GIS, BIM, surveying & spatial applications in Southern Africa
Issue 105, June 2019
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Editor's note: Are maps losing their integrity?

In a “post-truth” era of “fake news” and “alternative realities” scientifically sound information has taken on new value for those who care about facts and quality insights. Mapping’s long history and relationship with scientific domains, be it the mathematical principles which underpin it, or its relationship to statistics and geography/geology, has lent it similar authority – even despite map design’s ability to deceive.

In recent years there has been much discussion about crowdsourcing information and how to validate and integrate such information with authoritative data sources and national spatial data infrastructures. But mapping, like many other fields of information, is driven by public demand, appeal and use – that is how Google became a prominent geospatial company. In this case, it’s not the most scientific data that wins users, but the most user-friendly.

Maps have become a “single source of truth”, especially owing to their ability to integrate various datasets in an easy-to-understand way. But what happens when maps contradict each other, and what does that mean for the geospatial profession?

A recent example is the distinct differences between two air-quality-monitoring mapping services: AirVisual, which maps global air quality using data from the monitoring devices the firm sells to the public; and the South African Air Quality Information System ( SAAQIS) of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

Over the last week (17 to 21 June 2019) SAAQIS has shown areas across South Africa, and around Johannesburg specifically, to have “Good” to “Moderate” air quality. To the contrary, Johannesburg was featured on the AirVisual homepage every day of the week as one of a handful of global outliers for its “Unhealthy”, “Very unhealthy” and even “Hazardous” air quality.

With both services offering similar visual indicators, and neither offering easy-to-understand explanations of how their map/data is derived, users are undoubtedly more likely to use and believe the better-designed AirVisual map, which claims global authority and is easier to use and integrate via apps, application programming interfaces (APIs) or website widgets.

Institutional authority used to be one indicator of information integrity, but with the DEA’s tarnished reputation following its ( failed) attempt in May 2019 to amend the Minimum Emission Standards upwards, who do you trust?
Developing an integrated data service ecosystem

For the past year, SAEON's uLwazi Node has been developing a data services ecosystem and websites for climate change adaptation for the Department of Environmental Affairs. Each service serves as an individual component for a different...

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Issuing of Chamber of Mines Certificates to continue

The Minerals Council South Africa will continue with the registration of learners to sit the examinations for the Chamber of Mines Certificates. A few years ago, the Minerals Council South Africa (then Chamber of Mines), along with various...

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Report: Extended reality needs responsible design

Having witnessed a five-fold-plus increase in patent registrations since 2014 and over a doubling in investment, extended reality (XR) is gaining momentum rapidly. Yet responsible business approaches are crucial. They also carry the potential to...

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Workshop on space resource utilisation of African countries

A group of space agency, space industry, and academic experts from across Africa, as well as from the United States, Luxembourg, and Japan gathered in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss space resources in the context of...

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Upcoming events

SA GeoTech 2019
22 – 23 July 2019

SA GeoTech 2019 features a great speaker line-up, with presentations on DesignTech, ArchiTech, MeasureTech, PositionTech, MineTech and ConstrucTech, under the theme "Geotech to drive new business opportunities and economic growth”. Taking place at Emperors Palace on 22 and 23 July 2019, SA GeoTech 2019 brings together leading industry experts to discuss cutting-edge hardware and software technologies, information systems and solutions for all sectors.

International Cartographic Conference 2019
15 – 20 July 2019

The 29th International Cartographic Conference and the 18th General Assembly of the International Cartographic Association will be held in Tokyo, Japan, from 15 to 20 July 2019. This year’s theme is Mapping Everything for Everyone.

Digital Transformation Congress 2019
30 July 2019

The Digital Transformation Congress will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre. Topics to be discussed include preparing your workforce for the digital age, discovering what digital transformation maturity is and highlighting its benefits, exploring the business impact of AI, and digitally transforming the manufacturing industry.

Future Leaders in Mining Seminar
6 – 8 August 2019

The Wits Mining Institute’s Future Leaders in Mining is a three-day seminar for 21st century mining held at the University of the Witwatersrand. Future leaders, especially women in mining, graduates, supervisors and managers in the mining sector are invited to attend. Topics have been designed to support, empower and develop future leaders in mining, and include the future of work, mining into the future: 21st century mining, financial acumen, transformation in mining, and personal mastery: self-awareness, mentoring, coaching and networking.

More details in Events Diary
Scientists finally reproduce and explain magnetic jerks (click the cartoon!)
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