NSPDR Ecosystem NSPDR Ecosystem
all about the

Setting the Scene


South Africa does not have a central repository that utilises spatial data for spatial planning, monitoring, evaluation and coordination purposes at a national level. There is no formal collaboration on metadata kept or data custodianship being recorded to the effect according to the prescriptions of the Spatial Data Infrastructure Act (Act 54 of 2003).

The lack of the availability of up-to-date spatial datasets to the public and private sector causes extensive time wastage and insecurity as data quality, scale and recentness is undermined. Currently, most departments have standalone databases and tools that are being used for planning and reporting purposes. Many of these do not have integrated spatial referencing and some departments rely only on spreadsheets to manage their planning and business processes.

As a result, information is not readily accessible to the relevant users and planning is often done in isolation without cognisance of associated needs and impacts from other services. This has resulted in the duplication of common datasets across existing databases, which in turn has resulted in data differences and related data conflicts.

This has led to fragmented planning processes characterised by delays and misalignment. In turn, it affects integrated development planning across the spheres of government as required by key planning policies and legislations such as the National Development Plan (NDP), Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (Act 16 of 2013), Infrastructure Development Act (Act 23 of 2014), Municipal Systems Act (Act 32 of 2000) and others.

It also reflects in the misalignment of sector reporting to national departments and provincial reporting to the Presidency. Current and expected reporting to the National Planning Commission requires a spatial information management system integrated into the NSPDR Ecosystem and improved alignment of institutional roles and responsibilities to effect cooperative governance.

As a forerunner to the NSPDR Ecosystem, the Spatial Planning Information System (SPISys) was piloted in the Free State and Northern Cape provinces to test the feasibility of developing and running a Geographic Information System (GIS) web-enabled portal containing relevant spatial planning information.

This was done between 2011 and 2014 and was concluded successfully with some key learnings being understood as follows:

  • Datasets do not currently have official custodians as per the SDI Act with the responsibility to maintain and update the datasets;
  • Data standards pertaining to land use classes are not in place making it difficult to integrate datasets;
  • Some datasets that would form the basis of NSPDR such as wall-to-wall land use classification schemes do not exist;
  • The need to remove subjectivity from the planning function and move towards an evidence-based approach; and
  • The requirement of horizontal and vertical alignment of planning between the three spheres of government can only be managed or conceptualised through the use of a system such as the NSPDR Ecosystem.

The DRDLR has already completed the User Requirements Specification (URS), Functional Requirements Specification (FRS) and Technical Specification making it possible to start with the construction of the NSPDR Ecosystem modules. The Esri South Africa and Agizo Solutions Joint Venture (JV) will develop and maintain a central repository that utilises spatial data for spatial planning, monitoring, evaluation and coordination purposes over a period of five years.

NSPDR Ecosystem


The NSPDR Ecosystem will enable the sharing of spatial planning information across all spheres of government as well as the private sector, and will support key objectives of the NDP, and most importantly, SPLUMA.


The goal to achieve integrated development through effective spatial planning and land use management gained urgency with the passing of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA) in 2013, wherein the national government is mandated to develop mechanisms to support and strengthen the capacity of provinces and municipalities to adopt and implement an effective spatial planning and land use management system. To give effect to the call of developing a mechanism to support and strengthen the capability of provinces and municipalities in this regard, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has embarked on a process to develop the National Spatial Planning Data Repository (NSPDR) Ecosystem.


The NSPDR Ecosystem will enable sharing of spatial planning information and data across all spheres of government and the private sector and will aid municipalities in spatial planning and land use management. The NSPDR Ecosystem will also facilitate the monitoring of defined KPI’s such as spatial budgets and SPLUMA compliance.

The NSPDR Ecosystem will also support the implementation of and compliance with multiple legislative and policy frameworks such as the National Development Plan (NDP), and the Spatial Data Infrastructure Act of 2003.

Providing the Means


What Does It Do...?

NSPDR will provide for the following functionality:

  • Facilitates access to spatial information such as demographic, environmental, infrastructure and cadastre data that’s required for integrated spatial planning;
  • E-Lodgement’s capability enables the lodging of land development applications to municipalities, also storage and management of related documents;
  • Offline spatial information access to remote municipalities;
  • Enables horizontal and vertical alignment of spatial planning through the overlay of multi-level plans at different spheres of government;
  • Provides access to guidelines and tools for the development of SDFs and Land Use Schemes including Land Use Management capability;
  • Town and regional planners will have a view of their spatial plans as well as adjacent spatial plans (municipal, provincial, and national SDFs), to assess alignment; and
  • Tools to monitor the equitable spending of capital budgets and resources across the country.

