‘DGT plays an essential role in the geographic information arena in Portugal’

‘DGT plays an essential role in the geographic information arena in Portugal’


Mário Caetano
Mário Caetano
Deputy Director General
Directorate General of Territorial Development

Created in 2012 through a merger of two institutions, Directorate General of Territorial Development (DGT) has been constantly developing innovative and more efficient ways to achieve its goals in land, urban planning and geographic information production and management in Portugal.

What is the mission and mandate of DGT? How has it evolved over the years with the continuous evolution of land information system?

DGT is the national public agency responsible for pursuing public policies on spatial and urban planning, production of cartography including cadastre, management of the national geodetic network, and creation and management of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI), known as the National System for Geographic Information (SNIG), as well as other thematic systems such as the National Spatial Planning Data System (SNIT) and the National Cadastre Information System (SNIC). DGT is also responsible for production of technical principles and standards for land and urban planning and production of geographic information.

DGT is constantly developing innovative and more efficient ways to achieve its goals in land and urban planning and geographic information by following international good practices and by promoting research, development and innovation activities.

Having city planning, cartography, geodesy, SDI, and cadastral all under one agency seems to be too much for one’s plate. Your comment?

DGT was created through the merging of two institutions: Portuguese Geographic Institute (IGP) and Directorate-General for Spatial Planning and Urban Development (DGOTDU). The rationale behind this merger was to promote interaction and synergies and, simultaneously, to increase efficiency and to reduce costs within public administration. The merger of IGP and DGOTDU took place in 2012 and so it is rather soon to evaluate its impact.

Geospatial data is becoming a commodity in our everyday lives. How does DGT play its role in the geographic information arena in Portugal?

DGT plays an important role of coordination and articulation of institutions that produce cartography. In fact, DGT is responsible for the national SDI (SNIG), is the National Contact Point (NCP) for INSPIRE and coordinates the National Coordinator Council for Cartography. As coordinator of SNIG, DGT has been responsible for training technicians from other institutions to create metadata and geoweb services following INSPIRE directive. Another important DGT responsibility for the near future will be the coordination of the implementation of an Action Plan to promote the use of Earth observation data and its derived information within Public Administration. We are following and participating on the definition of emerging trends in geospatial data production and management, namely big data issues or citizen science (e.g. Volunteered Geographic Data (VGI). As you see, DGT plays an essential role in the geographic information arena in Portugal.

The Portuguese National Geographic Information System (SNIG) was the first SDI developed in Europe and the first to be made available on the Internet in 1995. Would you like to share the system framework and what kind of benefits and services it offers?

Today, SNIG has a new legal framework, provided by Decree-Law 180/2009, that accommodates INSPIRE requirements, much more adjusted to the actual and future needs of a national SDI. The creation of a Coordination Council (CO SNIG) for strategic decision regarding SNIG evolution and enabling a more effective stakeholders’ involvement is one of the needs tackled by the new legislation.

The internet platform of SNIG has been recently updated, introducing new functionalities for the data search and improving the use of OGC services in the map viewer. In the future it’s still possible to make the platform more intuitive and more user-friendly.

SNIG must evolve not only to promote effective access to more geospatial data from different data providers through geo web services, but also in what concerns the development of applications for different types of users and the involvement of the citizens not only as users but also as data producers.

Is there any policy framework with regards to geospatial data access and management in Portugal?

In Portugal we have several legal instruments related to geospatial data production, access and management. The production of cartography is ruled by a Decree-Law (141/2014) that creates the National Coordinator Council for Cartography and that was recently updated for regulating the use of satellite Earth observation data for cartography production. DGT is now working on a new law for cadastre production and management. And of course we have the legal instrument that created the national SDI (SNIG) back in 1990, which was revised in 2009 to reflect the legal transposition of the INSPIRE Directive (Decree-Law 180/2009).

If your question refers to open data policy I have to say that we do not have such a legal framework, except for the guiding principles of INSPIRE. In DGT we are aware that the lack of such a policy framework hampers the growth of SMEs, especially when data and information have prohibitive costs. We believe that an open data policy can promote economic growth and contribute to the social and environmental development of the country. This is the reason why our Minister for Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy (MAOTE) launched iGEO this year, which is a new portal for easily accessing geographic information that has an open data policy. iGEO is maintained by DGT and we are just starting to approach public administration bodies so that iGEO can have links to their data and information. We are also working on the articulation between SNIG and iGEO. Soon we will initiate a public debate on open data policy for geographic information where the issue of data production sustainability has to be discussed.

How does DGT play its role in supporting the local geospatial SMEs in the country?

The SDIs that were created and that are managed by DGT, namely SNIG – the national SDI, support local geospatial SMEs, since they allow data discovery and access to metadata.

The portal iGEO was particularly thought to promote the access of industry, and in particular SMEs, to geographical data that has an open data policy in order to promote economic growth and job creation.

Furthermore, DGT aims to promote the involvement of SMEs in the processes of the NSDI and other SDI implementation and in the developments that are required to tackle INSPIRE obligations (e.g. metadata, data and service harmonization, web services provision). These needs represent opportunities for the Portuguese SMEs.

Which are the sectors in Portugal that are using geospatial data and technology?

Spatial and urban planning, agriculture, forestry, marine resources, fisheries, geology, environmental protection, water resources management, statistical information, public health, civil protection, telecommunications, transportation, shipping, navigation, utilities and infrastructures.

In relation to emerging new users I would say alternative energies, security, insurance and citizen.

What are the challenges that you faced while advocating the use of geospatial information in Portugal?

In my personal opinion, the most important challenges we are facing include: (1) deficient interaction, cooperation and data sharing between public administration entities, (2) lack of a legal instrument that promotes an open policy data for geographic information and that also takes into account data production sustainability, (3) insufficient qualified human resources in Public Administration, (4) lack of awareness of new map products created by international programs, namely the ones derived within the Copernicus program of the European Union.

Do you think Portuguese universities are producing competent geospatial graduates as per industry’s needs?

I think the level of skills of our graduates is good but can be improved in order to be more adapted and responsive to the needs of public administration and industry. In fact, sometimes it seems to me that there is a gap between what is taught in the university and what is needed at the market level. However I do not think that this is a specific problem of Portugal since it exists in most European countries and in many other parts of the world. I believe the university curricula should be built through a collaborative process involving all stakeholders, from academic to public administration and industry.

In the past, DGT was responsible for courses to support the development of skills within Public Administration on spatial analysis using Geographic Information Systems but currently our training activities are focused on metadata and geo web services. We now want to reinforce our training activities for Public Administration on spatial analysis and on satellite image processing.