The Geospatial Readiness of a country is a multifaceted issue. The Global Geospatial Industry Outlook investigates the geospatial readiness of 50 nations representing 75% of the world’s population and 89% of the world’s GDP.
The United States of America leads the Geospatial Readiness Index, the Global Geospatial Industry Outlook research have found. The country is rich in topographic datasets, has its own earth observation capabilities, a wide RTK network and its own augmentation system (WAAS). A progressive policy framework in support of the geospatial ecosystem makes it easy for the users in the country to adopt and use geospatial technologies.
The global economy is at a very pivotal point with major focus on poverty, Climate Change and sustainable economic growth, says the research by Geospatial Media & Communications. Innovation being a case in point, the use of geospatial for sustainable development of a country is gaining momentum. In perspective, developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada and Germany are leaders in geospatial preparedness. These countries share key traits, including a vibrant geospatial community, higher education and research institutions that meet the needs of the economy, higher adoption and application of geospatial technology and an efficient and enabling geospatial infrastructure and legal framework.
United States is known as the land of innovation and not surprisingly, most of the geospatial technology and product innovation is predominant in this region. The growth of the geospatial industry in United States can also be accredited to the support provided by strong institutions, research and development initiatives and incubation centers. These arguments are supported by the fact that the geospatial industry in the United States generated $37 billion (approximately) in annual revenue, while geospatial services drove $1.6 billion in revenue and $1.4 billion in cost savings in 2014.
Following the United States closely is the United Kingdom, which is rich in geographical data sets especially with respect to use of geospatial technologies. Location is a key component in the British ecosystem and therefore, geospatial is being adopted in every industry segment for both civil and government use. The country has abundant number of universities that offer rich and diverse geospatial courses and attracts international students. The legal framework and policies are supportive of the geospatial industry, making it feature second. This rank is justified by the projected £561 billion worth of economic impact accredited to the adoption of geospatial in the country.
The Netherlands takes the third position for it offers rich and diverse scales of topographic and satellite imagery datasets. The country is also one of the first to establish a Cloud-based Web portal for real-time satellite data access. Since the Netherlands is part of the European Union, it follows the INSPIRE Directive which aims to establish a common platform for spatial information in Europe. The country promotes open data policies to enhance the geospatial uptake at national and regional levels. The institutional capacity of the country is class apart, with Dutch universities producing some of the best geospatial graduates in the world. In recent years, geospatial uptake has increased in all industry segments of the country.
Following the Netherlands in the open data policies is Canada, which ranks at No. 4 on the Geospatial Readiness Index. The total contribution of the geospatial sector to the Canadian GDP is at approximately 1.1% per annum. Geographic information is seen to benefit economy, society and environment in Canada and therefore it is used in a variety of applications across all industries. The country rides on open data policies and free geospatial data resources which have accelerated the use of geospatial in various industry segments. It also makes extensive investments to further the innovations in the geospatial domain.
Ranking at No. 5 is Germany, a country driven by the geospatial hardware industry and strong institutional capacity. Germany’s geospatial community is at the forefront of the technology revolution thankfully to the consistent government policies and investments being made in this sector. Having set up its spatial data infrastructure in 1998, the geospatial infrastructure of Germany provides nationwide uniform geodetic reference frames and topographic reference data. Also, the country’s space program covers the entire spectrum of earth observation capabilities. From a technology perspective, the innovative instincts in the country are leading to development of hardware and software products. Germanys’ High-tech Strategy 2020 addresses the role of space based EO and Galileo for research and innovation in priority areas.
The four Nordic countries included in the Countries Geospatial Readiness Index, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, all together dominate the top 20. These countries have a long history of building and maintaining an efficient geospatial infrastructure which is supported by the INSPIRE directives. Also, these countries have their own national spatial strategies. For instance, Sweden’s national spatial strategy ensures that international efforts made by UNGGIM and INSPIRE are implemented nationally to support geospatial. Finland has only recently released its National Spatial data strategy for 2016 which focuses on improving the availability, usability and interoperability of spatial information. These countries also boast of huge investments in the geospatial sector. For example, the Danish investment of $125 million in developing a sound SDI in 2012-2016 was a progressive step. The investment brought returns estimated at $33 million per annum for the public sector and $66 million per annum for the private sector. The use of geospatial information in the selected Nordic nations is therefore driven by enabling legislations, active user and industry engagement and strong institutional capabilities.
The middle ground
While developed nations had the first mover advantage with respect to geospatial, it is the developing nations that are the driving force of the industry globally. Asian powerhouses like China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, etc, are at the growing stage on the index. These countries are at the forefront of economic development and at present have an adequate geospatial infrastructure, policy framework and institutional capability with respect to geospatial. They are bringing a paradigm shift by using spatial data in various industry verticals and investments in spatial technologies are currently high.
For instance, The 12th Year Plan (2011-2016) of China focuses on the Geospatial Industry with an average annual increase of 25% in investment. In New Zealand, the use and reuse of geospatial information is estimated to have added approximately $1.2 billion in productivity-related benefits to the economy. Similarly, the Indian geospatial industry is also undergoing a major transformation. The estimated annual budget of government agencies for geographic information services in the country currently stands at $3 billion. It is expected that the geospatial market in the country is going to grow at a cumulative annual rate of 12-25% in the next decade. Economies like South Africa, Brazil, etc., are also taking a leading step in leveraging geospatial data, especially earth observation data, and by quickly adopting geospatial technologies and updating the national geospatial policy framework.
Where there are leaders, there are some countries that are bound to be at the beginner level. Bangladesh, Vietnam, Kyrgyz Republic are some countries that have only very recently initiated the process of setting up a proper geospatial infrastructure. These countries are in the process of laying strong guidelines to formulate an action strategy for the growth of geospatial in their regions. Absence of policy guidelines, the dearth of human resources, inadequate investments and a weak geospatial industry are some of the reasons why they have not been able to flourish in the Geospatial Readiness Index as of yet. However, because they have taken the leap of faith and jumped on the bandwagon to promote geospatial, they have the potential to go up higher in the next index.
What is the Geospatial Readiness Index
The Geospatial Readiness Index, a first-ever study stimulates debates and discussion to identify the status of 50 countries in terms of their geospatial preparedness. Far more than ‘just’ rankings, the Index showcases insightful comparisons evaluating why some countries are better than others and what can be done to close the gap. The index acts as a benchmark to initiate the development of geospatial in the 50 countries to seize new and available opportunities that shall benefit the society globally.
The next few years will be definitive for the geospatial industry on a whole and the role it will play in a country’s growth. There is a unique opportunity for countries to utilize the opportunities available. The index explores and evaluates the geospatial infrastructure, institutions, user adoption of geospatial and the available industry fabric. These aspects matter because it helps the decision makers to understand their relative strengths and weakness with respect to geospatial at a more granular level.
For instance, one country might realize that it is being outperformed on geospatial infrastructure and policy framework, while the other may realize that it is institutional capacity that is pulling it down in the overall index. It is imperative that the stakeholders of the geospatial ecosystem leverage the Geospatial Readiness Index and unravel the complexities in use of geospatial in their respective countries and make informed decisions. The idea, therefore, is to encourage a debate on the need of the drivers of geo-readiness, so that nations can learn lessons from each other and from the high-performing countries to improve its own capabilities in terms of geospatial. The index argues that all the four pillars and their sub-determinants need to be come together in a comprehensive framework for a country to be geo-ready.