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Geospatial World Forum 2011: Technology for people and Earth

An elegant ceremony marked the inaugural of Geospatial World Forum 2011, organised by GIS Development in Hyderabad, India during January 18-21, 2011. The event saw the confluence of diverse stakeholders in geospatial sector discussing the ‘Dimensions and Directions of Geospatial Industry.’

Calling on the geospatial professionals to unleash the power of geospatial information, chief guest Kapil Sibal, Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences; Human Resources Development; and Communications and Information Technology pointed out that any technology, including geospatial technology, is an enabler and a vehicle through which information could be delivered to the citizens, empowering them. The national geospatial data authority bill, which is in the anvil, will be a great step in this direction, he opined.

Information is public good and the government strongly believes in making 75-80 percent of geospatial information available to the citizens subject to security concerns, the minister said. To empower common people with this information, Sibal said the government is working on a framework of licensing and a regulatory policy which would streamline the activities of geospatial sector. He called on the industry to be an equal partner in communicating the meaning and utility of geospatial technology to one and all and exuded confidence that India will be a breeding ground of geospatial solutions in the future.

Detailing the high level of awareness and commitment towards geospatial technology at the highest level of policy making in the country, Dr K Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission, said that geospatial industry in India has several supporters including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and added that the Prime minister has mandated the Planning Commission to use geospatial tech for national development in the subsequent Five Year Plan. He called on the citizens to demand development and create a participatory movement for more geographic data.

Earlier, welcoming the gathering, Dr MP Narayanan, Chairman, GIS Development, outlined the core philosophy of the Forum in bringing together all the stakeholders of geospatial industry – policy makes, professionals, industry and the academia – to raise the awareness levels about the increasing relevance of geospatial technology in every day life. Atul D Tayal, Joint Managing Director, Rolta India Ltd delivered the message of KK Singh, President Association of Geospatial Industries and Chairman, Rolta Group. He said that while on one hand technology has enabled the production of quality geospatial information, on the other more than half of the world still remains to be mapped, giving a huge opportunity for the geospatial industry, he said.

Emeritus Prof Fraser Taylor, Chairman, UN International Steering Committee for Global Mapping (ISCGM) outlined the need to enable more effective data sharing among stewards of locationally referenced data; enable a greater degree of interoperability between and among datasets; make location data an integrated part of mainstream ICT and not a standalone system; link geographic information more effectively with socio-economic information; effective spatial management of geospatial information.

Calling climate change as the greatest challenge of the century, Dr Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India enumerated the significance of geospatial technology in understanding the complex interaction between and among different components like atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere etc. Ocean and seabed mapping is the next big frontier for geospatial industry as future generations will increasingly depend on ocean for their resources, he said.

Geospatial World Forum 2011 recognised the exemplary contributions made by organisations and professionals to the growth of geospatial technology and industry around the world. The following organisations/ professionals bagged the GIS Development awards-

  • Premier Mapping Agency: Natural Resources Canada
  • Education / Capacity Building for geospatial technology: Department of Geography, University Of California, Santa Barbara (Dr. Val Noronah)
  • Geospatial Personality of Decade: Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and Chief Executive, Ordnance Survey, UK
  • Leading Professional Society: International Cartographic Association (ICA)
  • World Leaders in Geospatial Technology: Rolta Group
  • Lifetime Achievement : Dr. K Kasturirangan

The first plenary session, chaired by Dr Shailesh Nayak, witnessed Ola Rollen, President & Chief Executive Officer, Hexagon AB, Sweden and Jeff Jonas, Distinguished Engineer and chief Scientist Entity IBM, USA share their views. Ola highlighted the need for dynamic GIS, that is, combining accurate maps with trackers. Giving examples of the application areas of GIS in future, Rollen talked about the agriculture market and explained how we can use this technology to improve this sector. Jeff Jonas introduced the audience to terms like ‘sensemaking on streams’ and called upon companies to evaluate new information against previous information, as and when it arrives.

In Plenary II, Jill Smith, Chief Executive Officer, DigitalGlobe, observed that collaboration with geospatial technologies is enabling dealing with various challenging areas including environment, economic and social challenges. The session was chaired by Lt. Gen. N. B. Singh, VSM, Director General of Information System (DGIS), India who said that geospatial database is a tool to develop interactive maps that can be manipulated digitally for real-time situational awareness. Bryn A Fosburgh, Sector President -Engineering & Construction Emerging Markets, Trimble, talked about emerging dimensions in the construction world. He said that the five dimensions of construction have not changed over time, however, method of modeling, collecting, measuring and managing of the construction work has changed dramatically. Rajesh V Mathur, Vice Chairman, NIIT GIS, India talked about a new emerging trend on the horizon of geospatial technology, that is Geodesign – intersection of geography and design. Through an interactive presentation, Mathur demonstrated how GIS will remain at the centre of the core practice of geodesign.

