UNIGIS was invited to contribute to the Asia Geospatial Forum 2014 (AGF) held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 25th to 27th November, 2014 and to conduct the 'GeoCapacity Forum' - bringing together academia, industry, organisations and students on a common education-oriented platform for face-to-face interaction. The AGF is one of the biggest regional conferences focussed on Geospatial themes in S/E Asia and has been organised in a different country every year since 2003. UNIGIS has been entrusted with a prominent role of conducting Geospatial Capacity Building sessions at the event since 2005.
Dr. Shahnawaz (Director, UNIGIS S/E Asia) represented UNIGIS and gave the lead presentation setting-up the overall framework as well as moderating the forum involving about 30 participants from Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. The first session was dedicated to presentations from students, organisations and industry followed by a second session devoted to plenary discussion.
The forum concluded with a vibrant open-floor discussion where a majority of students expressed that most of the educational institutions in the region offer geospatial study programmes at undergraduate levels and the GIS skills attained at this level are not sufficient to secure them good jobs. On the other side, the representatives of organisations and industry expressed that they are not finding the 'ready-to-deliver' job-seekers, which is hampering the growth of geospatial projects in the affected regions.
Two distinguished panalists, Prof. Mastura Mahmud (Deputy Dean of Research, National University of Malaysia) and Dr. Chawee Busayat (Director of ITarch, Thammasat University, Thailand) exchanged their experiences about Geospatial Education in the SE Asia region as well as their visionary ideas for expanding it across the ASEAN space and enhancing its status to meet the challenges of the Job market. They also suggested that universities should offer geospatial education as a blend of online distance learning and classroom based residential periods. This will help not only current students, but also shall provide opportunities for in-service professionals to enhance their competences.
The attendees largely agreed that there is a need of exploring alternative modes of delivering geospatial education in the region serving the needs of current students as well as in-service professionals; all agreed that online distance learning programmes will serve these Needs best!