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A fission of new ideas and fusion of solutions

Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Managing Editor
arup [at] geospatialmedia.net

In the beginning there were the developed countries and the under-developed countries. But the term under-developed was politically incorrect; so it became developing countries and that was good. So good that in 2001, Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs pointed out that four of the developing countries together represented almost 3 billion people, covering 40 million sq km of land, with a combined nominal GDP of $16.039 trillion, and an estimated $4 trillion in combined foreign reserves and could become an economic force by 2027. These countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and later joined by South Africa, became the BRICS nations and have caught the world’s attention.

Significantly, these nations are rich in natural resources, both over and under ground. They are also rich in terms of human resources but their potential is not fully realised. The other drawbacks include governance, which has failed to move with the times; corruption and a legacy of exploitation through colonisation or feudalism or both. The sleeping giant stirred in 2006 with a meeting of foreign ministers of BRIC and a formal summit in 2009. South Africa joined in 2010. BRICS nations decided to improve cooperation amongst themselves and get more involved in global affairs like improving the global economic situation, reforming financial institutions and moving to a more stable global reserve currency. They pledged $75 billion to the IMF conditional to the implementation of certain reforms. A new development bank to rival the IMF and World Bank is on the cards.

Such bold moves have to be built on a sound economy. The BRICS nations are engaged in precisely that activity. What is of interest to the geospatial community is the universal acceptance of these technologies in three major areas — agriculture, mining and urban planning. This acceptance is in terms of solutions, not pieces of hardware and software, and this is the challenge that the geospatial companies must face. The issues are better agriculture management, environmentally benign mining, sustainable urban agglomerations, better housing, better infrastructure, more efficient tax collection and lesser litigations over property. We have seen many piecemeal initiatives in e-governance and g-governance sectors, innovative hardware and software, novel services, etc. Piecemeal efforts will not provide the solutions needed nor will ready to go shrink-wrapped packages. The need is for a holistic approach, which, in turn, requires collaboration between geospatial companies, professionals and domain experts in each field.

The goals have to be achieved through the PPP model. This calls for a better understanding of the governments’ goals by the industry and a better understanding by the decision makers of what the technology can offer. Innovation and thinking out of the box are prerequisites on both sides. Innovation cannot be restricted to products alone but in new ways to use existing products in conjunction with other devices and technologies. It is not that such efforts have not been made.

A readers’ survey conducted by Geospatial World has brought out some interesting results which are available in this issue. Leading on innovation are Google and Esri, quite understandably. Google has created many disruptive products and services beginning with Google Earth which have demystified geospatial technology and made it available to the general public. Esri, as a first adopter of the then abstruse technology of geospatial computer graphics, has led the way in the evolution of GIS as a powerful spatial analysis and a versatile geovisualisation toolbox.

Our second feature, a Glassdoor rating of the leading CEOs, throws up some surprises as well. This is a view from the other side, that of the people working in the geospatial companies. Larry Page of Google expectedly leads the pack but Jack Dangermond comes in a distant 8th. In between are the CEOs of companies that did not score as high as Google and Esri in the readers’ survey. Perhaps the reason is the age of the workforce engaged in cutting-edge research and development. In a fast evolving field, the workforce has to be young, brash, risk takers who value a work environment that is fun, transparent and creative.

So we see a promising situation here. On the one hand, we have the BRICS nations with their plate of unique problems and on the other side, innovative companies led by charismatic CEOs. Will the two meet and create a fission of new ideas, products and services, and a fusion of solutions? We can look forward to interesting times in 2014. On this hopeful note, Geospatial World wishes you an exciting year ahead!