In our community’s new product “The Geo-Interview” we present the thoughts and views of our 2016 interviewees who agreed to graciously submit their responses to our tailored questionnaire. It’s always a blessing to have a chat with these guys and so we decide to kindly put you in the loop via our community here.
Today, we introduce you to this intriguing series with an exclusive interview with the NLIMS Director Prof. David Kuria. We talked everything regarding NLIMS, the strategies in place, the worked done so far and how long we’ll have to wait to get the NLIMS working which happens to be shorter that you might have thought, NLIMS is here!
Prof David Kuria is an Associate Professor at DEDAN KIMATHI UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY (DeKUT). Presently the Director National Land Information Management Systems of NLC and has served as senior lecturer and in various institution of higher learning Before moving to NLC he served as a senior lecturer and Director of the Institute of Geomatics, GIS and Remote Sensing in DeKUT. He earned his Ph.D in Civil Engineering from the University of Tokyo. You can check his full profile from LinkedIn
Prof. David Kuria
Here is what he had to say in our chat…
QN: Let’s start with something a little less Geospatial. What is it like being a Director? NLC is a big institution and being I Director you must have a lot of responsibilities, a lot of people look up to you.
Prof Kuria: Yes you are right. It is a big role with a significant number of responsibilities. Directors at the NLC have the primary role of ensuring that programmes of the Commission are implemented in technically sound ways by harnessing the expertise and creativity domiciled in the units they head.
Qn: So tell us about the mandates that your directorate in collaboration with other directorates have with regards the land administration. NLIMS development and the changes that have occurred over time to these responsibilities. Land registration and titling, what responsibilities do you bear in these?
Prof: The NLIMS directorate was expected to operationalize section 5 (2) (d) of the NLC Act, that of ensuring the Commission develops, implements and maintains an effective and efficient LIMS at both National and County levels of Government. That section has since been amended in the Land Laws (Amendment) Act to focus more on ensuring that the Commission develops and implements an efficient Public LIS. The CS lands and the Commission now coordinate the role of developing NLIMS. From the onset, I have been clear that there is need to synergize the various units working on land administration and management and have them develop their own components, which components when implemented in a standards based way should be integrated to deliver the NLIMS. These components cut across the entire spectrum of actors in the land sector being the Commission, the Ministry of lands at the National level and the various Ministries in charge of lands at the County levels.
Titling is the culmination of the Land Registration process. These processes are squarely in the Ministry of Lands. There have been developments here with the ministry progressively working at digitization of land registries across the country. If this gets done according to standards, then it will be fairly straightforward to integrate these to the NLIMS and link these to all the other components, thereby delivering an all inclusive and tightly linked solution for stakeholders and citizens. In the new scheme of things, I see the directorate provide advisory services at the minimum. Given that the Commission has already been developing phase 1 of an integrated solution geared at delivering NLIMS, if the CS gives the go-ahead to continue the effort to the second and subsequent phases, we will in close collaboration with the ministry help ensure their components get developed according to standards.
Qn: So what has NLC under NLIMS done so far that your directorate is proud to show to the industry and how the Geospatial industry can ride on your work to improve it and build other systems?
Prof: We have accomplished quite a number of milestones for the Commission as a directorate. With the support of the FAO and the ministry, and in collaboration with various actors in the stakeholder community we have developed and gazetted the NLIMS Standards and Guidelines. These are crucial since they allow the data producers to be able to develop their own components that feed to NLIMS. This strategy enables the data producers to get sub systems in place that make their work efficient and optimal. The reasoning behind this is premised on the fact that data producers have their own ingrained and inherent quality control mechanisms. If these are incorporated in the workflows of their processes, then the outputs from the system will already have their seal of approval. If other entities require these data, then they only need to plug into the data producer’s subsystem and consume their data, mash it up with any other data without having to worry about the quality, currency and correctness of the data. The producers prior to publishing and releasing their data for consumption will already have addressed these. This approach will also ensure there is minimum redundancy as only the copy by the data producer will be the only active one and so if that copy is kept up-to-date, then any other consumer of application utilizing this data will have the correct and current data.
Another milestone has been the development of phase 1 of the NLIMS system. This is part of the overall envisioned system but primarily targeting delivering on Commission specific function with the overlaps targeted to be addressed subsequently. This work has been undertaken by a joint venture comprising of CoreTEC Systems and Solutions and Oakar Services. Realizing the need to have systems that talk to one another, this solution has been implemented as an integrated system comprising of an ERP for managing the HR and other resources in the Commission, a CRM for managing the Citizen relationships, an eDMS providing a central repository for documents management, and NLIMS for managing the technical processes and workflows, including spatial data management. Phase 1 of this system is nearing completion, with its pilot already having been launched on May 31 2016. This integrated suite of systems is already available online. This can be accessed from the ONLINE SERVICES tab on the NLC site.
