Advancing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility is an effort by organizations to deploy their resources in a way that helps the organizations build a mutually productive and sustainable business relationship between them and the communities with which they do business. It is a massive force for social change and it works by producing and offering services that improve the lives of users of the services, and communities in which these companies operate. A true CSR gives an opportunity to the businesses involved to make the world a better place by ensuring their activities have a sustainable impact on the society. Measuring the impact of CSR in the Kenyan market is difficult because very few companies issue sustainability reports, and it is not compulsory to indicate how much they give under the banner of CSR. No legislation exists to compel them to do so.

CSR is a concept born of the premise that both for profit and not for profit organizations have various stakeholders whose different interests are affected one way or the other by an organization’s goals, operations or the behaviour of its members. The extent to which a company and its products are accepted in society is highly dependent on the extent to which the products and services meet the needs of the clients and generally the level to which the company is involved in meeting the real needs of the community. A firm working with the poor will boost its image consequently opening up new business opportunities for new products. The community will seamlessly support a firm that cares for them. Having the poor at heart is likely to generate political good-will from government through incentives such as tax relief and favourable policies. Neglecting CSR issues can lead to tarnishing the image of the firm and mass boycott of the firm’s products and services. Generally, a socially responsible business will create a win-win situation that will seek to offer the employees the best terms possible while pursuing its own profit objective in order to maximize shareholder value.

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GIS Certification and the current Kenyan situation

A prerequisite for setting up a viable certification program is the presence of a strong professional association that brings together most practitioners from the GIS industry. In Kenya, such a body does not exist and thus needs to be established first, to unify the profession and develop uniform standards for certification. This will go a step ahead and eliminate the issues that arose in the computing industry with the advent of many computer colleges leading several graduates with certificates but incompetent in the field.

 the below is concluded of GIS Certification:

GIS application areas cover a wide range of academic and professional preparation fields.  Because GIS professionals come from a wide variety of backgrounds and academic preparation, no one group can claim to represent all approaches and applications within the GIS community.  Also, given the volatile nature of the field, and the rapid change currently underway in software development and application deployment, adequate preparation today does not guarantee competency in the future.  Thus, an overarching program to ensure appropriate professional preparation and competency must be developed by those parties interested in safeguarding the viability of the field and the competency of those claiming professional status. By including a wide range of professional organizations within the certification development process, and working to include the interests of all GIS professionals by developing both a reasonable core set of competencies and appropriate specialized evaluations within the certification process, all groups will benefit from certification.

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Implementing GIS Certification

With several organizations taking an interest in promoting GIS, the establishment of rival and competing certification programs could be problematic and would almost certainly create confusion for persons entering the profession, as well as employers and the public. For GIS the greatest barrier to the establishment of certification programs is the broad nature of GIS applications.  Ideally, certification should represent an individual’s commitment to GIS as a profession.  Rather than address proprietary hardware and software packages, it should emphasize GIS fundamentals and principles.  Likewise, instead of being viewed as a pinnacle of achievement, certification should represent experience and competency coupled with a commitment to quality and integrity.   A possible model for certification involves identification of two categories of knowledge and competencies associated with GIS:

  • Core knowledge needed by all GIS professionals, and,
  • Specialized knowledge and experiences needed by individuals working in more narrowly defined GIS application areas.

GIS Certification will not become widely accepted unless organizations representing the range of GIS professionals agree to participate in establishing certification standards and methods of evaluation.  A solution would be for representatives from existing organizations with substantial interest in GIS to form an umbrella organization for the purpose of administering certification. Additional delegates to this group should include persons from academia and especially government and industry.  For certification to ultimately succeed among the entire spectrum of GIS professionals, these widely different groups must work together to build a cohesive set of standards and general testing criteria that are applicable and acceptable to all constituencies.

The first step towards developing a certification program is defining a set of core knowledge and competencies that are considered essential for all GIS professionals.  GIS professions in industry and government must take the lead in this process.  The core set of competencies and standards must be applicable throughout the broad range of GIS applications and professions to lend credibility to the certification process.  If the core competencies are not applicable to all professionals, then various groups may choose to opt out of the program.

Representatives from application areas must be willing to assist in identifying experience and competency needed for GIS professionals involved in specialty fields such as natural resources management, surveying, or the analysis of socioeconomic data.  Using guidelines provided by the umbrella certification organization, professional associations should be invited to develop explicit criteria for certification in the form of knowledge, work experience, and professional development.  While the core competencies must address those criteria deemed necessary for all GIS professionals there must also be a system for testing and evaluating knowledge and experience within specific GIS application areas. 