An Enabler of SPLUMA

SPLUMA calls for the following provisions:

  • A uniform, effective and comprehensive system of spatial planning and land use management.
  • The national government must, in accordance with this act and the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act, develop mechanisms to support and strengthen the capacity of provinces and municipalities to adopt and implement an effective spatial planning and land use management system.
  • Procedures and processes for the preparation, submission and consideration of land development applications and related processes provided by provincial legislation.
  • A coherent, planned approach to spatial development at the national, provincial and municipal spheres.

How It’s Being Developed

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    • Engage stakeholders at a national, provincial and municipal level
    • Highlight policy and legislative objectives addressed by the NSPDR ecosystem
    • Inform stakeholders on the progress of the NSPDR ecosystem development
    • Secure buy-in of data custodians and other stakeholders for ongoing data sharing and maintenance
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    • Identify core datasets and host them in one central location
    • Develop pathways for future data sourcing including automated data capture
    • Formalise data sourcing agreements to secure commitment from data custodians
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    • Assess and identify various training groups and training needs
    • Develop an e-learning web portal with access to training
    • Evaluate training programme and instructor effectiveness
    • Assess knowledge and skill acquisition of the trainees
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    • Develop an intuitive, user-friendly, web-based GIS spatial interface to share information and other data
    • Ability to handle multiple device-types, thereby aiding access to even more users
    • Provide offline appliances for users with limited bandwidth
    • Ability to create custom apps to analyse spatial information through the provision of APIs
    • Provide the ability to link with external databases and/or portals of various stakeholders
    • Provide the ability to generate performance reports on integrated spatial planning and information sharing

Lots of Capabilities

What Are The Benefits?

01 Community GIS

  • Community GIS mapping aims to tell a community’s story in a vibrant and visual way.
  • It highlights the rich array of community activities and makes them visible and accessible to people by providing spatial information linked to photographs and relevant data.
  • The NSPDR Ecosystem will help users visually communicate their future development needs to support more accurate planning and development of infrastructure in communities.
  • NSPDR will provide social and economic data relating to aspects of importance to communities such as; employment, wages, different job sectors, public transport, travel times, distances from work places, and demographics of workers.
  • The NSPDR’s dashboards can speak to a specific municipalities service provision activity and can outline the progress of a program for decision makers and other people who need to stay on top of unfolding situations.
  • The NSPDR will also make provision for a crowd-sourcing tool for collecting volunteered information from the public.

02 Electronic Lodgement

  • NSPDR supports the electronic lodgement of applications and supporting documents relating to land development applications at a municipal level.
  • The NSPDR will enable municipalities not only to receive, but to also consider and process land development applications electronically.
  • Municipalities will be provided with access to a portal that they will manage and be able to assign user rights and restrictions to their officials and to applicants.
  • Applicants will have the ability to register their unique profiles allowing for improved tracking and communication through email or written mail regarding their application status.
  • Outputs from various stages of the application process will feed into dashboards that can be used for monitoring and evaluation by management to improve turnaround times.

03 Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

  • M&E is integral to the daily work of public sector officials and municipal officials at different managerial levels to evaluate effectiveness of implemented programmes.
  • The capacity of municipalities, national and provincial departments to perform their own M&E is increased through use of tools within NSPDR that allow for improved information management.
  • The NSPDR will support managers by allowing for an evidence-based approach to M&E through the provision of quantitative data relating to specific aspects of land development applications.
  • Municipal managers will be provided with dashboards that will allow them to monitor and track compliance within their municipality and thus be able to make improvements to their strategies.
  • The NSPDR will facilitate the monitoring of defined KPIs such as spatial budgets and SPLUMA compliance nationally.

04 Planning Support

  • The NSPDR will provide municipalities with access to spatially referenced information that is required for developing Spatial Development Frameworks (SDFs) that are representative of its unique spatial form.
  • The ecosystem removes subjectivity from planning functions by allowing for a more evidence-based approach through improved access to core, reference and secondary data that is critical for effective planning.
  • The NSPDR will also provide offline spatial information to remote municipalities with extemely limited bandwidth/internet access.
  • Users will be provided with access to various planning related documents such as acts, by-laws and LUMS applications in one central place.
  • Planners and decision makers will have a clear reflection of the reality of the municipal spatial environment, social and economic systems, particularly related to infrastructure needs and capacity.