The Plenary Panel Discussion saw industry stalwarts deliberate upon the dimensions and directions of the geospatial industry. Session chair Dr. Vanessa Lawrence CB observed that geospatial industry is fast becoming part of the mainstream industry worldwide. In his address to the audience through a video presentation, Jack Dangermond, President, Esri, shared his vision on the new modality of the geospatial industry that builds upon enhanced sharing of knowledge and data as technologies evolve. Dr. BVR Mohan Reddy, Chairman and Managing Director, Infotech Enterprises, India concluded that the industry needs to ensure that they deliver value to customers. Absence of the same will impact not just one company but the industry. Brian Bullock, Chairman, Intermap Technologies, US observed that the next decade will witness an even larger explosion of data. He identified the next dimension as higher accuracy and more growth as the direction. Matthew O’ Connell, CEO, President and Director, GeoEye, identified trends that are defining the direction for the geospatial industry. These are increased reliance on satellite imagery by governments around the world, users increasingly wanting services that will help them make decisions using geospatial information and users wanting easy access to flawless geospatial information any time, on demand through Internet. Kanwar Chadha, Founder, SiRF Technologies discussed the trends in geospatial industry from consumer perspective and discussed the impact of cloud content and relevant location on geospatial industry.

In Plenary III, Prashant Shukle, Director-General Mapping Info, Natural Resources, Canada, delivering the Late Dr Robert Moses Memorial Lecture instituted by Open Geospatial Consortium, recalled the commitment of Late Dr Robert Moses to the field. He called for the bridging of the divide between those who understand the power of geospatial technologies and those who do not. Jurgen Dold, President and CEO of Leica Geosystems, reminded everyone that there is no ‘spare earth.’ He underlined the importance of dynamic updation of GIS to capture reality and create infrastructure, manage and share it. Shankar Aggarwal, IAS, Joint Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Government of India, spoke about the Application of GIS in National e-Governance Plan. Manny Rios, Senior Vice President, P&C Underwriting, USAA, United States, spoke about the initiative of the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation that was established in the United States as a not-for-profit organisation. The vision of the organization was to ensure greater use of the GIS information and reduce the impact of disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The Chairman of the session, Anil K Sinha, called for greater understanding of ground realities. The Minister for Information Technology, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Ponnala Laxmaiah, called upon the industries to look at the Advantage Hyderabad and set up their operations here.

Kamakshi Memorial Gold Medal for Young Geospatialist was presented to Thiyam Tamphasana Devi, Research Scholar, Department of Civil Engineering, IITG, India

Geospatial Excellence Awards
Category Awardee
Agriculture Cane Smile – Mitr Phol Sugar Group, Thailand
Business Intelligence Ministry of Municipalities & Agriculture Affairs – Bahrain
Governance NIC, MP – India
Transport Management Taipei City, Taiwan – China
Utility Penang State Subterranean Data Bank – Malaysia
Mining & exploration Anglo Platinum South Africa
Energy and Power Distribution Spectra Energy, United States
Telecommunication Bharati AirTel, India
Land & resources management Taranaki Regional Council, New Zealand
Geospatial Policies and Programme Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Centre (ADSIC, Abu Dhabi)


Geospatial Innovation Awards
Category Awardee
3D Avinion – India
Photogrammetry Microsoft Vexcel Imaging
Mobile Mapping Dataworld – India
Remote Sensing DigitalGlobe – 8 Band World View II
Web GIS Aalto University, Finland
LiDAR Terrasolid, Finland

Gujarat State was awarded as the “Premier Geospatial State of India.”

Geospatial for development sector. Issues of development sector came to the fore at the Symposium on Geospatial for Development Sector. The pre-lunch session, chaired by the Director of NATMO, Dr Prithvish Nag, saw some interesting discussions on ongoing development programmes in Africa and India. The post-lunch session, chaired by Director General of RCMRD, Kenya, Dr Hussein Farah, saw some case studies on use of GIS in development process.

Earth Observation Systems. “Will the satellite industry be able to survive without the government’s support?” This question was the focus of the symposium “Dimensions and Directions of Earth Observation Systems” and continued to remain the talking point in the panel discussion on “Commercialisation of Remote Sensing Industry.”

