Sustainable Development: The Contribution from GISc Education in South Africa

Serena Coetzee, Sanet Eksteen, Christopher Grundling


Concerns over the negative impact of the deteriorating environment and declining natural resources on economic and social development prompted the drive towards sustainable development, i.e. development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Economic growth, environmental balance, social inclusion and culture have been identified as the four dimensions of sustainable development. These dimensions and their interactions are inherently spatial. Geographic information science (GISc) and geographic information systems (GIS) provide the theoretical foundation and applied technology to support planning and decision-making for sustainable development. GISc professionals are required to realise South Africa’s sustainability goals put forth by the National Planning Commission. In this paper we investigate the current state of GISc education at universities in South Africa to determine whether GISc is included in relevant disciplines for sustainable development. Individual university websites and yearbooks were downloaded and analysed. Degree programmes were categorised according to a list of prominent GISc application fields. The analysis revealed that GISc is widely included in South African tertiary degree programmes related to the environmental balance dimension of sustainable development, but not in degree programmes related to the other three dimensions, namely economic growth, social inclusion and culture.

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