05 Metadata (data about data)

  • The SDI requires that all custodians make metadata available with their spatial data and make it available to the department for use in the Electronic Metadata Catalogue (EMC).
  • The NSPDR will support the provision of metadata from participating custodians to the department through its proposal to integrate with SASDI’s EMC.
  • The NSPDR will communicate the requirements of custodians to maintain and provide metadata that describes the content, quality and condition of their spatial information as determined by SASDI.
  • NSPDR also supports the work of the Committee for Spatial Information (CSI), in recording gaps in terms of the ability of the custodians to provide metadata with their spatial data.
  • NSPDR also highlights the capacity challenges at a local/municipal level to capture and maintain metadata through feedback obtained from stakeholder engagements.

06 Living Atlas

  • One of the primary goals of the Living Atlas is to make the best information easy to discover and use through Esri’s ArcGIS Online application which is built in to the NSPDR Ecosystem.
  • Users of the NSPDR will be provided with a large collection of high quality spatial information that has ever been preassembled covering topics such as; demographics, boundaries, elevation, soils, and climate.
  • Users can access this spatial information from different devices, anywhere and at any time.
  • The spatial information will constantly be growing and changing as maps, apps, and layers are added or updated by the registered users of the system or the system administrators.

07 Distributed Database Systems

  • Concept of distributed describes a set of databases stored on multiple computers that appears to applications as a single database.
  • NSPDR will support distributed processing by allowing application to distribute its tasks among different computers in a network.

08 Big Data Analytics

  • Big data analytics is the process of examining large and varied datasets to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, customer preferences and other useful information.
  • Big data can help organisations make more informed business decisions.
  • The NSPDR will have capability to support big data analytics by providing ArcGIS tools that allow users to analyse patterns and aggregate data in the context of both space and time.
  • Users are offered ability to play with large scale datasets pertaining to topics such as the number of emergency phone calls accumulated within specific municipal boundary over a decade.

09 Creating New Data from Artificial Intelligence

  • Concept of artificial intelligence generally refers to ability of machines to use language, form abstractions and concepts and solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans.
  • It speaks to technologies that allow us to ask a computer questions, sit back while semi-autonomous cars negotiate traffic and make use of handheld devices to translate speech or printed text across most languages.
  • Through the use of artificial intelligence, correlations can be rapidly detected by combing through a lot of statistical data to answer specific questions.
  • Thereby new data is generated that allows human beings to be able to predict the outcomes.

10 Analysing Settlement Patterns

  • Settlement patterns refer to the distribution of human activities across a country and the spatial relationship between these activities.
  • There is a specific need for high resolution input demographic data that can provide enough detail to quantify rural settlement patterns and thus accurately measure population concentrations and accessibility.
  • Popular research approaches require contemporary population count data to be combined with detailed satellite-derived settlement extents to map population distribution at a finer resolution.
  • The NSPDR will support this approach by supplying the user with high-resolution imagery and land cover information from various custodians as well as a set of geoprocessing tools to determine extents of interest areas.

11 Rapid Response Report Generation

  • Rapid response functionality provides high-speed text or email notifications to public officials, municipalities or communities so long as there is a database or contact list provided through an opt-in web service to the ArcGIS platform.
  • Through web mapping, the user can select one or more alert areas and view citizen information via online aerial or hybrid maps.
  • The NSPDR supports this functionality for rapid response notification through its dashboards and the municipal reporter.
  • System administrators will be able to share reports generated from dashboards and the reporter with thousands of officials within the municipalities in a matter of minutes.

12 The Science of Where™

  • The Science of Where™ is the science of digital transformation; the science of exploration and navigation; the science of commerce and ecology.
  • It speaks to the mission of Esri to offer the most high-powered, high-performance mapping and analytics capabilities in the world.
  • From a NSPDR perspective, this vision is supported by streamlining of spatial analysis of geographic and enterprise data through intuitive maps, charts, and graphs built on the Esri platforms.

13 No Charge E-Learning (MOOC)

  • MOOC refers to a course of study made available over the internet without charge to a very large number of people.
  • Anyone who decides to take a MOOC simply logs on to the website and signs up.
  • NSPDR will provide its registered users with free training on the e⁠-⁠learning portal.
  • The e-learning portal is dedicated to help create and achieve a learning environment that appeals to all learning levels where the learner can confidently understand the training material presented on the platform.
  • The e-learning portal supports self-paced learning by allowing users to proceed from one module to the next based on their own learning speed.

