Breaking distance barriers

Nov 2007 | No Comment

An emerging GNSS research and application area at the Universiti Putra Malaysia. An overviewJICA started JICA NET Distance Education from 2004 in cooperation with JSPRS

Shunji Murai

General Secretary, Asian Association on Remote Sensing (AARS) and Professor Emeritus,
University of Tokyo,Japan

JAPAN International Coorperation Agency (JICA) initiated RS course once a year since 1978FY with full sponsorship to invite 10-15 trainees per year from developing countries. JICA expanded to mapping & surveying, hydrographic survey, GIS etc. However JICA has changed the policy to introduce partially e-learning system in 2004 to improve the cost-efficiency. The reason is that the cost to invite a person from a developing country used to be 10,000 US dollars per month in average.

JICA plans to expand JICA NET, a telephone-line based communication system to about 30 developing countries to enable TV conferences between Japan and developing countries. They include Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, Kenya, Argentine etc.

The objectives of JICA Distance Education are;

To supplement or replace “Face to Face” training courses which had been adopted by JICA in the past.

To increase cost performance with respect to number of trainees, high quality lecture materials and lecturers.

To promote advanced education using IT. To support capacity building in developing countries.

JICA contracted with Japan Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (JSPRS) in 2003 that the fundamental frame work should be proposed by Technical Committee on Strategic Plan for JICA NET Distance Education under the chairmanship of Prof Shunji Murai on remote sensing and GIS including the mission and goals, modules and contents, teaching methods etc. In 2003 FY, JSPRS prepared six CDs in total with 3 CDs for RS and another 3 CDs for GIS respectively including power point teaching materials with video and voice and English text for explanation. JICA started JICA NET Distance Education from 2004 FY in cooperation with JSPRS, JICA Offices in developing countries and a site facilitator representing from each developing country. Until now, eight rounds were implemented in the first three year project from October 2004 to March 2007 and a round has been just finished in the second three year project starting from August 2007.

Problems of conventional JICA training courses

The conventional “face to face” teaching style in a class would be the best if the teacher and the teaching materials were perfect. But this condition will be difficult to acquire in many cases. The following problems are recognizedby the Technical Committee.

1)It is too expensive for JICA to continue to invite trainees from developing countries to Japan. The cost as mentioned before will be about 10,000 US Dollars per person per month, which makes about 200,000 US Dollars if JICA invites 10 trainees for two month course.

2)There will be a limitation in term of the number of trainees; say 10 to 15 trainees per year for a course.

3)As there is also a limitation that JICA can find Japanese resource persons who can speak English fluently, some instructors prepared poor teaching materials without the aid of IT, which resulted in low quality lectures without inspection. In order to overcome those problems, JSPRS recommended JICA to prepare high quality teaching materials and select eminent lecturers or resource persons, who can speak English well.

Goals of JICA distance education on RS and GIS

Realizing the requirements of developing countries particularly in Asia, JICA and JSPRS agreed to set up the following two goals:

1)To promote capacity building for human resource development to support sustainable development of natural resources and environment using RS & GIS.

2)To provide self learning materials through e-learning to upgrade the capability of applicability. The main target of trainees will be governmental staffs, who are operating RS and/or GIS on daily basis or are going to introduce RS and GIS in their technical projects. Teaching faculty and researchers of universities will be also accepted as trainees.

Basic design of a course

1)Power Point materials: 25-35 slides per module for 11 modules in total. The 12th module is a special module on application of RS or GIS which is composed of 20 applications respectively. Each module except the 12th module will take about 30 minutes lecture with voice and video. The lecture will be delivered at each site using CD and LED projector. The text of explanation in English is distributed to each participant.

2)After watching the power point materials with voice and video, about 30 minutes will be given to Q&A session through TV conference for three or four developing countries. A resource person should be responsible for answering questions on site. Email services will be also provided in case when there are some more questions which are not accepted at TV conference due to time limitation.

3)The contents of Q&A session are recorded in writing materials and distributed to the participants afterward. Q&A session will be supported by a facilitator at each site, whose knowledge will be high enough to bridge between the resource person and participants.

4)A course on a day will be three hours and half which accommodate three modules including Q&A sessions. In consideration of time difference between Japan and a developing county, the time difference of six hours in maximum will be the limitation to accept the JICA NET Distance Education. Those limited countries include Kenya, Jordan, Turkey, etc.

5)12 modules each for RS and GIS can be managed for four half days including examination on the fourth day.

6)Those who attended 75 % and more the lectures and passed examination with more than 60% completion will be conferred Certificate of Successful Completion in the name of JICA and JSPRS.

7)Three or four developing countries are selected under the condition that JICA local office is requested by the developing country and a facilitator can be assigned who will call for participants and serve as an assistant through all courses.

8)The maximum number of each country will be less than 40.

