Geological surveys in developing countries: strategies for assistance: project summary report. (Report No. WC/96/020)


Much effort is made by donors of technical and financial aid to developing countries in helping to create a sound physical infrastructure for economic development within the recipient countries. In many sectors, such development aid results in highly visible deliverables such as roads railways, ports, power stations, hospitals, schools and housing. Much less visible is a layer of infrastructure comprising the scientific and technical knowledge essential to sound national development planning. Much of this knowledge may be universal in its application but some is based on data which is country specific: it can only be collected locally and comprises a unique national knowledge-base or information infrastructure. Such data is usually collected, stored, processed and delivered to users by a wide range of public institutions.

A national geoscience database forms an important element of a nation's information infrastructure. It reflects the fact that all countries 'own' a unique sector of the earth's crust which forms its land mass and, for maritime nations, its adjacent sea floor. This crustal sector is both literally and metaphorically the foundation upon which the nation's development is based, it is fundamental to the nation's existence and individuality and provides space on its surface for life, growth of food and accumulation of water, while below the surface it hosts mineral, water and energy resources. In most countries a national public sector Geological Survey Organisation (GSO) has the responsibility for both populating and managing the national geoscience databases that describe the geological foundations of the country, and for providing a national geoscience information system derived from these databases.

The purpose of the recently completed study, summarised in this report, was firstly to define an appropriate programme of core activities for developing country GSOs which will fulfil the requirement to provide a national geoscience information system, secondly to assess the extent to which GSOs are meeting that requirement and finally to suggest a strategy that focuses technical assistance to developing countries on key activities within that core programme. The methodology adopted has been to test a 'model' core programme against the current programme of activities of over fifty GSOs and, further, to assess the current status of some of their important national geoscience databases. In addition we have examined the resource base of the GSOs for fulfilling their national role and their priorities for technical assistance for these activities. We have also examined recent trends in geoscience technical assistance from a variety of major donors and the degree to which current geoscience programmes in the 'aid sector' are directed toward assistance to the various core programme activities of developing country GSOs. Based on our findings we have suggested some guidelines for technical assistance directed toward GSOs in developing countries.

Many GSOs have contributed information during the course of our project. Detailed questionnaires were returned by the GSOs of Angola, Bangladesh, Botswana, Cambodia, Colombia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guyana, Indonesia, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Malawi, Malaysia, Mongolia, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, People's Republic of China, Peru, The Philippines, Romania, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Information on a further nine Latin American GSOs was provided by the Asociacíon de Servicios de Geología y Minería Iberoamericanos and on sixteen GSOs, by the Forum of European Geological Surveys. Other organisations which have facilitated the study are the Coordinating Committee for Offshore and Coastal Geoscience Programmes in South-East Asia (CCOP), The Association of Geological Surveys of the European Union (EuroGeoSurveys), The International Consortium of Geological Surveys (ICOGS) and the World Bank. The conclusions reached, however, as a result of considering all the data supplied, are those of the authors alone and no endorsement of these conclusions has been sought or is implied prior to the publication of this report.

This report is available to download in full colour (4444 kb) or black and white (2511 kb)


Geological surveys in developing countries: strategies for assistance: project summary report. (Report No. WC/96/020)

Published 1 January 1996