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ME – fertile ground for geospatial

Arup Dasgupta
Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Honorary Managing Editor
[email protected]
One of the enduring impressions of any visit to the Middle East (ME) is the ‘forest’ of tower cranes. Building activity seems to be never ending in this part of the world. There is another activity, equally vigorous though not as visible and that is the building up of spatial data infrastructures in the states that make up the GCC. Beginning with Qatar, the efforts have spread to all the states and significant progress has been made. As Zul Jiwani points out, the necessary ingredients for this success are a patron, a field clear of the baggage of legacy, a receptive clientele and adequate financial resources. Understanding the user needs and catering to a variety of users from security agencies to the public drives many of these efforts. Each agency has its own way of meeting its user needs. As systems mature, so do users and the needs grow.

Given this fertile ground, it is no surprise that the geospatial industry has taken firm root here. The experience of industry is interesting. While financial resources are not a problem there is a matching requirement to see that these resources fetch the best in technology and services. This keeps the industry on its toes. The growth of geospatial awareness has progressed on familiar lines. From an initial naive view of GIS as a ‘magic box’, the awareness has progressed to a more mature understanding of the benefits of geospatial applications for the management of resources, utilities, urban environment and security. Industry has kept pace with this learning process providing the necessary products and services and then, as the maturity of the users grew, tools to generate these products and services.

In this issue, we carry a special section on the geospatial activities in the GCC with the intention of showcasing success stories and we hope our readers from developing nations will find these useful in applying the lessons learnt to their own contexts.

Our other focus in this issue is position location. The importance of ‘where’ is being realised as never before as resources become scarce and demands multiply. Better and improved techniques are required and this leads to the convergence of technologies to provide better location information. India’s GAGAN, a version of WAAS is one such example of the use of GPS for precision guidance. GPS is also being integrated with INS to provide better point to point navigation which is a requirement for aerial surveys.

As 2009 draws to a close, all eyes are on the economic indicators. The recession has affected the geospatial world as our Middle East story shows. With the US economy showing a small positive growth, is there a glimmer of light ahead?