Spatial databases in the Cloud and GeoSUR

The GeoSUR Program operates since 2007, at the initiative of the CAF and PAIGH. The relevance of the GeoSUR Program has largely originated in its contribution to technological innovation in the region. The regional Geoportal, the decentralized service network maps and the Topographic Processing Service (TPS) say so. These contributions were more recently augmented with the direct contribution to national geographic institutions to place spatial databases in the Cloud.

These are all key components for advancing regional spatial data infrastructure in the Americas.

As with other innovations, for reasons associated with the costs involved, the training required for their proper use and safety issues of spatial data, the process of migration to the Cloud has been slow and it would have been worst in the absence of the GeoSUR  Program interest, IPGH and CAF and foremost, the decision of the authorities of the Geographical Institute and the National Registry of El Salvador (IGCN) in 201, when it was   given the task of putting national spatial data in the Cloud for the first time in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IGCN then was followed the National Geographic Institute of Honduras in 2012.

In 2013, again the GeoSUR Program,  with financial support from the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD), in the framework of the Eye on Earth initiative and under an agreement concluded with the IPGH, implemented a training program aimed at Ministries  of Environment of Spanish speaking nations in the region on issues related to the placement of Spatial Databases in the Cloud. The instruction was given by specialized staff of the National Center for Geographic Information (CNIG) IGN of Spain. With the joint effort of the CAF (GeoSUR), UNEP, IPGH and CNIG of Spain support has been provided to more than 12 institutions in the region to migrate spatial data and geo-services on the Cloud, including coverage of some of the operating costs for a certain time. In practice, besides the 67 trained professionals, placement of spatial data in the Cloud has proceeded for six countries: Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Peru and Uruguay. In total there are now eight countries in the region managing of spatial data sets in the Cloud.

The data and services placed in the Cloud vary by country:

The Institute of Geography and Cadastre of El Salvador launched its first service giving free access to national maps in the Amazon Cloud in early 2013, using ESRI software, being the first in Latin America and the Caribbean in developing such geospatial information services. In Honduras the National Geographic Institute with the support of GeoSUR placed in the Cloud national data, a total of 12 files, using GeoServer. National basis, including infrastructure layers, hydrography, and topography and land use data is placed. However, in view of recent institutional measures have not been loaded new data. The Geographic Institute of Guatemala with the technical support of GeoSUR, launched its first map service in the Cloud in 2014, the service, open access, offers access to more than 20 thematic layers. In Uruguay, the Program supported the National Directorate of Environment Uruguay (DINAMA) to implement a mapping service in the Cloud. In Cordoba, Argentina support was provided  to the Department of Statistics and Census. In Peru the Territorial Planning Department of the Ministry of Environment and in Haiti, the National Center for Geospatial Information (CNIGS).

For national geographic institutes in the region and for those agencies producing thematic mapping and spatial information, the Cloud provides an innovative scheme to maintain digital maps and other spatial data effectively available to the public. Given the massive trend towards using the Cloud, costs associated with the maintenance and operation of geo data sets progressively are becoming significantly lower, especially when compared to the alternative of maintaining these services based on local servers in the traditional way.

Author: Santiago Borrero

Flooded areas in Bolivia are highlighted in red, previously flooded areas in light blue, and permanent bodies of water, such as lakes or ponds, in dark blue.

CAF establishes an innovative Web system that will enable a detailed monitoring of the floods and their impacts on Latin America and the Caribbean

CAF – Development Bank of Latin America has partnered with the University of Colorado to launch a system to monitor and map floods in near-real-time in Latin America and the Caribbean, under the aegis of its GeoSUR Program. The new online system is freely available and it is generating daily maps of flooded areas in Latin America and the Caribbean using several sensors, including MODIS (250 meter resolution) and Landsat (30 meter resolution) images as the basis for analysis.  

The system was tested in Bolivia during the recent floods, and the first map showing large extensions of flooded lands in the Department of Beni was developed (shown above). The system has identified in great detail the affected areas and their extension, and helped to manage the disaster in a proactive manner and to channel the humanitarian and management aid more effectively.

River Watch, a component of the system, allows for the remote monitoring of river flows on a daily basis at selected sites. To better estimate the impact and level of the recent floods in Bolivia, CAF and the University of Colorado added several new points to the River Watch network in this country. These points, with daily flow values that have been compiled since 1998, show that the flow of some rivers in the affected area reached record levels, some of them even surpassing the level of a 30-year flood.

The GeoSUR program will make available all the flood maps and River Watch data mentioned above in its regional portal ( In the meantime, given the urgency of the situation, Bolivia's data is being staged in the following web sites:

More than 200 specialists from Latin America and the Caribbean are collaborating with the project, are identifying flood events on the Web and are providing coordinates sites that will be added to River Watch for continuous flow monitoring.


The GeoSUR Program has available all its public regional geographic information from Latin America and the Caribbean in the ArcGIS Online platform from the ESRI company. The launching is part of a GeoSUR campaign for the dissemination of information and the benefits for the region that are provided by a regional spatial database available in an easy to use platform for all types of public.

The new platform offers access to a diversity of regional and national maps on different topics such as hydrography, protected areas, digital elevation models, road networks, vegetation height, and coral barriers, among others. To start, only regional maps have been placed in the ArcGIS Online system, but in the future more than 90 institutions will be invited to participate in GeoSUR and register their information on this platform.

The maps reside in the Amazon Cloud and the platform has a variety of online functions that allows selecting several base maps, carrying out measurements, superimposing layers, and conducting basic online analyses. In addition, the information associated to each map may be consulted, shared in the social networks, and leave comments in the new portal.

Users may enter this platform through the URL: The new Portal available in ArcGIS Online, compliments the operations of the Regional Portal of the GeoSUR Program available in, which offers a more advanced operation and is focused on users with basic knowledge of geographic information systems.