Maximising the benefits of geospatial information in Asia Pacific

Maximising the benefits of geospatial information in Asia Pacific

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Dr. Li Pengde
Dr. Li Pengde
President
Regional Committee of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Asia and the Pacific (UN-GGIM-AP)

UN-GGIM-AP has been successfully responding to the regional needs of geospatial information management. In an exclusive interview with Geospatial Media, Dr. Li Pengde talks about the activities of the organisation to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of geospatial information in the Asia Pacific region.

Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific (PCGIAP), now known as Regional Committee of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Asia and the Pacific (UN-GGIM-AP), was established in 1995 by a United Nations Resolution. Can you tell us more about its mandate and activities?
PCGIAP reports to the UNRCC-AP, which is held every three years, and is complementing UNRCC-AP as its operational body. PCGIAP was responsible for the execution of resolutions during the period between the successive meetings of UNRCC-AP. PCGIAP had been undertaking various projects during the past 18 years since its establishment and successfully responding to the regional needs of geospatial information management through developing a regional spatial data infrastructure by setting up working groups and managing them through annual plenary meetings and semi-annual executive board meetings.

PCGIAP has been recently renamed as Regional Committee of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Asia and the Pacific (UN-GGIM-AP). What is the vision behind the name change?
On 1 November 2012, in accordance with a UNRCC-AP Resolution, PCGIAP was renamed as Regional Committee of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Asia and the Pacific (UN-GGIM-AP) with a renewed mandate of identifying regional issues relevant to geospatial information management and taking necessary actions to further the discussions in UNRCC-AP, and thus contributing to the discussions in the UNCE-GGIM so that the economic, social and environmental benefits of geospatial information will be maximised in the Asia Pacific region.

Who are the member nations of UN-GGIM-AP?
Membership of UN-GGIM-AP comprises the 56 nations of Asia and the Pacific as it was with PCGIAP, as defined by the UN. The countries span a wide part of the globe from Iran and Armenia in the west to French Polynesia in the east; from the Russian Federation and Japan in the north to Australia and New Zealand in the south.

UN-GGIM-AP has a number of working groups. What are the focus areas of these working groups?
At the 1st UN-GGIM-AP meeting held on 1 November 2012, three working groups were established under the following themes: WG1: Geodetic Reference Framework for Sustainable Development: The primary objective of WG1 is to facilitate the adoption of the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF) by undertaking various regional geodetic projects including the Asia Pacific Reference Frame (APREF).

WG2: Geospatial Data Sharing and Integration for Disaster Management: The primary objective of WG2 is to identify the different types of user requirements associated with disaster management. As part of this project, WG2 will undertake the initial research on existing national and international geoportals and plans to develop standard-based sub-regional pilots which will facilitate data sharing for disaster management.

WG3: Place-Based Information Management for Economic Growth: The primary objective of WG3 is to improve the acquisition and maintenance of geospatial information. In particular, WG3 will undertake projects to promote the use of various types of geospatial information including volunteered information and facilitate knowledge sharing on web/cloud-based platforms and other smart based services for dynamic management, processing, visualisation and analysis of geospatial information.

UN-GGIM-AP is aligned with a number of other geospatial initiatives and organisations. Kindly tell us more about these collaborations?
The initiative for UN-GGIM was formally launched in 2009 by the resolution adopted at the 18th UNRCC-AP, which requested the creation of a global forum on geographic information management. The resolution led the ECOSOC to establish the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) in 2011.

Renaming from PCGIAP to UN-GGIM-AP aims to contribute to the furtherance of UN-GGIM and align the unique needs and interests of Asia and the Pacific with the UN-GGIM. We aim to take an active part in UN-GGIM to represent the member countries of Asia and the Pacific region.

UN-GGIM: AP also inherits and is committed to all the cooperative relationship with the liaison organizations of PCGIAP incuding PC-IDEA, ISO/TC211, FIG, IAG, ICA, IHO, IGU, ISCGM, ISPRS, GSDI, Eurographics, EUROGI, ESRI, Eurostat, GEOSS, OGC, INSPIRE, UNGEGN, ADB, JB-GIS, CODIST, and UNESCAP.

UN-GGIM-AP successfully held its 1st Meeting recently, in conjunction with United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific. Can you tell us about some of the key outcomes of these conferences that are expected to give direction to the geospatial information management and geospatial industry in the Asia Pacific?
One of the key outcomes of the Conference was the Resolution which recommends coordination between regional and global initiatives. The adoption of the resolution led to the renaming of the Committee from PCGIAP to UNGGIM-AP and allows reorganization of the Committee’s activities so that the unique needs and interests of Asia and the Pacific can be aligned closely with the UN-GGIM while strengthening the efforts that had been conducted by PCGIAP. In this connection, three new working groups were established as mentioned earlier.

UN-GGIM-AP has been involved in the establishment of SDIs in its member nations. What is the role of UN-GGIM-AP in the establishment of the SDIs, and what is the progress so far?
The role of PCGIAP in developing SDIs in the region has been to encourage the member countries to develop their own national SDIs by providing a forum to exchange their own experiences and best practices among them, particularly promoting the concept of spatial enablement in their governments and societies through a number of pilot projects, while introducing international standards and promoting the introduction of geocentric reference frame.

Because of the active participation from the member countries in these activities, a number of member countries have been successful in leveraging their geospatial capacity and established geocentric reference frames and modern legal framework for their SDIs.

What do you feel are the enabling factors for successful establishment of SDIs? How can they be achieved?
By observing the successful implementation of SDIs in a number of member countries in the region, there are at least two indispensable factors, which are strong, well-established geospatial capacity and capability of national geospatial information authority; and strong political leadership with proper vision and understanding that an SDI would be an indispensable information infrastructure for the successful and sustainable economic development of the country.

Which are the key sectors in your view that are the biggest users of geospatial technology in Asia Pacific and those which hold a lot of potential?
The governments are still leading the process of introducing geospatial information and its applications in most of the member countries in the region. The public sector seems to be the key sector as the biggest user of geospatial technology. Some of the potential areas for geospatial technology may be disaster response, land administration, agriculture and urban planning/development, because of the obvious characteristics of the region.

What according to you are the key areas that need to be addressed to facilitate the growth of geospatial industry in Asia Pacific?
A few global IT/geospatial companies are currently leading the geospatial industry, but in many countries in the region, local geospatial companies have not well been able to take the lead in their local geospatial market, partly due to the lack of human resources with adequate geospatial capacity and of commitment and lasting support of the public sector in taking advantage of geospatial technology as one of the key enablers for the future sustainable development and growth of their country. In view of this, raising the awareness of high-level decision makers of the member countries in geospatial information technology and its applications would be one of the areas that need to be addressed for the growth of geospatial industry in the region. Other key areas that need to be addressed for fast GI industry growth in the region include geospatial datasets, spatial infrastructures, standardisation and legal systems.