Mapping as a Post-Covid-19 Recovery Tool in South Africa
Maps offer many ways to unlock national prosperity for South Africa in its post-Covid-19 recovery. Here are key areas on which to focus for a start.
Mapping as an action
Maps are tools of empowerment. The action of “mapping” is the act of planning, determining, laying out clearly, guiding. Maps are physical representations as much as idea spaces. To map, therefore, is a process of creation.
With the pandemic lingering as fresh in our minds as its economic devastation, how can mapping create a new path to recovery for South Africa?
The geographic nature of problems
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the geographic relationships and intricacies of our modern world: from global to hyper local mobility patterns, the distribution and concentrations of resources, and access to them.
Mapping, like a century and a half earlier during a cholera outbreak in England, proved vital in visualising, understanding and responding to the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Today, geospatial analyses provide insights into even more complex geographic relationships and their dependencies.
These geospatial techniques and analyses could benefit us in our post-Covid-19 recovery, addressing grand challenges such as high unemployment, a fragile health care system, strategic investment and more.
Establishing a healthy health care system
The national health care data gathered over the past two years, for example, should enable a thorough analysis of the areas and regions deserving immediate attention. The same data should highlight the healthcare system’s strengths and help develop geographic networks of success.
These approaches can then be expanded to other sectors, based on their national priority. A focus on the economy and education system could offer great national benefits too.
A geographic approach could help inform a response for reactivating the economy. A geographic approach can be used to identify and help those financially most affected during the pandemic. It could also highlight areas of workforce demand and supply. Geospatial analyses will very likely show clusters of areas that can benefit from targeted interventions. Mapping may also serve as a tool for measuring the success of such implementations.
Maps will prove just as valuable in light of the new work-from-home situation – be it for recruiting new talent, expanding businesses and services into new areas, or for rolling out infrastructure to underserved areas cut off from the remote-working economy.
City planners and policy makers will need to adapt to decentralising cities, with the geography of transport and other infrastructure needing rethinking. Understanding whom to serve where, made visible through maps and up-to-date data, makes this possible.
Restarting tourism with strategy
Covid-19 restrictions locally and globally brought the country’s prominent tourism industry to its knees. As world travel reopens, a coordinated approach between government and private sector tourism services will be important to restart this industry. Geographic analyses can help guide marketing and safety approaches, and provide a strategic starting point by focusing on areas with the highest odds of success.
Turning the corner on digital education
Education systems globally were set back by Covid-19, which upended school terms, exams and access to teaching resources. Over 1.1 million children in South Africa were left out of school in 2020, according to Stats SA.
Even before the pandemic, the quality of education has had a strong geographic component in South Africa. Digital education was hailed for its promise of new opportunities and access to world-class educational resources. The pandemic shattered that vision, and instead further highlighted the existing digital infrastructure disparities.
There is an urgency to incorporate into the educational system a generation who will otherwise be left behind, with multi-generational consequences.
Taking all a pandemic has to offer
Maps are critical tools for government and businesses serious about success if not survival, as well as for organisations working on societal change and challenges.
Churchill famously said never to let a good crisis go to waste. Why not use the same tools that guided a global response to the Covid-19 pandemic to steer us into a new era of well-being and unlock national value and prosperity?
Talk to us about your unique challenges to find out if we have the solution you need.