Course for applications of RS and GIS

The application module has been added since 2005 FY. This module was designed without a pressure of examination. The objectives of application module are as follows:

1)To follow up those courses on theories and techniques from Module No. 1 to No. 11,

2)To introduce a variety of examples of typical and interesting applications in remote sensing and GIS for better management of environment and natural resources,

3)To demonstrate how remote sensing and GIS have been successfully used in the actual projects as well as research and development, and

4)To make decision makers, managers, scientists and graduate students understand how remote sensing and GIS can be applied with success. The list of applications for RS and GIS is shown below.

RS Applications

*Land Cover Map based on Satellite Imagery

*Countrywide Land Cover Mapping

*Monitoring of Urban Growth in Hanoi

*Urban Change Study in Mongol

*Updating Forest Map Height Measurement of Trees by Lidar Data
*Flood Damage Map in Bangladesh

*Flood Damage Mapping for Rice Fields

*Monitoring of Water Quality

*Monitoring Shrimp Farming

*Application to Fishery

*Topographic Mapping from IKONOS Stereo Imagery

*Automated Extraction of Roads

*3D Measurement of Volcanic Crater

*Monitoring Earthquake Damage

* Earthquake Damage Detection using HRSI

*Monitoring Rice Growth by SAR

*Global Mapping

*Assessment of Desertification in Arid Area

*Image Mapping System using Kite Balloon

GIS Applications

*Suitable Land Selection for Agricultural Development

*Optimum Vehicle Routing Real Time GIS Data Capturing

*Environmental Study with GPS, Digital Camera and GIS

*Flood Hazard Map

*Flood Free Route Location

*Flood Simulation with Lidar Data Shelter Suitability Analysis

*GIS Database for Management of Irrigation Facilities

*Drought Risk Assessment

*Height Measurement of Buildings with Lidar Data

*Contour Mapping with Lidar Data

*3D City Model with IKONOS and Lidar Data

*Superposition of Historical Maps onto Present Map

*Visibility Analysis of Mt. Fuji

*Crime Mapping and Analysis

*Disaster Management System for City Gas Network

*GIS Map for 1995 Kobe
*Earthquake Damage Assessment

*Time-space Mapping Scheduling for Day Care Service


The following eight rounds in the first three year projects were implemented since October 2004 until March 2007. The results of examination for each round are shown with respect to remote sensing and GIS course as follow:

*1stRound (2004): Malaysia {65/85%}, Thailand {90/95%} and Turkey {71/77%}

*2nd Round (2005): Vietnam {100/96%}, Philippines {92/95%} and Laos {6/44%}

*3rd Round (2005): Kenya {74/100%}, Sri Lanka {80/91%} and Thailand {91/100%}

*4th Round (2005): Jordan {71/100%}, Turkey {60/100%}, Vietnam {100/100%} and Philippines {89/100%}

*5th Round (2006): Malaysia {76/91%}, Cambodia {27/80%} and Laos {60/60%}

*6th Round (2006): Palestine {94/94%}, Bangladesh {94/94%}, Sri Lanka {92/96%} and Kenya {82/97%}

*7th Round (2006): Thailand {57/79%}, Vietnam {65/100%}, Mongol {100/64%} and Philippines {59/79%}

*8th Round (2007): Jordan {100/100%}, Kenya {69/94%}, Cambodia {10/53%}

The total number of registered participants for remote sensing course was 661, number of participants who challenged examination 573, number of participants who got successful completion of examination 413 and failed 170 for 13 countries.

The total number of registered participants for GIS course was 665, number of participants who challenged examination 582, number of participants who got successful completion of examination 582 and failed 61 for 13 countries.

Advantages of JICA net distance education

According to the questionnaires answered by participants, the following advantages are recognized.

1)It will be possible for beginners to study RS and GIS systematically.

2) Many participants from different organizations and different countries can share knowledge and experience through the distance education. Particularly TV conference was appreciated by participants for the interactive communication between the lecturer and participants in cooperation of facilitator. Figure 1 shows a big TV screen which showed class rooms of four countries.

3)The record of Q&A session in written form was evaluated very useful to understand many parts and items which are not mentioned in the lectures and the text.

4)The examination with the submission of certificate for successful completion had become incentive to concentrate into the lecture and Q&A session.

5)Those participants can repeat self-learning with given CDs at any time and anywhere.

6)E-mail service for extra Q&A session after ordinary session was sometimes useful for those participants to make special questions to the lecturer.

7)IT technology such as touch panel can be applied as shown in Figure 2.


10JICA NET Distance Education contributed to developing countries in terms of capacity building of remote sensing scientists, technicians, engineers and/or managers who are engaged in governmental projects and university lecture and research.

2)JICA NET Distance Education proved successful with respect to the cost effectiveness as compared with the conventional “face to face education”. The number of trainees in the distance education will reach about 200 for three courses in a year, while the conventional training just 10 to 15. Until now since 2004, more than 1,000 trainees including RS and GIS courses have completed the Distance Education with less than 20 times expenses.

3)The interactive TV conference for Q&A session is highly appreciated to supplement the mechanical feeling of “video show type” lecture

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