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INSPIRE_GWF2015: Geospatial practices are driving policies

Lisbon: Geospatial technologies are responsive to the societal needs of a wide range of public and private sector policies. Active engagement, collaboration and understanding between geospatial community and its major user domains help in harnessing true value of geospatial information and enhancing awareness of its potential among policymakers. A plenary session held at the INSPIRE_Geospatial World Forum 2015 highlights the best practices that facilitate further development and improvement of geospatial policy framework, and its integration with policies of other major industries at local, national, regional and global levels. The discussion was moderated by Rolando Ocampo Alcantar, Vice President, National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), Mexico.

Prashant Shukle, Director-General, Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, Natural Resources Canada, believes that geomatics has opened up a plethora of opportunities for the public sector. He says, “Canada’s vast northern geography is our single biggest geospatial policy driver. Since we are one of the world’s richest natural resource bases, there is a huge demand for geospatial information in Canada. It should be noted that 80% of the population lives along the US-Canada border, thousands of miles away from these natural resources.”

Prashant adds, “What is the best way to deploy geospatial technology continues to be a tough question. Various vertical sectors have started using geospatial technology and experienced significant productivity gains. Canada’s GDP grew by C$ 20.7 billion due to productivity improvements from the use of geospatial technology. However, to ensure that GIS is adopted by more and more sectors, we need an integrated policy response, from supply driven by governments to demand driven by end users.”

Karl Falkenberg, Director General of European Commission, DG Environment, Belgium, feels that a substantial transformation in governance is being witnessed in Europe and most parts of the world. He says, “It is very important that not only do we reconsider the legislation, but also that we know how to measure impacts. A good way to start would be to have accurate information on the system. Now, getting this information is difficult. However, regulatory bodies need to collect information not only at regular intervals, but on a similar basis. Through INSPIRE, we collect and share information at the level of member states and make it available not just in the limits of one piece of legislation, but use it wherever required. It is important for the regulators to get more access to data so that we can implement, measure and monitor the impact of our policies.”

Rui Amaro Alves, Director General, Directorate General for Territorial Development, Portugal, tells, “Since its inception in 2012, the Directorate General for Territorial Development has been pursuing spatial planning to promote and support good land management practices, and develop and disseminate guidance and technical knowhow to ensure good organisation, presentation and use of national territory.”

Talking about INSPIRE’s influence on spatial planning policy, he adds, “The first territorial plans came in Portugal in 1765, after the Lisbon earthquake. In 2014, the organisation introduced a new Spatial Planning Act. This year, it has introduced a new law on spatial plans. INSPIRE’s data themes and general approach to protect environment boosts spatial planning. The IGEO – Spatial Open Data – is a new initiative which aims to make available public administration data for society and to research and educational institutes.”

Discussing the German marine data infrastructure and the EU directives, Johannes Melles — Coordinator for Spatial Data, German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH), Germany — quips, “Data providers need to live with the decisions made at policy level. Sometimes, this causes problems. But, on the other hand, what we are trying to do is not only accepting what we get from policy, but also come up with some ideas from our projects and get our influence on the policies. This works two-ways. Eighteen agencies and institutions in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in a 12-mile radius constitute the data providers for the maritime SDI. It is a service-oriented architecture; a decentralised network of data providing services. Data and services are documented with Meta data. The focus is on interoperability. We are looking into open standards defined by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). The geoportal for Marine SDI is ready. There have been several learnings: partners have to be on the same level (tech and thinking); data has to be interoperable and licensing of the data has to be clear (preferable when data is free); data provision has to meet user requirements (quality, instead of quantity); and a clear task for the use of the data is to be established (theoretical use cases are not sufficient).

Taking the discussion forward, Vanessa Lawrence, Co-Chair, UN Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), United Kingdom, adds, says, “The UN-GGIM has been set up for developing a strategic framework for geospatial information at a national, regional and global level. The UN-GGIM, along with the OGC, has developed an international standards document. The UN-GGIM website shares best practices models from around the world. It has also brought out a report on the future trends in geospatial information management. The UN-GGIM has identified legal and policy issues as one of the main challenges facing the geospatial community in the next ten years. It recognises the growing demand for more precise positioning services and the economic importance of a global geodetic reference frame for sustainable development.”

Abe Usher, Chief Technology Officer, HumanGeo, US, believes that two macro trends — evolution of cell phones and evolution of big data — are colliding. He tells, “In 2014, we searched trillions of times. What do these searches say about us? There was no consciousness of big data among people until 2005-06. It is a metaphor for the change that is going on around us. Collective intelligence or aggregated data and analytics provide insight into the trends. Geospatial professionals aggregate billions of weak signals to analyse the world. This technology evolution is creating a policy shift. Today, we do not go to an expert for answers. Instead, we go to Data consumption today comes from Smartphone users, not the government and institutes.”

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