14 Support for Municipalities with Power to Plan

  • The NSPDR will enable sharing of spatial planning information and data across all spheres of government and the private sector and will aid municipalities in spatial planning and land use management.
  • It will help in facilitating effective and efficient collaboration amongst national government/sector departments to foster alignment of their programs and budgets to planning needs identified in the PGDP/PSDF/SDF/IDP processes.
  • The ecosystem will save municipalities time where people involved with spatial planning are dispersed through use of E⁠-⁠Lodgement which reduces the time spent by employees on manually tracking and tracing planning applications.
  • The NSPDR Ecosystem will provide guidance for the municipality’s LUMS.

15 Field GIS Using Collector for Community GIS

  • Maps produced from GIS data provided through the ecosystem, that is collected through GPS’s and surveys can be used to depict relationships and significant hotspots within communities.
  • GIS maps which can be produced on the ecosystem are more user-friendly than other forms of data presentation, helping community-based organisations to understand community data and facilitating a better understanding of the community.
  • Community assessment conducted through data collection is an integral component of communities which show relationships between health, individual geographic locations, population numbers, etc.

16 Support for SASDI-EMC

  • In terms of the SDI Act (Act 54 of 2003) the SASDI-EMC holds metadata records for all government spatial information.
  • The NSPDR Ecosystem supports the objectives of SASDI to eliminate duplications in the capturing of data by improving access, discovery, retrieval and sharing of spatial information.
  • The NSPDR will make collected spatial information from government custodians available together with linkage to the SASDI-EMC for metadata capturing.
  • Custodians of data who enter into data sharing partnerships with the NSPDR Ecosystem will be required to provide all associated metadata in prescribed format on the SASDI-EMC.
  • The NSPDR will have capacity to have an automated Electronic Data Interchange to SASDI catalogue services for store, search, discovery and querying of metadata that is compliant with the SDI Act.

17 SPLUMA Understanding

  • In 2013, SPLUMA was signed into law and became South Africa’s principle policy and legislative framework guiding spatial planning and land use management and its objective is thus to provide for a uniform, effective and comprehensive system of spatial planning and land use management, that promotes social and economic inclusion and its referred to for the development of the NSPDR Ecosystem project.
  • The NSPDR was developed using guidelines from SPLUMA (Act 16 of 2015) which speaks to: SPLUMA regulations, provincial spatial planning and land use management legislation, municipal spatial planning and land use management by-law and the municipal land use scheme and spatial development framework.
  • The NSPDR Ecosystem will enable sharing of spatial planning information and data across all spheres of government and the private sector to support integrated planning and land use management.

18 Historical Archive

  • Archiving in ArcGIS provides the functionality to record and access changes made to all or a subset of data in a geodatabase and the NSPDR can archive such data as it is hosted on the ArcGIS platform.
  • An historical version represents the data at a specific moment in time and provides a read-only representation of the geodatabase and tools available in ArcGIS offer users the ability to easily investigate change to the data.
  • Adding the archive class directly to ArcMap allows users to perform queries to explore how the data has evolved over time and the NSPDR provides such tools.
  • Archiving allows users to connect to an historical version in a form of shapefiles or file geodatabases, as well as allowing historical versions to be updated.

19 Open Source Software Packages

  • Open source software is computer software with its source code made available with a licence in which the copyright holder proved the rights to study change and distribute the software to any user.
  • It’s a prominent example of open collaboration as it allows users in a particular field to develop and build upon their skills/expertise to advance a certain cause for the benefit of the broader user community.
  • The NSPDR will support this concept through developmental adherence to open source standards such as the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

20 Image Rendering

  • Analysis of spatial information require visualisation the data and the spatial frame of data which is often depicted in 2D map or sometimes in a 3D representation of the terrain.
  • The NSPDR supports the rendering of 2D and 3D geographic information through the ArcGIS platform.
  • Terrain rendering techniques are useful for improving perception of spatial features and depth cues through means of drawing, shading or textures.
  • Processing times in rendering will be determined by application programming interfaces available on the windows operating system as well as hardware capabilities of computer systems.

Who Are The Beneficiaries?

So, who are we building this system for? Contributors to, and users of, the Ecosystem fall within the following user-groups:



senior management



spatial planning professionals



land use professionals


Across Government

GIS specialists/ professionals


National & Provincial

managers responsible for M&E


SOE, Private & Academic

external contributors

Contact Details

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform

Branch: Spatial Planning and Land Use Management

224 Helen Joseph Street, Capitol Towers, Pretoria


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