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 concluded in 2017, although there is ongoing support through newer funding mechanisms.
Albania was 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.
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.
Crowdsourcing for registration og businesses in Albania
The Albanian Mapping Authority (ASIG) has in cooperation with the Norwegian Mapping Authority established a solution for mapping of businesses in Albania.
This innovative crowdsourcing solution allows tax authorities without spatial data expertise to collect and register spatial data for the country in a simple way in the field.
In 2013, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted 10 million kroner to the Norwegian Mapping Authority to support the establishment of a state mapping authority in Albania. Albania was the last country in Europe without its own mapping authority. Albanian Mapping Authority (ASIG) was established in January 2014 and now has 50 employees.
The Norwegian Mapping Authority has assisted ASIG in procurement of office space and equipment, a strategic work plan for the coming years, and a simple geoportal that quickly demonstrates the benefits of a mapping authority and helped the government to allocate 3.5 million euros for creating new orthophotos and lidar scanning for 28,000 km2 of the country.
During a visit to ASIG in September 2015, the Albanian tax authorities enquired whether ASIG could assist with maps for registration of enterprises in Albania. Five hundred tax inspectors, each equipped with a tablet, launched a nationwide campaign to reduce the black economy and increase revenue from tax and VAT. The tax Inspectors, however, lacked a tool to pinpoint enterprises, because there are no street addresses. Along with ASIG it was decided to investigate whether inspectors could use a solution for locating firms on a map directly from a tablet.
A small IT company in Tirana was contacted, and within a few hours ASIG had signed a contract worth 15 000 euro. Two days later, the IT company demonstrated a solution for the tax authorities, and during the following days tax inspectors were trained. During the first week 900 companies were registered and located on the map. As of mid-November 2015, 79 000 enterprises had been registered.
The solution is a form of crowdsourcing, whereby tax inspectors locate businesses on the map and also record data about ownership, type of business, etc. The information is sent online to a central database, which is also part of the solution that Norway has financed.
The solution has shown how useful it is to have a working mapping authority in Albania, and that crowdsourcing is an effective tool in many contexts. Finally, this is also an example of the effect of flexible Norwegian assistance when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs trusts that the Norwegian Mapping Authority can manage the funds in a good way.