Chief Surveyor General

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  The Department of Land Affairs has earmarked R15 million for investment in the ReGIS Geographic Information system, for use in capturing all the boundaries of urban land parcels in South Africa.

The ambitious plan, aptly dubbed "Project Miracle", aims to capture approximately 6,2 million urban properties - translating to around 30 000 a day - into digital format on ReGIS by the end of 1997.

At a normal pace, the workload would take between three and four years to complete. Approximately 300 000 rural properties have already been captured into ReGIS.

Chief Surveyor General, Mr Ken Lester, explains the reason for acceleration of the project:

"Various government departments charged with a host of national planning functions require this information urgently, in order to fulfill their responsibilities. These functions relate to, among others, the census, elections, telecommunications, water resources, provision of electricity, housing and even identification of state land, as part of the Government's Land Reform policy."

A major, immediate user of this data would be the Department of Central Statistical Services, for use in identifying the enumeration areas for statistical purposes, relating to the 1996 Census. Another, looming need is for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to relate the 1996 Census Data to enumerated areas for the purpose of planning for national elections in 1999.

The country-wide proliferation of informal settlements also urgently need to be captured for the purposes of all aspects of planning, as do the transitional local councils, magisterial districts and provincial boundaries.

  "Most of the challenges facing those charged with planning throughout the country are spatially related", notes Lester.

"In this regard, ReGIS, which has for the past seven years formed the basis of the spatial content of our information, plays a major role in our overall information systems."

"With the availability of trained staff and our general experience on the system, as well as the proven track record of ReGIS in this department, it made sense to stick with the system for the current exercise," he adds.

A total of 68 new ReGIS licenses have been purchased to ensure the success of Project Miracle. He points out that, in a mammoth task of this nature, all resources - including both computers and human resources - need to be harnessed to ensure the success of the operation. A host of individual contractors in the private sector have therefore been pulled in for the duration of the project.

By making the R15 million available to the project, Lester notes that his department will have effectively accelerated the exercise - and in turn, enabled each relevant government department to speed up delivery of essential services - by at least three years.