Vihiga County launches information lab to guide planning of development projects
By Lilian Kaivilu
You are a legislator in a certain constituency in the country and your constituents in Ward A want a borehole. They are quite vocal about their quest for it. As the local leader, you give in to
their demands. There are development funds in your constituency anyway. After about a year, the borehole is ready and functioning.
Within the same ward, a local non governmental organization has been operating here for some years now. As part of their work, the organization decides to drill a borehole for the locals. This particular borehole is located near a seasonal river and a few kilometres from the borehole drilled by the legislator.
Meanwhile, residents of Ward B in the same constituency have a health centre; the only health facility in the area, serving residents from the two wards. This particular health centre lacks
electricity and the staff at the facility have to use alternative sources of power.
In addition, the facility does not have adequate supply of water to run its operations. They depend on rain water.
Luckily, they have adequate tanks to harvest the water.
Such are the experiences in many regions in the country where mismatch of development projects against the actual need on the ground is common. It is like supplying fertilizer to members of a nomadic community or giving free computers to schools that do not have electricity connection. In some instances, we have witnessed legislators approve the construction of a facility just because of a tragedy or a natural disaster.
While these might be valid reasons for commissioning development projects, there is need for
proper planning. Failure to plan for such projects will result in, duplication of projects in one area, neglect of certain areas or even implementation of projects where they are not needed.
These gaps, as well as inadequate data to guide planning, drove the County Government of Vihiga to launch the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) laboratory. The laboratory was
launched today in partnership with the European Union and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations under the Support to attainment of Vision 2030 through devolved and reforms in community lands of Kenya project. The laboratory will serve as a central database of information, providing relevant geographical information in a centralized system to guide the county in planning across different sectors.
Speaking ahead of the launch, the county governor Dr Wilber Otichillo said the system will help the county make decisions based on authentic data while targeting the social welfare of the community.
In order to plan for the health sector, for instance, the governor says the county will use the GIS laboratory to first produce a map of all health facilities in the county. The team will also map all the community health volunteers in the county then obtain a separate map showing the population. They will also have data on the capacity of each heath facility in the county.
Another map will be showing all the diseases in that area. “With this data, the county will be able to identify which areas or populations are far away from health centres. Such data will then guide
the county on where to construct the next health facility,” said Otichillo.
In agriculture, this technology will help the county to effectively plan for the right crops in the right regions. This will be guided by the available information on climatic conditions. “For example, if you need to introduce a crop in a certain part of the county, we will need to get the climate data of the place that you want to introduce the crop. Next, you will need to identify the type of soil needed on soils and agronomical requirements for growing the crop. After analyzing this information, it will guide you on the areas suitable for effectively growing the crop.”
According to Washington Olando, GIS officer in Vighiga County, the GIS team generates a questionnaire based on the information needs by the various departments. The questionnaire is
then put it in an application installed on a mobile device. This is the questionnaire that guides in the collection of data after which it is directly sent to the server. “We have a server to back up all data. Whenever data collectors complete the questionnaire, they send the data directly to the cloud. Even if that data fails, our data is still safe. The data is later analysed for planning purposes,” said Olando.
“Every data we collect belongs to a position. That position is what we are calling georeference and georeference is the basis of GIS.”