Home Articles Editorial Will GIS find mainstream?GECCo Initiative:Protecting Our Infrastructure

Editorial Will GIS find mainstream?GECCo Initiative:Protecting Our Infrastructure

Robert M. Samborski


Robert M. Samborski
Executive Director
Geospatial Information & Technology
Association, Aurora,
Colorado, USA
[email protected]

Homeland security is a national priority of many governments around the world, and will likely remain a primary focus for the foreseeable future. But beyond the obvious impact of potentially successful terrorist attacks, it is important to remember that the results of natural disasters are just as serious.

Typhoons and hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and fires occur with unpredictable regularity and significant cost in lives and property. Damage to our underground infrastructure by errant excavation occurs on a daily basis. While most of this accidental damage goes unnoticed on a national level, the aggregate effect on a nation’s economy is staggering, and the number of lives lost tragically unnecessary.

No matter what the root cause of the emergency is – terrorism, natural occurrences or unintentional human error – the methods of responding to, mitigating and ideally preventing reoccurrences are based in a common approach: the coordinated use of geospatial information. This cannot happen without the many mutually dependent agencies and organizations being charged with protecting a nation’s citizens and infrastructure and are being able to efficiently and effectively share their geospatial data. There are obstacles that need to be overcome before this collaboration can occur, however.

For the past 18 months, the Geospatial Information & Technology Association has been actively developing a unique program called “Geospatially Enabling Community Collaboration” – or GECCo. Having evolved from a nationally supported, ‘bottom up’ experiment in the 1980s in Japan that resulted in the establishment of ROADIC – the Road Administration Information Center – the GECCo initiative has at its roots in a local approach involving multiple agency cooperation to address our most pressing homeland security issues.

A MODEL FROM JAPAN
The Road Administration Information Center, or ROADIC resulted from a federally mandated initiative of the Japanese government. Established as a non-profit consortium of private and public organizations in 1986 in Tokyo in response to several major gas explosions, its initial charter was to address a lack of knowledge of the location and condition of underground assets.

Today, ROADIC has expanded to 12 major urban areas (branches) throughout Japan with a mission of ensuring public safety and protecting public utilities in the right-of-way. These branches coordinate with local governments and public utilities, including gas, electric, water, sewer, trains, subways, and communications. The ROADIC system of Japan has become a world-class example of multi-organizational cooperation.

In November 2003, a joint U.S./Canadian team from GITA conducted a Study Mission to gather more information about ROADIC and assess its suitability for implementation in North America. In a final report . org/ngi4cip/) the Study Mission Team made several general observations.