What you need to know:
- In first-world countries geomatics conduct predictive risk management and determine where floods, earth movements, wild fires and other natural calamities are likely to occur.
- They also use geomatics to predict crime rates in certain areas based on previous occurrences, and help to develop special intelligence for law enforcement agencies to tackle the vice.
Nahashon Adero is a geomatics expert, a lecturer at Taita Taveta University, and doctoral student at Freiberg University of Mining and Technology in Germany.
Are you happy about where you are in your career?
I am almost done with the coursework for my PhD degree, which was my ultimate academic goal. When I graduate, I will have fulfilled my desire for teaching, research and mentorship, and I am content with that.
What lessons have you learnt from working abroad?
When self-discipline and rule of law prevail, the society will progress smoothly. In Germany, passengers obtain receipts to use trains before they start their trips, and they prudently purchase the tickets yet those receipts are rarely inspected in the course of the journey. Germans know that it is only by faithfully paying their taxes that the government will be able to provide them with essential services. This gives them the moral authority to question their government’s expenditure. Public officers in the developed world often resign for transgressions that can be viewed as minor here in Kenya, including showing up late for meetings. Yet Kenyan state officers sometimes defy court orders openly.
What is geomatics?
It is the science, technology and art of gathering, analysing and interpreting data relating to the earth’s surface through various methods. It involves surveying and mapping. Most of the data you need for planning and decision making in the public sector depends on the geography of that particulate location. This is where Geomatics comes in.
What do geomatics do?
They use images captured by satellites to determine the actual distribution of natural resources such as forest cover. They also design roads, airports and residential buildings to ensure that they are properly built. They also craft and plan social development programmes and ensure that they are conducted in areas where they are most needed. They do this by collecting and analysing information about specific locations, the kind of services required there, and how the existing infrastructure is distributed.
Do we have the technology required by geomatics?
Kenya still relies on traditional surveying techniques to address events such as disasters. Politicians often promise action after tragedies have occurred, which is not the practice in developed countries. In Finland, for instance, geomatics conduct predictive risk management and determine where floods, earth movements, wild fires and other natural calamities are likely to occur.
First-world countries also use geomatics to predict crime rates in certain areas based on previous occurrences, and help to develop special intelligence for law enforcement agencies to tackle the vice. Predictive risk management allows authorities to take appropriate measures to reduce unwanted occurrences.
You have been popularising the concept of spatial injustice for long. What is that and why is it important?
Statistics, on their own, may be deceptive and do not give an accurate reflection of the actual situation. There is need to explore and study other parameters before making any decision. When you say that 30 per cent of the population in a geographical area has access to water, you have to consider the fact that this percentage could be concentrated in one area, otherwise you will be committing spatial injustice. Understanding the concept of space and justice could help eliminate disputes surrounding allocation of public funds, and encourage development.
Why do you think that brain drain is just an illusion?
I lecture students at a local university through video and live interactive sessions. They ask questions and I give them assignments from my office in Germany. This helps me save on time and travelling costs.
Through technology, we can benefit from talented Kenyans who are in the diaspora to grow our economy. We need to abandon the traditional mentality that Kenyans abroad can only make meaningful contributions by relocating back to the country.
Other than unemployment, what is the biggest challenge facing youth in Kenya?
Our education system is flawed because it doesn’t train students to be competitive in the job market. There’s a huge gap in people skills, communication skills and progressive thinking in our school curriculum. Soft skills, though critical in today’s world, aren’t taught in our schools. Consequently, few young people can pitch a winning idea to prospective employers. It is a waste of time and resources to train an engineer who could have become an excellent salesperson.
How can this be addressed?
We must start taking view of the bigger picture. This is the decade within which we should realise Vision 2030, and it is the young people who will provide the labour and ideas necessary for us to achieve our goals. Therefore, collaboration between industry stakeholders and learning institutions is vital.
Are there goals in your career that you’ve had to give up on?
As a young boy, I admired priests, and my mother encouraged me to become one.
However, later in life I discovered that I was passionate about engineering and I pursued it. I learnt that in life, there are many opportunities that are just waiting to be seized. You need to identify these opportunities and be ready to take advantage of them at all times. American entrepreneur Jim Ron says that individuals should work harder on developing themselves than they do on their jobs.
What is your proudest contribution to the country?
I have mentored young graduates since 2014, based on the three core values of diligence, excellence and intergenerational responsibility. I help my mentees draft CVs that correctly describes their professional abilities and I am happy that many of them are doing well in their careers.
What would you tell other aspiring academics?
You need to be diligent. PhD study is only for students who are determined and focused, not just those who are bright.
It took me 10 years to enrol for my doctoral degree because I did not have sufficient funds. Self-discipline helps you stay grounded. If you avoid distractions, you can go far.
Do you regret any of the sacrifices that you’ve made so far?
Studying in Germany meant that I would be away from family for many months, but I grabbed the opportunity anyway. It turned out that PhD students are entitled to allowances, and this has helped me travel the world for academic conferences and even to meet my family occasionally.