GIS is largely an unregulated field in South Africa, though this is changing.  As the field grows and becomes more popular, it is also a necessary step to ensure quality control and regulation of GIS practitioners.  As yet, the certification scheme is not enforced by all private companies, and some current practitioners have not heard about it.


PLATO allows for people with sufficient appropriate qualifications to register as land surveyors or GIS technicians, technologists, and professionals.  As with many webpages of South African governmental and non-governmental organisations, this one is not very user friendly.  After navigating to the pages regarding GIS registration, you are presented with a fairly empty-looking page.  In order to read the white-text-on-white-background, click Ctrl-A on your keyboard, and this will select all the text and make it visible.

Having demonstrated this level of technical savvy, the next step is to work your way through a very exhaustive points system to show that you have spent many hours attaining experience in mathematics, science, research and a host of other fields.  While being very good in covering what should be known by a GIS practitioner, I think that the credit system is too constrained in its presumptions.  For example, seventy hours of work are required to demonstrated that a person is able to use field data capture devices.  This seems to neglect the fact that different people will take different amounts of time to acquire proficiency at this.  While it may indeed take a grade 9 learner seventy hours, it may take a postgraduate student only five hours to become proficient at new data capture devices.

I hope that the reason for these overestimates is simply that at some point someone forgot that they equated 1 credit to 10 hours of nominal work.  These whole numbers limit the system; the minimal unit is too large, and simply not appropriate.

I don’t, however, want to make it look as if the system is not necessary.  Nor do I suggest that a do-over will be beneficial.  Rather, I think that the very well structured system be kept (ensuring that GIS practitioners have experience in the required fields of study), but that the period of experience be reconsidered.

It is not necessary for a GIS practitioner to have spent a solid two weeks collecting metadata.  That is a waste of South Africa’s intellectual capital, and will hinder the development of this amazing field in our country.  We need to encourage those who will be steering and supporting the fastest growing IT sector, not load them with unnecessary admin as we have done with people in the education sector.  Thankfully that has been eradicated for the most part now.


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