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  The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) within the National Planning Commission (NPC) intends to introduce an Internet web-based Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to all the 13 regions. The object of this plan is to enable the country's 13 regions to implement their developmental projects effectively, according to those involved.

The CBS has embarked upon information needs assessment meetings in all the regions so that it could identify the needs of its stake-holders.

Since all the 13 regions are at different levels of development, the CBS saw it fit to visit all regions and to find out what their needs are in terms of their capacity in information technology, adequate human and institutional resources, and statistical and spatial data, among others.

Ottilie Mwazi, a chief statistician at CBS's Survey, Cartography and Geographical Information Systems Department, said the GIS is one of the best tools for regional development. It will improve the national statistical system at the regional level in order to provide the country's thirteen regions with relevant tools and information for regional planning and development.

The system offers developmental planners or other users a vast store of knowledge on any specific location in a country that will help in areas such as establishing the feasibility of building a clinic or a school in an informal settlement area, providing data on how many people reside in that particular area, for example.

To use GIS requires hardware, software, data and qualified staff.

The Central Bureau of Statistics has requested the services of Hennie Loots, a consultant, to assess the regions' capacity in the above areas and to propose an integrated capacity building plan to incorporate into the third National Statistical Plan (NSP-3).

This means that only identified and prioritised statistical needs will be included in the formulation of NSP-3 to cut costs.

Although the last plan, NSP-2 was implemented with success, the CBS highlighted the need for identifying and collecting only quality, timely and relevant statistics to save costs.

The GIS system would be put at one central point in each region, where all stake-holders could have access to it.

Meanwhile, stakeholders at the meeting called for the decentralisation of the National Planning Commission.

Some participants at the meeting taking place here said they did not know that the CBS exists. They said there was no direct link between the regions and the CBS. Nevertheless, they were happy to meet some of the staff at the CBS. Some participants were happy with the presentation of statistics produced by CBS, while others found it difficult to interpret.

One participant said there was a tendency for statisticians to present reports in a sophisticated manner that many people could not understand.

The participant also proposed to the CBS to present their statistical reports in local languages.

Mwazi admitted there was a lack of coordination at national and regional levels and she called for all stakeholders to work together with CBS as a team to remedy the situation.

She said her office is critically understaffed while the expert capacity of some workers is limited in certain areas.

The National Planning Commission team has already visited eight regions.

Mwazi said they would draft a report that they will send back to the regions for more input after which they will present a national report.

New Era