We invariably over-estimate the ‘short term implications’ of new technologies or developments and grossly underestimate their ‘long term impact’, observed John Naughton.
As an example to substantiate this, he puts across the opinion poll result for a pollster going around in Mainz in the year 1468 asking people about the impact of movable
typewriter. Just 13 years after it was invented, it had changed things and even the definition of childhood. It surpassed the purpose for which it was visualised when books were a minority sport reserved for church and aristocracy.
In continuation, we find the same short term over-estimation of technology impact being repeated for Internet in the mid 1990s and Location Based Services in the late 90s. After the bursting of the Internet bubble and great disappointment from the ‘Killer Application: LBS’, we came to face the ground realities of usage. We are now moving ahead to incorporate them as utilities in our daily life.
In the last few years, we have seen an increased usage of maps and geospatial tools for infrastructure, urban utility services, environment, disaster management and business applications. It is driven by cost and time benefits accrued to the implementing agencies. In a way, maps and geospatial tools are now becoming a public utility; ‘A pragmatic motto’, as observed by Prof Strobl. From databases to software application development components, we have seen most of them gradually incorporating spatial component or support for spatial elements. We are also seeing organizations in the public sector that enable their project planning and monitoring in a geospatial manner.
Successful and widespread usage of ‘basic innovation’ is not dependent on its utility, but its ‘critical components’ that include the maturity of a tool, the system which will benefit from it and its capacity to accept, absorb and benefit from the given tool. Do we have all the critical components for Geographic Information Technology in place? Whatever be the answer for this question, it will vary from place to place and region to region. Factors that would further encourage the usage of geospatial tools in a state are: awareness amongst the decision makers; professional associations’ activism; government interest and initiatives in continuously updating policies; human resource availability and development; systemic development of government capacity particularly at lower part of the pyramid enabling them to understand and encourage use of geospatial tool at ground level; and recognizing the relevance of private sector and map culture.
The factors that will have a positive impact on the global geospatial industry are: (1) Internet, which has in store more and more bandwidth for the end user with passing year; (2) Sustained interest amongst the IT giants in providing web based geospatial service. While the business model wherein they make sufficient sustainable money is not clear to me, I wish they find a model soon that will supplement the ad based revenue; (3) GNSS is set to see the Galileo and replenished Glonass in 3-4 years. The satellite positioning and navigation system is going places. From mobile asset management to car navigation; from convict tracking to child tracking; they are reaching everywhere. Hopefully they will carry geospatial tools, along with them. (4) Satellite imagery data explosion, will lead to more and more data at higher resolution and even better price, which could lead to emergence of applications that are unthinkable today.
Let us look forward to the long term impact of geospatial tools.