Gerhard Bechtold

  Consultant for National (Geo-)Information Systems and Database Setup, for Natural Resources Assessments   

Review of EIS Implementation and Development
Table of Content

Gerhard Bechtold


1.1 Background

'The mission of the South African National Parks (SANP) is to establish a system of national parks, representative of the country's important ecosystems and unique features and to conserve and manage them in such a way that they will be preserved for all time in their natural state for the benefit and inspiration of the present and future generations of all South Africans.

One of these national parks, the Cape Peninsula National Park (CPNP), is in the process of being established by the SANP through negotiation with local, regional and national government agencies and individual private landowners. The proposed core area for the future CPNP is an area called the Cape Peninsula Protected Natural Environment (CPPNE), an area covering 29 000 hectares and stretching along the mountain chain from Signal Hill to Cape Point. ... Many of the management issues relating to Park management are underpinned by the relationship with the surrounding urban areas.

It is the vision of the CPNP to integrate relational databases and Geographical Information Systems into the core functions of the CPNP using information management systems as an easy tool for end users to access, maintain and use this data.

Geographic Information Systems, through their ability to organize large volumes of spatial and associated attribute information, have become a critical tool in effectively integrating natural resource management. The implementation of GIS technology in a systematic and structured manner is essential for a successful implementation of the technology. GIS has unlimited potential as both a support tool, and a tactical decision support and operational management tool. Unfortunately, there are many examples of unsuccessful GIS implementations that have resulted in operations that are not cost-effective. A clear understanding of pertinent organisational, data management and technical issues are crucial to the successful implementation of GIS technology. The cost of GIS technology prohibits an unstructured approach to system implementation, use and maintenance. A clear understanding and well-designed implementation strategy will result in realization of many benefits and a cost-effective operation that will support management activities and decision-making over the long-term. ' (ToR of Project).

Attention was drawn to the implementation of an information system for users with relatively low technological “know how”. The Consultant was employed to contribute to the project drawing on a low-technology approach.

The project can be seen as a pilot project for further national park information system implementation. The South African National Park board (SANP) has a number of additional parks, where the installation of an information system will be useful to help as a management tool.

Thus, the developed system has to be able to be transferred to other parks!

Concurrently with the ongoing project, an 'Integrated Environmental Management System' (IEMS) is developed, which defines a management policy for CPNP with eleven development goals and 42 objectives (see Annex 6). These activities identify the tasks, which should be supported by the EIS.

Within the Park, there is a policy to outsource operational work. Information technology is part of this policy. The 'GTI Consortium', for example, has the task of installing the EIS, 'Event IT' is subcontracted for system maintenance, the Internet site of CPNP is hosted by 'Dockside Internet'.

1.2 Project status

Scope of this mission is to review the methodology and its components with strong consideration of the appropriateness of the technology applied and on implementation feasibility.

At the time of this review, the 'GTI Consortium' had been operational for slightly more than half a year. The EIS implementation strategy has been designed and documented, with the main technical components of:

This report does not necessarily follow the structure of the EIS development paper, but is in line with its technical concepts.

Eleven review activities are separately explained in Part 2; recommendations for actions are given. Long-term considerations are mentioned in Part 3, which are beyond the 'EIS Implementation Strategy' document.

Constructive work and good achievements have been made in the Project. An appropriate technology is being chosen to fulfil the required task. Minor refinements are explained in this report.

Very good achievements were made with all procedures about data:

A large data dictionary ('data digest') with some 150 map layers has been compiled at different priority levels.

The data acquisition and compilation (including RDBMS data) is in good progress.

Highest priority is now the development of the application programs with user interfaces, easy to operate as the 'front-end' appearance of the system.

1.3 Information system set-up under IT transfer considerations

The rationale of this Chapter is the statement of general information technology experiences. Though they are general by nature, they can not be ignored or neglected.

1.3.1 Conceptual 'Lessons Learned'

During the phases of design, set-up and implementation of an information system, many observations and experiences are made. It has to be possible to incorporate as many of the resulting requests as possible.

Some of these experiences can be foreseen at a rather early stage, and can often easily be solved. Some can come rather at surprise, i.e. often those due to new technological innovations.

The following 'Lessons' have been derived from international experiences in a number of similar IT projects. Thus, the 'learned' feedback is phrased out in a more general way. More specific and ad-hoc interpreted, most of them can be found in the following chapters of this review paper.

Lessons ...
... learned
Experiences, observations, requests
Reactions, improvements, developments, modifications
Transfer of Information Technology:
Fast pace of technology development (hardware, software, operating systems) à Adjustment to new file formats and platform, when required;
Transfer of data to new software and new data formats;
Procurement of equipment after 2 years (sufficient contingency budget)
Flexibility of software; 'freedom of choices' in modern software à 'Freedom of choices' can be counter-productive to production:
Customization with streamlining application development important
Fast pace of IT development à (Permanent) adjustment to new media and PR facilities;
Technical on-line support for external offices
Appropriate set-up of IS:
Decentralized execution structure à Importance of standards:
Standardization (+ documentation) has highest priority
Application in large organization à Importance of user interfaces and customization: Application development has to achieve high level of automation
Manpower, technical, environmental constraints à Assessments of human resources and available, reliable on-site technology must precede and be strongly considered
Management of Client:
Digital data processing requires management awareness and re-structuring à Gradual process of adjustment and awareness of policy makers and management;
Traditional barriers between departments might have to be broken down in order to benefit from speed and transparency of digital data processing;
Open management structure with flat hierarchies and acceptance of technical procedures and know-how;
Implementation of information system requires openness to efficiency and transparency à Redefinition of some procedural steps;
Open data policy to be promoted by management;Strong user and service orientation
Large number of operators; know-how variation among operational staff à Importance of ease of execution:
Automation; training, curricula development
Different professional levels of operational staff à Human resource assessment must precede definition of methodology and application development
Users expect homogenous data à Importance of standards: Standardization
Users expect reliable data à Development of quality control scheme (with automated error trapping, QC during process and for final data release)
Need of compilation and presentation of maps and data for different purposes à Modular system of different interpretation / data compilation
Project management:
Management unaware of technical possibilities à Dialogue between management and technical staff/developers team;
Management unaware of technical limitations à Dialogue between management and technical staff/developers team;
Developers complain about diffuse expectations (user requirements) à Dialogue, meetings, workshops

1.3.2 Key factors for success of information systems

Important for the success of an information system is the strong consideration of following three components:

The following chart shows the 'diffusion' of an information system from left (at the early stages) to the right (when complete) with its main components:

IS Diffusion
It is evident, that the management is the underlying critical base: If the management is not aware or not supportive, the technical achievements of the GIS / RDBMS can not be utilised, and therefore the information system is not justified!

The management is the decisive factor for the information system diffusion - above the technical level!

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Last update: April 2000