An important function of certification is to provide incentives for GIS professionals to continue developing or improving skills and knowledge.  This is critical in a field experiencing rapid change such as GIS.  A program to recertify GIS professions by requiring them to present evidence of professional development and continuing work experience should become a component of an overall plan for implementing certification. GIS Certification must include updating criteria, in that while the applications and development of GIS technology may not be in their infancy any longer, the field continues to experience rapid growth and change.

Although most GIS practitioners earn profits honestly, at times all GIS professionals are faced with choices influenced by personal ethics. The nature of GIS means that its results can easily be misconstrued or distorted.  The minority of GIS professionals who are unconcerned with the use of questionable data, the application of inappropriate or poorly applied analyses, or the integrity of interpretations have the potential for damaging the reputation of all persons involved in GIS. Thus professional ethics and behaviour must be a centrepiece within the development of standards for certification and recertification. 

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Arguments against GIS Certification

Many of the arguments against GIS certification are based on the fact that GIS embraces so many different professions that it is difficult to get anybody to agree what GIS is and what it is not. Opponents of GIS certification argue that GIS is too broad for a common set of competency standards or that more time is needed for the field to evolve.  Others note that certification will increase the cost of hiring GIS professionals and that professional organizations may initiate certification as a means of generating income. Others explain that not all GIS activities affect public welfare and safety and thus do not require oversight and are against the increased bureaucracy that is necessary for any certification or licensing program. Others base their arguments on historical pattern of GIS use by land managers and others that has been successful without certification.

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Arguments for GIS Certification

The URISA (Urban and Regional Information Systems Association) GIS Certification Com­mittee, in the year 2000, while in the process of coming up with the guidelines to setting up of the Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute (GISCI)  came up with a number of important reasons why GIS certification is needed:

  • To provide a means for attaining recognition by one’s colleagues and peers that the GIS professional has demonstrated professional competence and integrity in the field;
  • To encourage long-term professional development that will help existing professionals maintain currency in GIS technology and methods;
  • To ensure ethical behaviour by members of the profession and provide a basis for judging the validity of allegations or complaints against GIS practitioners;
  • To assist prospective employers to assess and hire GIS professionals;
  • To ensure that those who produce geographic information have a core competency of knowledge;
  • To define and protect professional bodies of knowledge;
  • To assist aspiring GIS professionals and professionals outside the GIS profession choose their educational opportunities wisely;
  • To contribute to the development of geographic information science;
  • Develop standard GIS job descriptions; and
  • To establish and maintain links to GIS education bodies

The committee came up with the GIS Professional Certification Program and the GIS Professional Code of Ethics which contain guidelines for GIS professionals to use when making professional career and ethical choices. The purpose of both programs is to provide professionals who work in the field of geographic information systems with a formal process that will allow them to be recognized by their colleagues and employers as having demonstrated professional competence and integrity in the field by maintaining high stan­dards of professional practice and ethical conduct.

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GIS Certification

GIS certification has been a contentious issue for many years. Many arguments for it have been advanced, the key one being that certification is the only way through which GIS profession can be defined for the consumer public. Arguments against certification have also been brought forward, an example being that certification will limit the widespread adoption of GIS technology, which is a tool that anybody should be free to use and it will increase the cost of hiring the GIS professionals.

Certification has been applied within many fields, from medicine to surveying. Accreditation is defined as evaluating the educational programs from where the individuals in a certain field received their training and education. Certification is defined as directly evaluat­ing the competency of the individual in a certain field.  Certification defers from licensure in that certification endorses expertise while licensure protects the public from incompetent practice.  In addition, licensure is administered by a governmental body while certification is usually administered by one’s professional peers. A practitioner is someone who engages in an occupation, profession, religion, or way of life. A GIS professional is someone who makes a living through learned professional work that requires advanced knowledge of geographic information systems and related geospatial technologies, data, and methods. GIS certification is defined as a process by which an institution evaluates the level of one’s experience in GIS.

The Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute (GISCI) is the certifying body for all GIS professionals in the US whose applications have been accepted. The program is a point-based system that is self-documented and calculated by the individual seeking certification. It does not include an examination. The certification programme is volun­tary and is intended to acknowledge the professional achievements of those people whose primary job responsibility involves the use of geospatial data technology. It is not a program for general users of GIS technology.

In Kenya, professional certification programs in areas such as accounting, engineering and survey are long-standing but GIS certification is yet to be set up. Despite efforts by vendors and academicians to develop and improve training and educational programs in geographic information systems, there are increasing calls for programs to certify GIS professionals. Much of the interest in implementing formal programs is tied to the need for explicit quality control. As of to date there is no widely accepted certification available for GIS professionals in Kenya. This is partly tied to difficulties in identifying desired qualifications of professionals within the multidisciplinary field of GIS. 

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