Speech by the Prime Minister

Geographic Information Systems User Conference

Keynote Address
The Most Hon. Andrew Holness ON, MP
at the
Geographic Information Systems User Conference
October 10, 2017

Mr Fitz Jackson, Opposition Spokesperson on National Security
Mr Silburn Clarke, President, Spatial Innovision Ltd
Mr Alexander Williams who left us chairman, Land Information Council of Jamaica
Mr Evan Thompson, Director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica
The Chief of Defense Staff, General Rocky Mead
Commissioner of Police, George Quallo
Permanent secretaries, Heads of Agencies
And departments
Members of Staff of the Nation Spatial Data Management Division
The Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation
Member of the Private Sector
Distinguished guests
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning to you all

It is an honour to address the Inaugural Jamaica GIS User Conference celebrating geo-spatial technology, innovation, implementation and use in our country. I congratulate the Land Information Council of Jamaica on their 25th anniversary of organizing and ensuring the development and maintenance of a national network geographical information system through the collaborative efforts of land and land related agencies.

I must single out Mrs. Jacqueline Dacosta, former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Land and Environment and former Chairperson of the LICJ who has made an indelible contribution to the development and advancement of GIS in Jamaica and modernizing and reforming the planning land policy and land management sectors throughout the years. Thank you.

I want to also commend the National Spatial Data Management Division which is the Secretariat of the Land Information Council of Jamaica for spearheading this conference through the innovative use of GIS applications. We’re becoming more effective and efficient in harnessing the power of our limited resources. We however acknowledge that there is still much more that can be done and we rely on the expertise of the persons gathered here to highlight the remarkable potential of GIS technology.

The world faces many challenges: climate change, famine, drought, global epidemics, violent conflicts and persistent poverty. Technology such as GIS offers the possibility of visual analysis and allows us to see boundaries, population trends and socioeconomic differences. Location is important to understanding and solving many of our present problems. GIS offers the ability to acquire and verify facts and to see events as patterns which can then form the basis of predictive information and likely trends. In this way GIS is a powerful tool for education as well as for meaningful analysis and multifaceted solutions. We must think spatially to improve overall planning, monitoring, evaluation, information sharing and communication.

There are now over fifty government entities such as the National Environment and Planning Agency, the Nation Works Agency and the National Water Commission and of course the Social Development Commission which have all implemented geospatial technologies in their operations resulting in greater efficiency in the execution of their mandate.

The theme for this conference “Geospatial Technologies, Mapping Our Way to Secure Communities” is both relevant and timely. Fulfilling this responsibility involves the engagement of a wide cross section of the economy and society and requires a whole of government approach with the Ministry of National Security taking a lead and coordinating role in achieving the mission of a safer and more secure Jamaica.

In doing this and in utilizing the GIS technology we seek to ask ourselves four questions:
• Where things happen?
• What has actually happened?
• Who called it to happen or who is involved in the happening and
• When did it happen?

Four key questions that leads to two key answers: how did things happen but a deeper question, why did it happen and that is essentially the essence of GIS technology and integrating GIS into the management of whether it is garbage disposal, trying to understand issues to do with climate change or making communities safer. That is the essence, the fundamental of GIS.

Current trends in the incidence of crime and violence as well as the resulting levels of insecurity and fear of crime have been identified as major contributors to the low level of economic growth and threats to the achievement of inclusive goals. Geospatial technology is crosscutting and applicable in assisting the government’s security and other strategic objectives.

Critical use of the technology and the potential to overlay other information such as statistics to inform policy and action are invaluable. The use of advanced spatial analytic tools, an advanced imaging technology enables the continuous flow of data between intelligence, law enforcement agencies and security companies in pre-real time and post operations. We’re enhancing the use of GIS in crime analysis by now including mapped locations of reported criminal offences from which heat maps can be created to show hotspots of criminal activities. This allows us for more informed and systematic interventions in line with the approach that is being taken to address the level of crime and violence including a robust legislative framework.

And here I would like to point out the use of GIS technology in informing our decisions about zones of special operation. It is the GIS technology which identifies as it is called here the heat maps, the clusters of crime. It is the GIS technology that helps us to create the geographic boundary but in doing so we recognize that though we have aspects of the technology deployed in various arms of government they’re not all integrated in one single accessible standardized database and so you would have heard some errors but that was a very good learning exercise and experience for the government because what it did was to reinforce the need for an integrated approach to the use of GIS information. So it is not that we didn’t have the information but because it is dispersed among several agencies and that challenges the information that the National Security Ministry and the police would need for crime fighting does not all reside in the ministry of national security or with the police.

