The Ethiopian PhD student Fikru Yifter Kidane has developed a digital atlas of his homeland. On atlas.amharic.net an elaborate atlas shows Ethiopia from a wide range of perspectives. You can zoom in on regions of Ethiopia or national parks, and highlight specific aspects like towns, streams, roads, ecological zones, soils and meteorological stations. Kidane is doing research at the Centre for Geo Information in Wageningen and is a member of staff for the Mekelle University in Ethiopia.
'Because I thought that distributing baseline geographic information and mapping services via the internet would be helpful to many people for various reasons. It is not part of my PhD; I did it in my spare time. But it is in line with my professional interest. I am now in the last few months of my PhD. My research focuses on developing planning support systems in resource poor environments.'
Where did you learn to make an atlas like this?
'I did an MSc in 'Management in the Network Economy', a new collaborative masters programme given by the University of Piacenza in Italy and the School of Information Management and Systems (SIMS) of the University of California at Berkeley, USA. During this course I learned some web programming language and used my GIS background to focus on developing web GIS services.'
Why did you make the atlas?
‘I had a number of goals. First, to show my professional colleagues in sub-Saharan Africa that it is possible to deliver online geospatial services at no - or minimum - cost by making use of open-source resources on the internet. Second, these services can greatly contribute to the efforts in Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and spatial data clearinghouse activities in each country as well as to various activities in the African Union. Third, researchers in Africa will be able to get baseline geographic information to supplement their research activities. Fourth, other information seekers who are interested to learn about Ethiopia will be able to navigate the atlas and obtain first-hand information.'
Is it the first digital atlas of Ethiopia?
As far as I know, yes.
For whom is the atlas of practical use?
'Researchers and students, development practitioners, policy makers, tourists.'
Do you think people in Ethiopia will use the atlas?
'Definitely. There have already been requests from many people to incorporate more socio-economic profiles of regions, as well as more natural resource and infrastructural information. This is an indication that people are interested in using the atlas.' /