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EditorSpeak: UN-GGIM: Will member nations listen and act?

Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Managing Editor
[email protected]

The United Nations’ initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) has been kicked off with the First High Level Forum in Seoul. This relatively quiet event has been in many ways a path breaker. Let me confess – At the outset, I wasn’t too sure that the Forum would address the real issues besetting the geospatial community of the world. I have seen that most such ‘initiatives’ ultimately end up on a technology ‘high’ and sweep under the carpet uncomfortable issues related to sociological, managerial, administrative and even individual concerns. At some point, these issues come back to haunt and ultimately undermine the technological framework. If geospatial technology has not realised its potential in full, it is because of this dichotomy. It is because technologists aspire to become administrators instead of becoming partners of administrators.

In this context, the Forum’s observation that there is a need to keep “geodetic, technical and institutional frameworks up-to-date as out-of-date regulations could hinder the effective operation of NMOs” is very relevant. I may question, why only NMOs? It hampers geospatial usage across the board. Technology must wait for the institutional framework to catch up before embarking on new ventures. This is easier said than done because every technology has a bright side which is highlighted by the technologists and a dark side which the administrators are wary of. Unless there is a common meeting ground, this standoff brings all efforts to naught. By highlighting the need for all frameworks to be in sync, the Forum has addressed a key issue.

Another excellent point is the fact that industry can underpin national activities and add value to them. Apart from aiding in standardisation, industry can and should contribute to data creation and DSS development. The Forum has been bold enough to also note the ‘fragility’ of data sharing in GEOSS while noting the success in the WMO and correctly attributing the success to legislation that enables data sharing. Data sharing is an issue right down to the national level, not only because of regulations past their ‘use by’ date but also a general reluctance to share data. The time has come to move from managing geospatial data for our applications and turn our attention to managing our applications geospatially. The UN has done the geospatial community a great service by focussing on these issues in a comprehensive manner but will the member nations listen and act?

Coming to our current issue, we have covered the world of cadastre from various angles. Cadastre has huge importance in terms of establishing the economic value of land. Marine cadastre has also become very important with the need to realise the potential economic value of the sea and the land below it. The UN-GGIM has highlighted the importance of the geodetic framework. This is the framework that ties together land and marine cadastre. This is also an area where the best of technology is readily accepted because the economic value of the information is visible and desirable. This is perhaps an excellent example of managing our applications geospatially.