How GIS influenced my life

Before I talk about GIS! It was in 2010 when I received my KCSE results for the 2009 exam. Having passed the exam, I was to join campus a year later. Born and raised in the countryside, the dream of visiting and living in Nairobi was so real but seemed huge.  I would think about being in Nairobi each day and hope someone or something made me visit the city. Working on the farms was tiring and boring for me. Whenever a new day came, I saw a new opportunity to make things right.

One day the idea of joining a college in Nairobi for a year came to be. Sharing the idea with my dad was a big challenge. I had to convince him of the benefits of the pre-university schooling that I had put my mind to.

Finally, my dad agreed and asked me to find a college to pursue computer courses. In this case, on the side, I had a plan with my brother who had identified a college for me, in collaboration with an uncle of mine.

New Beginning

Two weeks later, I travelled to Nairobi, the dream city. For me, pursuing computer packages seemed easy and shallow. In this regard, I decided to take up a bigger challenge, a diploma in ICT. I enrolled for the diploma the same day I got to Nairobi at the Institute of Advanced Technology (IAT), Kasarani.

I spent my first night in Nairobi that day. Haha. So funny? Yeah!. It felt so good and motivating. During this time, all I felt was joy and had a long way to go in my diploma studies. My ambitions were so real and big enough to make me keep grinding.

While in primary school, I had an opportunity to interact with computers during computer lessons,  but on a low-level basis. I didn’t interact with computers for the entire secondary school level due to a lack of opportunities at school. Everything I knew about computers then had vanished.

At IAT, it was a fresh start. Schooling with other students, who knew a lot about computers, was a big challenge. I tried my best to make good friends and within no time, I was well conversant with computers  (on the basics). A semester was gone and I had learnt so much in just three months.

My dreams were gradually being realized through computing. Having undertaken courses such as web design (HTML and CSS), computer programming  (C, C++ and VB) and Databases, I felt things falling into place as planned. Helping students with their projects and building minimal websites for clients outside my school earned me little cash to keep surviving in Nairobi.

I would spend days in school and nights using my brother’s computer since I didn’t own one. The hard work I put in my work helped me open more opportunities in life. In my final semester project, I developed a Pharmacy Management System, inspired to tackle the problems of management in chemists, similar to what I saw my uncle go through at his premises. My uncle was the only client who purchased my software. I used the cash to purchase my first computer in 2011 which opened more opportunities for me. The story goes on.


After a year in college, I was set to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree at the university. I was shortlisted for Geomatics Engineering and Geospatial Information Systems(GEGIS) at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, then a constituent university college of JKUAT.

As the name of the programme appears, this was so strange for me. I didn’t know a single student or alumni of the programme and this made me skeptical since I understood nothing about it. To make matters worse, we were the pioneers of the programme at DeKUT.  I thought I would change to Computer Science or even IT and continue with my computer craziness.

When we got to campus, my colleagues were hesitant about GEGIS too and by then we realized there was a problem. Most of us didn’t understand the programme and its components. The department director organized a trip for us to visit our mother university, JKUAT, to meet other GEGIS students and interact with them. This was an eye-opener. The journey had begun and the idea to leave GEGIS for computer science or IT was trashed.


The enthusiasm to understand Geospatial technology was in top gear and a daily affair. My biggest worry was to waste my IT skills while pursuing new horizons in the Geospatial industry. One day, during a lecture, the GEGIS director, one of my mentors, highlighted the application of Geospatial technology in real life. That information changed the way I perceived things. The best part of it all was that I could integrate my IT and GIS skills for the better. Geo-IT it was.

I had developed a passion for systems and was doing desktop applications. In the GIS realm, there was, of course, ArcGIS and QGIS which were well known. To my crew (led by Steve and Bony), we wanted to create something of our own, something great enough. We developed a Desktop GIS system that had basic Geospatial basics. Upgrades were rolled out every two weeks.

This project led to the establishment of Gdev, a group of passionate upcoming developers within the GEGIS department, who taught themselves code and GIS Software. In three months, we had a  working system that was presented to the department staff for mentor-ship and reviews. Crazy, huh? Yeah.

At Gdev, we scheduled student mentorship programmes, hands-on training and bootcamps to grow our skills and network with key industry players. Gdev inspired young souls in programming and GIS to put ideas into solutions. Meet-ups were held once a week since its founding. After many months of doing what I loved, the power of GIS was well known to me and learning more was my motivation.

The trend continued and I started working with companies that needed GIS training for their staff. I started as a GIS Consultant and my work involved engaging in several activities on different projects such as coding field survey platforms, data collection, and spatial data publishing and would engage in school bootcamps, coding forums and talks, conferences, competitions and other activities that drew my attention.

Game Changer

The climax of all came when my team won a grant by USAID and NASA through the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD). The grant was an eye-opener to greater horizons within the Geospatial industry. It’s through this project, that I was able to interact with think tanks from East and Southern Africa (RCMRD’s member states) both in technical and managerial positions.

GIS enthusiasts
The Team at a GDev Meetup

The project, A pilot implementation of the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM), received the green light in the industry offering opportunities to the team members in different positions in the country and beyond. It’s through the same project that I boarded a plane for the first time in my life. Haha! I even wrote about the project on this blog.

Since then, I haven’t looked back. I have visited over 10 countries in Africa offering consultancy services to organizations, governments and private companies. I’m humbled by the many opportunities that the industry has granted me to partake in and contribute to building a better world through GIS.

I started my YouTube Channel, to help developers and GIS users learn more about web mapping and the use of QGIS for their day-to-day work. I have also dedicated this website to the same. It’s through sharing that I feel good and exercise my responsibilities as a GIS advocate.

Today is my BIRTHDAY, a day I rarely celebrate (It keeps escaping my mind). This year, I have decided to narrate my story and how things came to be. I look forward to visiting more cities and countries to meet GIS professionals, users, developers and even trainers. It would be such a great honour.

I thank friends, mentors, supervisors, partners and clients who have helped in come this far and still continue to be of great support. Indeed am humbled.

As a parting shot, I would like to leave you with an inspiration once shared by Steve Jobs,

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”

  • Hi Wanjohi… Thanks for such a n interesting post. I am currently doing Bachelor of Arts in Geography at Moi University and we also had problems in understanding what this course is all about. I haven’t learned much about IT but I really have an interest in taking that path. I recently came across this blog and I would love to learn more.

    Am currently teaching myself HTML, CSS, PHP and Python but I would like to be mentored by you.

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Wanjohi Kibui

Passionate about harnessing the power of geospatial technology to create innovative solutions, I'm a GIS Consultant and Developer dedicated to building cutting-edge geospatial applications. With a keen eye for spatial analysis and a knack for problem-solving, I specialize in crafting solutions that seamlessly integrate technology and geography.

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