New chair Janusha Singh talks about her priorities for growing GISSA and the geo-industry’s prominence
The Geo-Information Society of South Africa (GISSA) has appointed Janusha Singh as its chairperson for 2020/2021 at its recent annual general meeting. Speaking to Novum Intelligence, she shared her priorities and ambitions for the organisation and the industry more broadly, as well as what members can look forward to.
GISSA is a volunteer organisation representing geographic information system (GIS) professionals in South Africa. The society seeks to promote, protect and advance their members’ interests, and provides a networking and information sharing platform.
Singh is the director of GIS and cloud-based GIS company, Wanscan Consulting, and has worked in the geospatial industry for over 20 years. Before her new appointment, she was the KwaZulu-Natal branch chair. She is a member of South Africa’s Committee for Spatial Information (CSI) data sub-committee, and was a panellist in the UN GIS Knowledge Infrastructure Forum.
“My background is in IT. I saw an advert for a GIS position, I applied for it and I never looked back. I love the fact that I am learning something new every day, and the GIS profession touches all areas of society,” says Singh.
She’ll be serving with seven other members on the national council. They are vice chair Marlanie Moodley (also heading the marketing committee), secretary and treasurer Hermanus “Manie” Brynard, education chairs Nhlanhla “Lucky” Msimang and Bridgette Flemming, ethics chair Sam Osei, council elder Stuart Martin, and outgoing chair Morena Letsosa.
Why did you decide to stand for election as GISSA chairperson?
I have been involved in the KwaZulu-Natal committee for the past seven years. I really love my profession and I want to be at the forefront of promoting and growing it. I want to empower the GIS community to take their rightful place in information management. GIS is already relevant in the information management space. The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that GIS integrates and presents information in a way that is easy to read and understand very quickly. Now the whole world has recognised its capability.
What role do you see an organisation like GISSA play in a global world of many digital and other communities where professionals gather?
GISSA allows for continuous professional development. Presentations like those at our meetings share knowledge about methodology, data, information, and the new findings. It provides members with opportunities that come with an umbrella organisation, like access to a wide range of topics and exposing them to more than one industry for learning and collaboration.
In my opinion, the Covid-19 pandemic has actually worked out highly beneficial for GISSA. We are now able to have inclusivity from a national level for all our members, and they are all benefiting from the online events we’re having. Virtual workshops and our AGM that have already been held online were very successful. This opportunity allows us to be part of global events. I hope in-person meetings will resume in the near future, but it will probably take place with an online streaming option.
What are your main priorities as the new chairperson of GISSA?
Collaboration. Our regional bodies need to become more active, especially in the smaller provinces. We need more activities in these regions, and getting more attention is crucial for all our members. I’m very passionate about and will be driving the need for standardisation of geospatial information in our provinces. I would like to collaborate more to try to drive the awareness of standardisation and policies.
It is also critical that younger members get involved, apart from the fact that they are our future. Information hungry minds can only benefit us all. As a start, I would suggest getting younger members involved through presentations. I would encourage bringing other presentation formats in addition to our usual case-study style presentations. You know, invite the youth to come with their innovative solutions and also become part of the committee. Encouraging youth and empowering them with confidence to present must be a strategy going forward.
Tell us a little more about these policies and standards, and why you deem them important?
The Committee on Spatial Information is the body that is rooted in the Spatial Data Infrastructure Act of 2003, and it formulates policies around GIS information and standardisation of GIS data. I think exposing more members of GISSA to these standards will drive our country and industry to information management and help professionalise GIS. Knowledge management is what we do. I would like to see our profession move from the information production field to an information management role.
Pushing ahead with the CSI standards and policies will allow more members to start collaborating. When that happens, people tend to feel more empowered and work together. When information is integrated, and business information integrated with GIS information, it makes our industry relevant, it makes us heard because the classic information management environment needs to listen to the regulations and the governance around GIS data.
What can members look forward to in the year to come? Where can people find out more about GISSA and its activities, or sign up to join?
We’re still finalising the council’s strategy and calendar, but the one event that is definitely going to happen and is one of our biggest events, is the Geomatics Indaba next year.
The GISSA website (http://gissa.org.za) has been revamped, and includes a link to a membership signup form. Membership fees for the year is R550, with the initial signup charge being waived. Join GISSA and become empowered by sharing and building confidence with like-minded people.