By Adekunle Adekoya
EARLIER this month, the Lagos State Government launched the Lagos Geographic Information System (GIS). For ordinary citizens, individual or
corporate, who have had any experience regarding acquisition of property in Lagos, it must be a major step forward considering what one goes through in the hands of the famed omo-oniles (land-owning families), and the relief that a GIS is bound to bring. Last week, Mr Monsurudeen Olawale Durowoju, a surveyor who is Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Digital Mapping and the GIS Project spoke to CyberLIFE on the IT efforts made to put the GIS in place. Excerpts:
What efforts went into making the GIS a reality?
Thank you very much. Do not forget that I retired as a Permanent Secretary two and half years ago and I have been on the job since that time. That means that the project, Geographical Information System has been on for three years or thereabouts. Now, it has been successfully completed by its commissioning last Monday. Now, for the challenges, the effort towards completing the project cannot be quantified — on the part of the government, the efforts through commitment of several individuals, the effort of the staff and so many interest groups. Whatever magnitude of labour that has been put in place resulted in the commissioning of the project last Monday. To God be the glory.
How does it affect those who are interested in the purchase of land for their use?
It will improve land acquisition a lot. It is also going to ease the burden of land administration also. It is going to enhance information which ordinarily you would have travelled kilometres to have. Now it will be at your fingertips. You want to buy a piece of land, you want to know the status and so on and so forth. With GIS, land information will be easy to access by you right inside your room. You can ascertain who is or was owner of the land you are interested in. You will also be able to know how many times such land has passed through how many buyers. Also, who is the current owner of the land? It is not who owns a land alone, who wants to buy a land that is supposedly under government acquisition? Even if it is under government acquisition, you can know the position you can buy and they will just ratify such a piece of land for you but there are some that are in prohibited areas, you dare not go there. Everyone wants to own a house. It is going to reduce 419 activities.
How did you digitize the old maps that were in use?
IT is a good question. That shows that you are conversant with the pace and procedure. When the project was conceived, it seemed His Excellency, Babatunde Fashola, the Governor of Lagos State had a vision he wanted to actualize. He was not interested in the old maps we are crying about. He was interested in getting all of Lagos State on a digital database. He took us by surprise because by the time he was telling us this, he had already set machinery in motion to do aerial mapping of the whole of Lagos. There was no need whatsoever to start digitalizing the old maps. The maps of Lagos State that we have now are brand new digital maps consistent with modern trend the world over.
I asked that question because of interests of people who are custodians of some maps. Did you get data from them?
You know, to develop a database for Lagos State with modern digital mapping is not an easy task. That notwithstanding, there is always a present. You have a present, you have the past and the future is also there. We are not going to do away with the old maps. So, that is where taxation and revenue generation come in because there will always be reference to what was done in the past and for you to be consistent with the data, you have to transform the old information into machine language through the process of digitalization for those that fall in line with the database. There is a layout base even for those that are incompatible. Arrangements will be made to redo them so that they are put in place.
Surely, the effort required re-training of ICT personnel?
I have just mentioned that it is a critical challenge because it is being addressed by the governor himself. By the time we do it, the very moment after, it becomes obsolete, and people in the advanced countries who have been using this kind of technology will never sleep for a second. But the human capacity involved needs training and re-training; it is a continuous training through the year round. So the government of Laos State is also addressing that. We have trained about 350 people in the last two and a half years. So, the training I am talking, they need to be trained and re-trained for them to become masters of it. It is not something that you can say that you have mastered it all.
This GIS, does it enable one to check his parcel of land in the internet without necessarily doing it manually? And what software are you using?
That is what we are talking about; it is no longer in the future. The thing is there and that is what we demonstrated last Monday, just a question of little time to fashion out how much you pay and whom are you paying to. That discussion is ongoing now. Very soon all these things will be finalised. As for your question, the kind of project, there are many softwares. For example, we are used to Oracle. Oracle will be used to access the database we are talking about. There are several other softwares that could be used, but the issue should not be software but functionality. If you think one software is important it might be overtaken by another one. It is an on ongoing, thing, you know.
Well, has cybersecurity measures been put in place to prevent hacking of GIS information?
Security of data for Lagos was an issue extensively discussed in the process of doing this and was one of the reasons we cannot easily say that everybody should go and log on and receive information. We want to make sure that adequate security is put in place for the information we have for the GIS. We realised this right from inception. There is need for maximum security. That aspect is being handled by our Ministry of Science & Technology.
Experience has shown that projects like this cannot be handled by government alone. Are you willing to partner the private sector?
I quite agree with you, if you want to make it thrive, it may not be government alone. It can be 50-50 participation. This kind of project is something that can be handled by PPP (Private-Public-Participation). At least for it to function very well, the PPP approach is imperative.