courses are mainly aimed at practitioners or officials that do not necessarily want to complete the whole degree course. Certificates are awarded if the modules are successfully completed.

All instruction will take place via an Internet based e-Learning methodology complemented by regular face-to-face and Video Conferencing based reinforcement by lecturers. During the second year the students will have the option to be placed at specific hosting institutions where they will complete the rest of the modules and a thesis whilst working and implementing what they have learnt whilst receiving direct coaching in a workplace environment.

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