The directorate has also engaged with the Counties and Universities. Some of the Collaborations that have already borne fruit include the engagements with Nyeri County and the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology. This has seen the development of an open source supported, USAID funded, Africanized LADM based land administration system that has been tested with Nyeri County data. This system is now hosted on the NLC servers and will be further enhanced to provide a potential pathway for open source driven system.
Qn: What are your immediate plans going forward; say 1 year, 2 years or even your vision for this directorate and its responsibilities come 5 years?
Prof: There are a number of things we are committed to doing. Firstly, within the next 2 months we will have rolled out the current phase of the integrated systems. This system is already online and the bits remaining are those to do with training of the users and final reworks to incorporate user feedback. Over the same period, we will be examining how the amended laws impact on the initial vision that we had on NLIMS, and align it to be in conformity with the law.
Our second focus will be on data conversion support. Data constitutes the biggest portion of a spatially driven system. Whether we are talking of the overall NLIMS or the PLIS it will be crucial to ensure that data is continually ingested into the system and managed. For data that is in paper form and for which no softcopy version exist, the Commission will with the support and cooperation of public agencies proceed on a data conversion programme. To this end we have established a fully functional GIS laboratory that will serve as the data conversion engine. The information so converted will be shared with the originators and workflows developed around it to support its updating and retrieval functions.
The third item will be on georeferencing support. Spatial data is only meaningful if it correctly represented spatially. To this end the Commission and the Ministry through the Survey of Kenya engage on developing tools and standards to be followed in supporting georeferencing efforts to ensure all spatial data generated is correctly spatially referenced. To this end the SoK has already embarked on the establishment of the CORS network, which will go along way in helping provide reference stations that will support efficient mapping and surveys.
Our fourth focus will be on the NLIMS Standards and Guidelines. Now that these Standards and Guidelines have been gazette, the directorate will embark on a campaign to mainstream them in development by various data producers, especially at the County levels. These will ease the process of subsequent integration of the developed solutions into the eventual LIMS at the national level, irrespective of who does the final integration.
The fifth focus that we will be engaged in will be in the pursuit of developing a land information law. This is necessitated by the very nature of cyberspace coupled with the sensitive nature of land information. To safeguard this, the existing laws will need strengthening by amendments or development of a full-fledged Act. Some of the issues to be considered will be regulation of pricing of land information, applicable penalties and fines, information access, regulating practitioners in the area of land information and prescribing the institutional frameworks in the management of land information.
The final focus within the next 3 to 4 years will be on the development of API and mobile tools and platforms. Given the proliferation of IT and the adoption and absorption of the technologies in the day-to-day business of Government, it will be crucial to bring tools and services to the people. To allow system developers develop solutions that consume the data, well describe APIs will be exposed within the law. Some of these will also be used internally to support development of stand alone web and mobile applications that give citizens a wide array of tools to use when accessing government services in the Ministry and Commission.
Qn. Would you say the geospatial industry in Kenya is ready for take off? In terms of sustainable application of technologies, innovations and achieving the potential of GIS locally.
Prof: In my view I’d say it has already taken off. The reason I say this is given my experience with these technologies. At the turn of the millennium, Internet GIS was catching fire away from Kenya. Google seized on this and created Google Maps. Others followed suit including the open source community. Then came the smart phone and the ball game changed completely. On the human resource front, many institutions are now offering spatially related courses and programmes, which was not the case at the turn of the millennium.
There is a huge number of graduates that are being produced by the Universities and Colleges with GIS knowhow. When you combine this well-trained resource, the Internet and the prevailing spatial technologies, the output can only be great tools and astounding spatial applications. A lot of amazing innovations have been released, some of which have become commercially viable. Another testament to this is the fact that many companies and outfits working in the spatial sector in Kenya and the Eastern African region are using these locally trained experts to develop the solutions, some of which are based on open source software alternatives, in addition to the industry tested closed source solutions.
Qn. Last words Professor. Your students and colleagues are reading this articles. Tell them something.
Prof: Geo-IT is the thing now. My greatest confidence is in the type and fashion of human resource in the country across all sectors. For the Geomatics and GIS experts and other related practitioners out there, not just the students I’ve taught, the opportunities to leverage the technologies are immense and it’s up to us all to take advantage of them and help better manage the resources that we have been blessed with. Drawing from the series of high-level conferences that have just been held in Kenya, there is the realization in the world of our country’s suitability for doing business. We should therefore see how we can do GeoBusiness to offer a GeoIT edge to businesses across the region.