May 212012

OSM map of centre of Dar es SalaamOpenStreetMap (OSM) and Google Maps (GMaps) each have their strengths and weaknesses (have a look at’s recent discussion on this). Probably the biggest advantage for us is that OSM can be edited quickly, and the road data used directly (download to GPS or for your GIS system directly). Click below to read more.


Continue reading »

May 172012

Screenshot from QGIS - Arusha roadsIf you’re interested in QGIS, a good starting place is a complete QGIS sample project and its data. If you haven’t tried it yet, why not?! Very straightforward, easy to use and learn, and did we mention free?

  • TZGISUG has already published one of these projects as a downloadable .zip file, and to date over 130 people have downloaded it.
  • “Natural Earth” has  a great set of freely-downloadable data for the whole world at a number of scales, suitable for whole-earth views (1:110m) or individual countries (1:10m). The data are bundled with .QGS project files, with appropriate styles built in.

We’d love to hear back from you in the comments about the Tanzania QGIS data we published here – it’s time to update it and suggestions are welcome.

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May 022012

Parthenium hysterophorus imageInvasive plants in Tanzania are becoming a big problem … in a ‘potentially collapse the economy’ sort of way. For one, Parthenium is spreading rapidly here and in the region, and Ethiopia has seen a loss of more than 25% of its rangelands in the past decade. The Conservation Resource Centre has an article on this.

Monitoring the spread of Parthenium and other plants is tough – there are few national resources to do this, and Tanzania’s a big place, but there are a lot of people who are interested in the issue.

We’re trialling Crowdmap (the excellent Ushahidi application) to try to use reports from  just about anyone to see where it is and how it is spreading. See the live map below to get an idea. Go to to try it out. Continue reading »

Feb 022012

Butterflies are on the move in northern Tanzania … and we’d like to track them! The central question I asked on the TZGISUG list (and Stackexchange) this morning was:

How could we quickly set up a page with a clickable map that lets people record the location of observations and log the data to a central source?

After a few false starts (Google maps lets you make an editable map, but ANYONE can edit or change data, and share maps were impossible to figure out), I had a look at’s crowsourcing / spatially aware web application, and the free hosting at, and we’ve set up a “TZ Butterfly Migration 2012” page. Continue reading »

Jan 302012

is happening this week in Dar:

The Google team is thrilled to announce our first g|Tanzania, happening February 2-3 in Dar es Salaam. We’re looking forward to engaging with this community of developers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs who are as passionate about technology as we are! 

They’ll be holding a MapUp after the main event:

A Google MapUp is an event in which a group of people get together to map their world… often a specific area such as a town or city. Avid cartographers (like you!) use Google Map Maker to add and edit roads, streams, schools, and more. Following a review for accuracy, new additions and edits are incorporated in Google Maps for millions of people around the world to see and use!

Here’s the link/invite to the MapUp, to be held at COSTECH on the 4th of Feb.


Jan 062012

For anyone interested in trying out QGIS, I’ve put together a folder with a complete QGIS project and a selection of raster and vector data for you to explore.

The archive includes:

  • Some of the usual border and protected area data we’ve been sharing on this site for years (some of which seriously need updating) – lakes, regions, protected areas;
  • December 2011 OpenStreetMap road data for the whole country, with a rule-based rendering system that renders various road levels as you zoom in; it matches the OSM default web rendering as much as possible.
  • GTOPO low-resolution DEM for the country (as a JPEG) with elevation colours customised in the layer.

Download QGIS if you haven’t already (, open the tz_elevations.qgs file, and play!

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Sep 052011
The SuperMap company appoints the Kenyan JapakGIS as distributor. Read more about JapakGIS and Supermap in this article. Supermap provides the following products:

  • Service GIS – Development Platform for Customizing Web GIS Applications
  • Component GIS – Platform for Customizing Desktop GIS Applications
  • Desktop GIS – Professional and Ready-to-Use? GIS Clients
  • Mobile GIS – GIS secially Designed for Mobile Devices

SuperMap Software announced that JapakGIS Limited in Kenya is appointed as the authorized exclusive distributor of SuperMap GIS products for Kenya and Ethiopia, and the non-exclusive distributor for Uganda and Tanzania.

