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Making a case for open data

Imagine a country a third of which is below sea
level and with a population density as high as
in Taiwan, and still manages to be the fifth most
competitive economy in the world!

Prof Arup Dasgupta
Managing Editor, [email protected]


Last month I was in Mexico City attending the LAGF 2015 as well as the GEO-XII Plenary and Ministerial Summit. Both events were well attended. While LAGF was all about geospatial activities in Latin America, the GEO Plenary was about promoting earth observations for the benefit of mankind. There were many other side events, including a meeting of the GGIM for the Americas. The LAGF was well attended and for me it was a first-time view of the enormous amount of work being done in this region. Geospatial is getting integrated with many of the relevant government bodies, including communications. While INEGI spearheads this effort, there are many other agencies which play a supporting role.

The GEO effort is significant because it addresses the key issues troubling the world; sustainability in the face of climate change and global warming. It is an outcome of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002). It is composed of member states, international organisations, the European Commission and many observers who have made a political commitment to move towards the development of a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system of systems. As a purely voluntary organisation it supports UN efforts like the GGIM as well as inter-governmental cooperation.
The Geo-XII Plenary and Ministerial Summit was an important meeting as it covered a review of its past work and an endorsement by its members for the activities of the next 10 years. The decadal plan was further endorsed at the Ministerial summit which was attended among others by the Secretary of the Interior, USA, Vice Minister for S&T, China, Minister for S&T, South Africa and the Commissioner for S&T, European Union. The Plenary and Summit made a strong case for open data such that all countries could benefit from such data for their development plans and particularly for tackling disaster situations.

Open data is also the reason behind the geospatial success story of the Netherlands as illustrated in our cover story. Imagine a country a third of which is below sea level and with a population density as high as in Taiwan, and still manages to be the fifth most competitive economy in the world! In the Netherlands you have wonders like the Maeslantkering, a massive sea gate system which protects the port of Rotterdam from sea surges automatically. It is perhaps the only country which has a 3D cadastre because you can build on top of other buildings since space is at a premium. Open data is supported by an open SDI, PDOK and the Netherlands also swears by open government allowing access to government documents by the general public.
While the Netherlands provides a glimpse on how geospatial has been brought to bear to support the unique situation of the country, there are many other examples of successful applications in other situations. The mapping of Nepal using UAVs operated by students and the delineation of boundaries in Africa are other examples covered in this issue.

As 2015 draws to an end I take this opportunity to wish all our readers a Very Happy New Year. Let us hope that 2016 will bring many more technologies and applications and enlightened policies which will help geospatial to support humanity.