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Summer 2007
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Countrywide Mapping Made Possible with GIS at the Colombia National Mapping Agency

Agustín Codazzi Geographic Institute (IGAC) is Colombia's national mapping agency responsible for producing the official map and base cartography of Colombia. It supports geographic studies in the form of land development support and professional training and education in GIS technology and coordinates the Colombia Spatial Data Infrastructure.

In addition, IGAC's mission is to "carry out the constitutional mandate that refers to the production and updating of the official map of the Republic and develop the policies and execute the plans of the National Government with respect to cartography, agronomy, land registry, and geography through the production, analysis, and dissemination of survey and environmental georeferenced information with the goal of supporting land planning and zoning processes."

The Challenge

For the past 70 years, IGAC has produced georeferenced cartographic maps at several scales using the most modern technology available at the time. The maps that were developed provided the nation with basic spatial information tools.

In 1994, IGAC began producing digital cartography using Infocam software. In 2003, the cartography branch initiated a process to update the production system and generate additional products, such as spatial maps and orthophotos. Furthermore, one of the principal purposes was to implement a new, comprehensive GIS that would allow IGAC to administer and standardize its cartographic production system. The challenge for the four-year project was to consolidate the 1:100,000-scale digital database, obtain 100 percent of the cartography for urban areas, and achieve 80 percent coverage for 1:25,000-scale cartography.

The Solution

During initial planning for digital information capture and responding to the agency's stringent cartographic requirements, IGAC chose available off-the-shelf GIS tools, selecting Esri software technology as the most robust, functional, widespread, and interoperable for the project. In 2003, Procálculo Prosis S.A. (PPSA), the Esri solutions distributor for Colombia, signed a contract to replace the existing system with a new one.

Since then, participants have proceeded to implement the tasks of project requirements analysis, hardware and software system design, and development and implementation of the IGAC cartographic database.

Continuing with the implementation, ArcGIS Desktop (ArcInfo, ArcEditor, and ArcView) and ArcSDE were installed. ArcScan for ArcGIS, ArcGIS Spatial Analyst, and ArcGIS 3D Analyst extensions were also installed to provide versatile tools for updating existing cartography and creating new data that would comply with IGAC requirements. All information is stored in an Oracle database that, together with ArcSDE, permits the storage, administration, and maintenance of the information in a way that is centralized, secure, and transparent to the user.

Production Line Tool Set (PLTS) for ArcGIS—Foundation, GIS Data ReViewer, and Maplex for ArcGIS were also installed to perform data upload and quality control functions and generate a high-quality map series. The new implemented system integrates several tools that PPSA built in Visual Basic to execute specific tasks used by IGAC to produce the national base cartography.

The Results

In November 2004, the model for the map series (at a variety of scales, all derived from the same basemap) was developed, reviewed, and implemented. Several months of evaluation followed, with the added objective of training production group professionals charged with generating basemaps and thematic maps. As a result of this study, the model for cartographic production was refined to include all the different map scales with the advantage of maintaining everything on just one single GIS platform.

Through the collaborative work of Esri, PPSA, and the cartography branch, IGAC now has a basemap data model implemented on a single continuous geographic database.

"Establishing the digital capture of georeferenced data with GIS has become an example of successful technological innovation that Colombia is holding up for the rest of Latin America to see," says Miguel Angel Cárdenas, deputy director of geography and cartography, IGAC.

The single cartographic database is used as the standard for information storage and management, saving time and money during map production and in maintenance. The database can be adjusted and improved according to current needs. The system makes it possible to efficiently create printed maps at different scales—1:2,000, 1:10,000, 1:25,000, 1:100,000, and 1:500,000—and of individual departments (Colombian states).

Finally, the cartography branch continues to work toward its ideal of making IGAC the most advanced and efficient center of cartographic production in Latin America.

More Information

For more information, contact Helena Gutierrez, Procálculo Prosis S.A. (e-mail:, or Dewey Marino, Esri (e-mail:; tel.: 909-793-2853, ext. 1-1913).

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