Science - June 23, 2005

PhD researcher wants to digitise Egypt

The Egyptian PhD student El-Sayed Ewis Omran has developed a comprehensive land cover data system for his home country. The system enables users to integrate and communicate different types of digital data. Omran hopes to gradually introduce the system in Egypt.

Integrated geo-information systems are scarce. Even in the Netherlands it is difficult to compile a set of data and digital maps that use the same data standards so that all the data are compatible and interchangeable. Omran’s supervisor at Alterra, Professor Arnold Bregt is one of the initiators of a comprehensive land cover data system for the Netherlands. Omran is now following in his footsteps in the very different conditions found in Egypt.

Omran developed his system SDILEA (Spatial Data Infrastructure to support Land Evaluation Applications) by combining hard data on soil, topography, geology and meteorology with decision making processes and building the computerised framework required to do the combining. Users can select the datasets that are useful for their own purposes. A water planner might incorporate meteorological data whereas a town planner might be more interested in the development of land use.

Omran thinks his system will help officials who work in spatial planning. ‘Government organisations, public and private agencies and academic institutions could greatly benefit from SDILEA. It provides easy access to spatial data so that information can be generated that is vital for land evaluation,’ he says. However it will be a long time before the system is implemented in Egypt. Omran wants to start by creating awareness about the system, by gradually organising and selecting data in an experimental system that can be used to demonstrate the benefits. / MW