Launch of “open licence” national land cover dataset

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Source: PositionIT


The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) launched the National Land Cover 2013/2014 dataset on 9 June 2015 in Pretoria.

Land cover data is a crucial reference dataset that informs a variety of activities ranging from environmental planning and protection, development planning, economic development, compliance monitoring and enforcement. The NLC 2013/2014 dataset provides 72 land cover/land use classes at 1: 75 000 to 1: 1000 000 data application scale with a variety of features including agriculture, forestry, vegetation, wetlands, mining and built-up areas.


Alf Wills, Marlanie Moodley, Peter Luckey, Dee Fischer, Derek Clarke and Bulelwa Semoli.

Access to and utilisation of the updated NLC 2013/2014 dataset in strategic decision making, project planning and execution will contribute towards fulfilling the National Development Plan objective to accelerate economic growth in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Speaking at the launch, the deputy director general for the DEA, Alf Wills, said that the NLC 2013/2014 dataset was acquired with an open data user licence agreement to ensure unrestricted access to the data. He added that the custodians of the data would be the DEA and the DRDLR.

The keynote speaker, Derek Clarke from the DRDLR, thanked the DEA for this tremendous initiative and spoke about the importance of location and how most public policy making and development planning is geo-located. He stated that geo-spatial information is central to empowering people for inclusive development and that usability, accessibility and availability are three essential requirements for its effective use. Clarke highlighted the need for spatial data infrastructure explaining its role in bringing relevant geospatial information to the user, reliably and consistently within a governance framework. He concluded by saying that the geo-spatial community has a role to play in meeting the priorities and outcomes of government, and to achieve this political support and funding were required, as well as appropriate institutional arrangements and policies and standards.

The DRDLR’s Bulelwa Semoli spoke about the development of national land cover data products in South African over the medium and long term. She explained the legislative and reporting requirements, and outlined the history of South Africa’s land cover datasets and legends.  She stressed that to ensure the ongoing development of national land cover  data products sustainable funding is essential and that collaborative partner data relationships between national departments and government entities need to be formalised.

The DEA’s Marlanie Moodley spoke about the land cover data initiative explaining that the NLC 2013/2014 dataset was an extension of a Department for International Development (DFID) funded project specifically related to the reporting requirements for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). She outlined the vital role of the dataset to the DEA for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of its legislative mandate.

Moodley provided details on the land cover initiative, its data products and the various access platforms. She also explained that the dataset was acquired with an open licence agreement from commercial service provider GeoTerraImage. The open user licence agreement allows unrestricted access to the data by any entity or person with no additional costs, however, the intellectual property and copyright remains with GeoTerraImage.  Following the launch the company provided a technical overview of the dataset and its potential project applications.

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