The Fijian Elections Office [FEO] presented a complete data set of almost 1500 proposed polling venues to the National Disaster Management Office [NDMO] on Friday, 25 November 2016.
The presentation of the data set took place during the Fiji Geospatial Information Management Third Annual Conference held at the Novotel, Lami.
As this year’s theme for the Conference was about ‘Mapping the Disaster’, the Supervisor of Elections, Mr Mohammed Saneem, felt that the platform could be used to share what FEO has in terms of spatial data.
“This could assist organizations such as NDMO during natural disasters. The polling venues could be used as evacuation centres as facilities such as schools and community halls were mapped using GPS,” said Mr Saneem.
When locating polling venues, FEO looks at the various features of the locations including:
- Close proximity to the voters who are served by the location
- Accessible polling locations for people with disabilities
- Buildings must have an adequate-sized room or hallway sufficient to meet the needs for setting up equipment and voter check-in stations, including adequate space for voters to wait in line
- Adequate lighting
- The location must have sufficient parking available for voters’ use on Election Day
- Proper sanitation and hygiene
These features are also important when locating evacuation centres during natural disasters.
FEO has been exploring the use of a GPS plotting exercise since last year to determine the exact location of each polling venue.
The FEO share their GIS experiences with the rest of the participants during the Fiji Geospatial Information Management Third Annual Conference.
The data set of points were collected using GPS by forty  field staff on a duration of six  months from December 2015 to May 2016 where they were deployed all throughout Fiji.
“Providing the correct information to the correct person at the correct location includes a lot of hard work and this is where Geographical Information System [GIS]-based mapping technology has come to FEO’s aid,” said Mr Saneem.
The GIS is used in many sectors including climate change and green growth and is an important computer based tool which helps to better understand data through visualisation.
The FEO has come a long way in terms of GIS, first starting in 2006 where a web interface was used to check polling stations along the Suva-Nausori corridor only.
It was on a very small scale in terms of displaying spatial data online.
Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism and Lands and Mineral Resources, Mr Faiyaz Koya, in his key note address during the Annual Conference, highlighted that with the data provided by FEO, there is now access to digital mapping of all the nation’s evacuation centres which can be located in an instant.
“In this regard, I want to thank the Fijian Elections Office for the data its officials are handing over where all of its polling stations in the nation’s schools are located. And these schools of course are also evacuation centres in the event of natural disaster and are critical to the well-being and safety of our people,” said Honourable Minister Koya.
He added that the data will be entered in to the national system that was launched during the Annual Conference called the VanuaGIS or Geo-Spatial Information System.
The FEO, along with other speakers, participate in a discussion session during the Fiji Geospatial Information Management Third Annual Conference.
The VanuaGIS web portal is a platform for the sharing of data sets or information from different organisations visually allowing for a more effective and efficient approach to work better as a team.
“The VanuaGIS is the first of its kind in Fiji, integrating data sets from different organisations such as the Fijian Elections Office and bringing it all together in one place; one platform. It is a tool that is long overdue because data sharing has been one of the biggest challenges in Fiji and never before has it been so important for us to be able to gather information and use it quickly and effectively,” said Honourable Minister Koya.
The Annual Conference provides a platform for stakeholders including the Ministry of Land and Mineral Resources, FEO, NDMO, Ministry of Infrastructure, Fiji Electricity Authority, iTaukei Land Trust Board, Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar Industry Tribunal, Pacific Community [SPC], Water Authority of Fiji and PASCO to discuss, collaborate and assist in promoting the growth of GIS.
FEO became a member of the Fiji Geospatial Information Management Council in May 2015 after providing an expression of interest endorsed by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources.
“The FEO will benefit a lot from the implementation of a spatial information management programme in order to better prepare for and manage national elections,” said Mr Saneem.