Certainly the standards that need to be applied cannot be led by just one agency so for example a shooting may take place at area X but in the database of one agency area X is defined as red area. In another database it is defined as blue area so one agency has the shooting happening in red and another agency would have it happening in blue.
So when I said earlier that GIS asked four critical questions, where – the geolocation, who – people who are involved, what – the incident and when – the time. If we are not standardized in how we describe those four questions then we’re going to get different answers on how and why so one of the things I want to encourage here is that we move as a government to standardize, to set standard operating procedures for accessing and for describing data points in our geospatial systems. If nothing else happens as a result of this conference and that does, we would have leaped forward 20 years in the utilization of geospatial information.

An important thing to note is that the evolution of GIS has created a new economy, an economy based on analytics of data and government has to invest in this new economy and let me give you a systematic view of why it is important. If we are capturing where, what, who and when we’re then able to see trends which would then tell us how and why. If we know how things are happening and why they are happening then we can predict where they will happen, who will cause it to happen or who it will happen to, what will happen and when it will happen. In other words geospatial information creates a predictive cycle that depending on how you manage this information you can make it a virtuous cycle. Right now we are utilizing the GIS information to do some amount of analysis so we are able to answer sometimes why they happen and how but we have not moved to the next step which is to use that data in management so we can be ahead of and plan for and prevent or encourage in this virtuous predictive cycle that this information gives us.

Well I know it hasn’t gotten across fully otherwise I would’ve gotten a bigger clap but let me allow the point to seep in. So even though we’re at 25 years of utilizing GIS and it is certainly accepted by government at the political level and definitely at the administrative and executive level we have still not yet moved to the point of the utilization of the technology where we leverage the power it gives; the predictive power which is to use it, having now knowledge of how things happen and why they’re happening to now use it in a pre-emptive way, a predictive way to either prevent things from happening or encourage things we want to happen; where they’re going to happen, when they will happen, to who they will happen and when they will happen so if anything else comes out of the conference it must be that the users of GIS particularly the those at the decision making level uses it as a managing and planning tool.

The government – and as prime minister I want you to appreciate the fact that I was saying to Ms Grant, she introduced herself as a 3D mapper and I said to her I do 3D mapping too. I want to communicate to you that you have someone as your prime minister who understands the technology, who uses the technology. I’m just a hobby user of the technology but I’m very fascinated with the power of the technology and what it can do for development.

I want just delve a little deeper into this knowledge economy because we’ve taken some significant decisions over the last year and made significant investment in this knowledge economy. Country may not yet realize it but will come to realize it. Remember I said the four W’s, the where, the what, the who and when. We’ve made a significant investment in the who and that is called the who and that is called the National Identification system, the (NIDS). We’ve spent now or we’re about put in place a system to give a unique identity to every single Jamaican
Now immediately as persons who utilize GIS information if you are able to accurately identify the who in those questions, you can immediately see the power of the information that you will gain in analysing problems, coming up with solution and predicting outcomes.

The other investment that we need to make now is in the where. Let’s stop and think about that. The technology can pin point where but where is as good as where everyone agrees it is and so until we map and agree a system of definition for every single square inch of Jamaica, where is always a subjective. In the same way that until we identify and give identity to every single Jamaican who; then you can’t really determine who is who so to really participate in this data economy the government has to make instrumental investments in properly identifying where and properly identifying who and then we also have to invest in other systems of capture to accurately say when and what and we are making such investments.

We’re making investments on our roadway in installing cameras that capture licence plates and cameras that can detect speeding and other such events. That’s a powerful investment in capturing what happens and time stampede when happened. We’re making investments as the minister pointed out in putting in surveillance cameras, CCTVs to capture incidents as they occur. Now if you put of that data a capture together you can now start to see the power of GIS information.

I wanted to say to this conference that we’re not just here congratulating in platitudes. We truly understand the deep power of the technology and we understand that it can be leveraged for the good of the country for the economic and social development of the country. We understand that there are gaps and short comings and I’m challenging this association to use your influence to ensure that all the databases are connected, that the gaps are closed and that you have standards in the operating and use of the technology.

We’re also making another form of investment in the utilization of GIS systems. We have established the HOPE programme which is Housing Opportunity Production Employment. The E in HOPE, the employment part, is designed to give unattached youth an opportunity to give national service in an area that is critical for national development. We have created what is called the GIS corps of national service and we now have them working with the NWC to asset map all meters geo-located right here in Jamaica so the NWC very shortly will be able to have dashboard of all its meters across the country. We’ve employed youngsters over the holiday period to do an asset map of all streetlights in Jamaica. We’re creating a GIS corps to help with the collection of rainfall data with the MET office and you can think of numerous other employment opportunities for young people to go out and asset map Jamaica’s critical assets using GIS technology and that is another investment that the government is making in building up this GIS information.

As you discussed in your conference the advance in GIS technologies and how they can be used and applied to expanding economic growth and job creation, I want to wish for you a successful conference and I want you to know that the government believes in what you’re doing and sees it as a critical tool in securing the economic growth of our country.

Thank you.