A Chat with Lutfi Kapidzic

of Sarajevo's City Planning Institute

GNR: Why did you travel all the way to Birmingham for this workshop?

KAPIDZIC: In Sarajevo we are starting to build a GIS database. We are putting the GIS pieces together. We first got software, then hardware, and now I have come here to Birmingham to receive further training in ARC/INFO and ArcView. This is a most important time because I am learning how to build and manage the database.

This workshop included people from Turkey, Israel, Afghanistan and Iceland, as well as native-born Americans--graduate students and instructors at U.S. colleges--here to learn how to use GIS technology. All of us appreciate the gift of this training supplied by ESRI and GNR.

GNR: What is the status of GIS in Bosnia?

KAPIDZIC: In Sarajevo we are just beginning to use GIS. We want to start building the database for Sarajevo and then spread to the rest of the country.

So for now it is still a sort of preparation for using the technology. We hope this will help us very much with the rebuilding.

Last year we had a workshop in Sarajevo that was also organized by the Global Network for Rebuilding. ESRI's East European distributor, GISDATA, provided the training.

At the workshop in Sarajevo we had 14 participants from various government institutions from Sarajevo and Mostar. We had the opportunity to learn the basics of GIS. For many it was the first time to see what the technology could do and practice using the software.

Now, more people are aware of the technology. Many people who participated in the workshop were interested but have not had access to further use the software.

During the war, in 1994, I had the opportunity to see for the first time what GIS is and to learn something about it. During the next year, the Dayton Peace Agreement was negotiated with the aid of GIS technology.

The technology helped us in stopping the war. Now we will use that technology in rebuilding after the war. It can help us discover the best solutions for rebuilding our country.

I am not an architect but I want to advance this technology in Sarajevo to help architects. With it, they can prepare better plans both for Sarajevo and the countryside.

GNR: The technology takes a little work. How do you feel about the workshop that was just completed?

KAPIDZIC: The workshop was really helpful for me. I was impressed by the desire of others who came to the workshop from so many different places.

The training workshop helped us to learn to implement GIS, to start to deal with problems that are "real world," using ARC/INFO to help train for the difficult task of rebuilding Sarajevo.

Now I am ready to start building the database for Sarajevo. We must begin from almost nothing. Currently we have very little data that is digital.

The work done in America will be extremely helpful. I hope the students studying Bosnia through GNR's GIS projects will be successful at building good databases. I look forward to working with them.

GNR: What do you see as GNR's role in Bosnia?

KAPIDZIC: The Global Network for Rebuilding has had an important role in Bosnia. The wonderful ESRI software that the Global Network for Rebuilding enabled us to receive gave us the first opportunity to start. The training provided for us is really a big thing. It helped us start our GIS. Without that help it might have been impossible to start GIS at that time.

The people of Bosnia knew what GIS has done in helping to achieve the Dayton Peace Accord. The need to use the technology was great but it was inaccessible. There were so many needs and so little money that people in Bosnia could not see the wisdom of investing in a technology which could take more than a year to develop.

We thank Jack Dangermond of ESRI for wanting to help us and donating the software that we would otherwise not be able to afford.

Without the Global Network for Rebuilding we would not have what we have now. The beginning would have been impossible. It is really a big thing because it helped us start GIS.

Besides the software and the training we are grateful for the universities who produce plans for rebuilding. We will continue to work together to find new solutions for rebuilding.

I hope we will continue the work and that this will be our future occupation.

GNR: Is there anything else you would like to say to GNR participants?

KAPIDZIC: We can say maybe that our work is slow. I look at the way things were when we started. You came to Sarajevo in 1994, when the city was besieged, and know how far we have come. I did not know you then, but you talked of GIS. Then we became aware of its use at the Dayton Peace Accord. Now we are building our own applications for Sarajevo.

In 1996 we got equipment for GIS and I started working at the Planning Institute. That year we started sharing some data. Now two years after the war, I can see we really have made improvements in using GIS. I can see what we have done together. We are slowly accomplishing a difficult task. We are making slow and steady progress.

I continue working. It is very difficult to get any money for GIS. The demand for money is great. Some desperate people do not care about the benefits of technology. The planners of Sarajevo do.

What you did for us is very important because at the very beginning there was no money. When I got software I could show that it works and gain support for its use. Then I was able to get hardware. It was important in the beginning in order to push us forward.

There have been many improvements and we must continue working together. I want to express my gratitude for what GNR has done for Bosnia and encourage many students to join and share in the rebuilding and the development of our GIS. Thanks to everyone in the Global Network for Rebuilding for everything you have done for Sarajevo and Bosnia.

Now it is easier. It is easier to convince people to invest because they see results.

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