Headquartered in NAIROBI, KENYA, JapakGIS is a GIS software development and services company that provides platform software, customized software and solutions to all market segments. JapakGIS has been involved in various GIS projects in the Government, NGO, community development projects and environmental organizations. JapakGIS has a very qualified staff in sales support, projects management and application development. The mission of JapakGIS is to help customers get the most from their investment in GIS. JapakGIS’s deep understanding of geospatial technologies and proven business skills will help them achieve their vision by turning ordinary spatial data/datasets with a geographic component into actionable intelligence. GIS is becoming a very integral part of our lives, careers and our different professions. East Africa is appreciating the power of a geographic information system (GIS) to organize, visualize, and analyze data.


Oct 302010
As a geographer I once in a while end up being extremely positively surprised by innovations, both commercial and from open source communities. Google Earth, which most of us know, has opened the world of GIS in a completely new way for the general public. Geoserver is another door opener.

Although Geoserver will not find the same audience as Google Earth it helps by leveling the field when it comes to providing spatial data by the use of servers. Where one earlier would need detailed knowledge (and funding) to set up ESRI products, one may now do the same investing only a couple of hours of work. Within hours you could be able to present spatial data within your own organization, or even externally using a web server.

This short article is a small review of Geoserver and some of its capabilities.
Web Map Services and Web Feature Services are tools for presenting spatial data both for internal and external consumption. In this article I will use an example from my workplace to show how a protected areas data set can be presented using Geoserver 2.0.2. Version 2.1 is just around the corner.

Download the article here:


Aug 172010

The uDig open source GIS system is now available for download. The new version continues a good tradition of shapefile presentations and editing. In this article we will forward some of their own info about the system.

uDig is ok for basic stuff. On the plus side it gives you good access to spatial databases like PostGIS, ArcSDE, Oracle Spatial, MySQL and more. On the down side the set of tools for editing and doing spatial arithmetic’s is fairly poor. One should of course keep in mind that uDig is a framework for developing new tools using it as a library.

uDigs website is here:

Features and capabilities of this release:

  • Access to GeoTools DataStores via a generic wizard allowing users to connect to many additional data formats and access all connection parameters.
  • One long standing difficulty with using large datasets is uDig wanting to know the bounds of the data (so it can efficiently search, zoom). For common spatial file formats this data is known and available; for large databases such as DB2 and PostgreSQL this can take some time to calculate. For the generic GeoTools DataStorewizard above we are experimenting with using bounds based simply on the valid area for coordinate reference system provided by the data.
  • The valid area of the coordinate reference system is also used when “clipping” WFS requests resolving some long standing issues when editing WFS services that do not update their Capabilities document.
  • Advanced: Control what features are requested for a layer using a Common Query Language (CQL) expression. The expression builder offers command completion with the full GeoTools? function list available as you type
  • Advanced: Cache support added allowing you to cache Raster layers in memory (please be working with large datasets as this is the first time uDig is allowing users to cache information in memory). Please note that raster file formats on disk are optimised and in may cases perform better than caching in memory. Caching in memory is recommended for formats such as jpeg (where the entire image must be loaded to display even a small section) and when working with data from a slow device such as the network or DVD.
  • Experimental: Cache support added allowing you to cache WFS layers in memory for increased performance (please be careful when working with large datasets as this is the first time uDig is allowing users to cache data in memory)
  • Enhanced Vector Editing
  • Revamped printing support, standard paper sizes are supported when printing
  • Import multiple layers into the catalog at once
  • switch between common map scales
  • Improved Drag and Drop support allowing multiple layers to be manipulated at once
  • Drag and Drop treats URL as a distinct content type across browser implementations
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