Supporting the development of a new Mapping Authority

In 2012 the Government of Albania decided to establish a national mapping authority (State Agency for Geographic Information- “Autoriteti Shtetëror i Informacionit Gjeohapësinor” - ASIG), based on the overall national strategy for development and European integration. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided a grant of NOK 9 663 000 to help kick start a national mapping authority in Albania. The Norwegian Mapping Authority has implemented the project and it is currently concluding.

Background

Albania is the last country of the West Balkan region to establish a national mapping authority. Before this, there was no mapping authority to store and distribute geographic data, to contribute to e-government, to participate in the EU Inspire program, or to implement the NSDI for Albania. Geodesy, mapping and preparation of geographic information has hitherto been spread among several agencies.

Photomaps and limited amounts of other maps have been produced for restitution of ownership and for legalization of informal buildings, etc, However, access to up-to-data geographic information is very limited compared with more advanced European countries. This is a significant problem to overall planning and land management as well as to development in many sectors, such as the energy sector.  A system for use of satellite positioning for surveying and mapping (ALPOS) was implemented some years ago, but the system is out of operation. The responsibility for the system will be transferred to ASIG.

The overall objective of the project was to support the establishment of a national mapping authority for Albania. The Albanian government will ensure appropriate staffing, premises and basic infrastructure. Norway is asked to transfer knowledge and help with upgrading  of existing core geographic data and make them available for users as well as with aligning the new authority with best European practices and with EU regulations on harmonization and exchange of geographic data.

The project lasted 3 years, concentrating on establishing a solid platform for continued operation of the new authority. The Norwegian Mapping Authority worked with the Albanian partner in developing an operational plan and a business plan and bring in place the basic capacities for storage and distribution of geographic data in compliance with international standards and the EU Inspire directive. 

Rather than producing new data, the first years were used to bring together and harmonize data, which existed in various institutions, and to establish a modern system for distribution of data to users. Thereafter efforts were focused on developing a strategic business plan; making improvements of the basic geodetic framework; establishing technical solutions and a geoportal for storage and distribution of data to users; on ensuring the use of International standards for data upgrading and documentation; on assuming control of the Albanian satellite positioning system (ALPOS) and making it operational for users; on  developing a strategy for NSDI in compliance with the EU Inspire directive; and finally on training and capacity building. 

It was important that the new authority as quickly as possible became visible, providing basic geographic information and services to users.

Target group of the project

The project was directly targeting the new mapping Authority of Albania. By doing so, a wide group of users in private and public sectors were assisted with access to geographic data, which they need for planning, construction and monitoring. This includes public bodies and private companies in the energy sector, where Norwegian companies are heavily involved. The general public will also benefit from improved access to geographic information.

Geographic information is a vital component to a functioning e-government. It is estimated that up to 90 % of decisions in public sector has a geographic reference. In many cases information are better communicated when shown on maps.

Results

Norwegian support was crucial for the establishment and operation of ASIG during 2014. Already during 2014, they were able to make substantial amounts of existing geographic information available to users via a a temporary portal.  From January 2015, ASIG moved into permanent offices funded by the state budget. More staff has been recruited to a total of 25.  Recently the Government has announced that ASIG will take over two map producing units currently operated by the military and the navy respectively, and Kartverket has supported ASIG and the Ministry of Innovation and Public Administration with advice concerning the potential reorganisation.

In 2016 multiple technical activities took place. Albania has gotten their three points of gravimetry measured and a couple of joint workshops were held with Kosovo and Montenegro to further plan their activities for their respective national reference frames. A report concerning the Albanian Base Map was developed. A transition from the temporary geoportal to the permanent version was initiated. A project for scanning and georeferencing old maps and orthophotos was initiated. Also multiple international Inspire-documents have been translated into Albanian and an information campaign concerning the importance of geographical data was hosted by the Albanian Prime minister. The project also funded study visits for ASIG.

In the first half of 2017 all activities were implemented and completed and the project was finalized as planned in June 2017.

Albanian – Norwegian Hydrographic Information Project

The project will contribute to competence and capacity building for the Albanian Hydrographic Service (AHS) and the Military Geographical Institute (MIG). Both institutes are led by the Ministry of Defense. 

AHS is responsible for depth mapping and navigational marking (buoys, lights, etc.). Sea measurement activities are currently underfunded, with a lack of equipment and usable boats.

Activities

The Norwegian Mapping Authority is assisting AHS with the acquisition of multibeam solutions for processing and management of data. The project will also provide for the education of hydrographs, as well as the procurement and installation of  two tide gauges.

MGI is responsible for the production of sea and land maps, as well as the national geodetic network. MIG has a lot of good skills, but lacks modern equipment. Much of the support for this institute will be acquisition of production systems for ENCs and paper charts. Necessary upgrades to the network, server capacity and workstations will be included.  A "production line" will be established that includes both institutes.