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Malumbo Chaka Chipofya

Computer Science | Geoinformation Science

Münster, Germany

office: +49 251 83 33063

   fax: +49 251 83 39763




I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Geoinformatics (IFGI), University of Münster, Germany. I hold a B.Sc. in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Malawi (2005) and an M.Sc. Geospatial Technologies jointly awarded by Universidad Jaume I in Spain, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany, and Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal (2010). In 2016 I earned my PhD in Geoinformatics (summa cum laude) from University of Münster and have since then worked as a postdoctoral researcher on the project its4land where we are developing a land tenure recording tool called SmartSkeMa. SmartSkeMa is a response to the gap in tools required for adequately documenting community, customary, and indigenous lands. My position is within the Spatial Intelligence Lab (SIL) at IFGI headed by Prof. Dr. Angela Schwering.

Research and Technical Interests

Currently, my broad research and technology interests include

  • Graph matching algorithms and spatial alignment [1].
  • Peer-to-peer systems and distributed consensus with a bias towards geospatial applications [2].
  • Modeling community, customary, and indigenous land tenure systems[3].
  • Distributed land information systems as technology solutions for customary or indigenous land tenure regimes [4].

During my PhD years, my research is focussed on application Qualitative Spatial Knowledge Representation and Reasoning to spatial map alignment. Spatial map alignment is the discovery of correspondences between a pair of maps (e.g. the map of a neighborhood in a city and the map of whole city). Map alignment can be used as a technique for visual query answering. It can also be used in applications that require spatial localization at a scene level but without the use of precise coordinates. We have applied spatial alignment methods in our projects sketchmapia and its4land.

The special aspect of my work is that I consider spatial information given purely in terms of qualitative relations. In particular, I have developed several metaheuristic algorithms for solving the map alignment problem by matching qualitative spatial representations of the input maps (see my publications below).

From this initial pursuit my research has taken me into several domains including algorithm analysis and design, optimization, computer vision (semantic sketch understanding), domain modeling and ontology development (using owl and answer set programming to specify and query customary land tenure domain models), and distributed peer-to-peer systems (implementing and deploying user controlled systems with applications to community land registers and peer-to-peer markets).


July 2010 - Current

SketchMapia project (SketchMapia: A Framework for Collaborative Mapping) was originally funded for three years (2011-2014) in the Individual Grants Program of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and then extended for another period which extends to the end of 2021.

The grant holder is Prof. Dr. Angela Schwering and I have been involved with the project as an external collaborator within the lab since its inception. The output of the Sketchmapia project is framework consisting of different methods for processing sketch maps as detailed on the sketchmapia website:

SketchMapia is a framework that contains the complete workflow of collection, recognition, interpretation, integration and visualization of sketch maps. In the context of Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), SketchMapia employs sketch maps to contribute geographic information. It opens more capabilities of Geographic Information Systems (GISs) to the general public. In spite people who have difficulties to draw a map, all others can use the sketching interface that SketchMapia provides to produce user-generated spatial contents. However, due to human cognition, sketch maps are incomplete, distorted, schematized, and therefore not as accurate as metric maps. This project develops a qualitative computational model to represent sketch maps in a computer-understandable way. SketchMapia integrates information from various sketch maps and metric maps into one data repository which can be queried by users via a query-by-sketch interface. Finally, spatial information from sketch maps is integrated with quantitative data to be represented on metric maps.

Grants and Awards

(Nominee) Munich GI round table Prize in Geoinformatics
January 2017

The Munich GI round table Prize in Geoinformatics (Förderpreis Geoinformatik) is awarded to young scientists for outstanding dissertations in the field of geoinformatics. I was nominated for my doctoral dissertation.

(Recipient) WWU-IAI Special prize for "a thesis with exceptional relevance for society".
December 2016

This prize was awarded for my doctoral dissertation "Sketch-to-metric map alignment by qualitative spatial constraint matching". It was jointly awarded by the Institute for Applied Computer Science and the Chambers of Commerce in Münster and sponsored by items GmbH.

The dissertation presents new algorithms for grounding features in hand drawn maps into georeferenced topographic maps together with novel methods for representing the maps to increase the success rates of the algorithms. The results of the work have been applied to community-based documentation of land tenure information in the project its4land.

(As co-applicant) EU Horizon 2020 project grant for its4land
February 2016

The full grant title is "Geospatial technology innovations for land tenure security in East Africa (its4land)". Here are some details:

  • Grant value: € 3,9 million
  • Partner institutions: 8 | 4 in East Africa, 4 in West Europe | 2 from industry, 6 from universities
  • Project website:

(Recipient) University of Münster Rector’s award for outstanding contribution to a research topic (Leistungsprämie)
November 2014

The award was given for the development of new ideas bringing together techniques in qualitative spatial knowledge representation and metaheuristic search algorithms as part of the sketch map alignment system later used in SmartSkeMa.



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