Environmental management. The symposium on Environmental Management witnessed discussions on a wide array of topics ranging from protected forest monitoring, nonrenewable resources and biomass mapping to heat analyses in urban areas. Geospatial World Forum 2011 also featured symposia on surveying and cartography; geospatial for design and engineering; integrated coastal zone management; geospatial for land management; global navigation satellite system and urban planning and development.

Climate change implications. In the seminar on Climate Change Implications on Socio-Economic Development, Jyoti Parikh, member PM Council on Climate Change observed that the technology would be of a great advantage to policy makers in risk assessment, and vulnerability mapping, among others.

Open Source Initiatives. Mission GIS for billions of people can be achieved with open source geospatial software, observed Dr. V Ravi Kumar, Retd. Director, Geological Survey of India, India, during the seminar on Open Source Initiatives. The session in two parts was chaired by Arnulf Christi, President, OSGeo, US; and S Narendra Prasad, Senior Principal Scientist & Head, SACON India, respectively.

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) at Geospatial World Forum 2011 constituted the Global Advisory Council (GAC), a blue ribbon council to understand the issues of various regions in the utility of standards and to raise the awareness levels of the same.

A wide range of more seminars explored developments in the geospatial industry. These included seminars on spatial data infrastructure; utility; disaster management, advancements in science and photogrammetry and a seminar by Natural Resources Canada.

Web GIS. The session on Web GIS proved to be a platform for knowledge sharing for industry, academicians, bureaucrats and technical experts. The topics in the session ranged from applications of GIS for forests and wild life conservation to urban planning and efficient power distribution.

LiDAR, laser scanning, 3D modeling. This session witnessed interesting and innovations applications of these technologies and other aspects. These included scalable workflows for 3D data management, benefits of deploying lasers for slope stability monitoring at a platinum mine, discussion on the upcoming mobile laser scanning and solutions in utility management.

Several other sessions took place at Geospatial World Forum 2011. These were on remote sensing and image processing; NRDMS; natural resource management; water resources; governance; location intelligence and emerging trends and agriculture.

Geospatial Users Forum. The idea behind having this Forum was to have participants from organisations that have implemented geospatial projects in unique verticals gather with an aim of ‘learning by sharing experiences’ and ‘learning by sharing mistakes made’. The Forum did just that, with participants gaining geospatial gyan from the practicing gurus in the trade.

Integrated Design Education Forum. Various facets of design education were addressed in this Forum. These included the significance of empowering next generation, trends affecting design and relevance of standards in relation to design education.

Developers Forum. The Forum observed that South America and Asia are top two investors in infrastructure in terms of their GDPs, and that intelligent infrastructure can be developed on geospatial platform but the geospatial data used in infrastructure building is different from traditional geospatial data.

As a pre-conference programme of Geospatial World Forum, GIS Development organised a two-day discussion forum for the heads of national mapping organisations (NMOs) from different countries and industry representatives from across the globe. Sanjay Kumar, CEO, GIS Development observed that the geospatial industry is growing rapidly and the major stakeholders in this industry are NMOs and the industry. This programme aimed to facilitate exchange between these two so they can put their act together and work out a growth path. The session concluded with the observation that factors affecting activities of NMOs are socio-economic development, funding, political situation, regulation and lack of political awareness.

The exhibition at Geospatial World Forum 2011 echoed the fact that geospatial technologies have come a long way from their status as a technological tool to a way of life. The event witnessed participation of around 57 firms exhibiting their products and solutions to usher new relationships and making geospatial as an acceptable culture. While exhibitors expressed satisfaction about the event, the visitors and participants had a great time too.

India’s first geospatial technology park will be set up in Gujarat. This was announced by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who presented the Awards during Geospatial World Forum 2011. “Gujarat is ready to host India’s first geospatial tech park. We will provide all the facilities that the industry needs,” he said. He also invited GIS Development to host the next Geospatial World Forum in Gujarat.

In the valedictory session, M Shashidhar Reddy, Vice Chairman, National Disaster Management Authority, India reiterated how important geospatial technology is in dealing with the vulnerable geophysical condition of India and the significant role it can play in ensuring disciplined urbanisation. He concluded that ‘the announcement of geospatial park by Gujarat is just a beginning, many such announcements are about to come.’

Sanjay Kumar, CEO, GIS Development, conveyed his thanks to all delegates, speakers and visitors for the grand success of the forum. He explained the need of such forums for networking, connecting with users, positioning of geospatial industry and facilitating the growth of geospatial industry. A total of 2266 delegates, 55 exhibitors, 364 speakers and representatives from 81 countries attended the Forum.