The world is transiting from being a society that is largely agrarian to one that is industry oriented. I am afraid that urban migration and how we prepare our cities for the increasing infrastructure and economic demands brought on by rapidly growing populations, will always be an issue. Therefore, the task at hand is to employ technology tools that help make cities livable, ‘green,’ and economically productive as they continue to expand.
In infrastructure, geospatial technology is not an end in itself but the means to an end. The end here is to improve our planet and the quality of life for billions of people around the globe who are not aware of geospatial technology because it is implicit in the way they use their apps for communication devices, or when they get on the rail system and the signalling slows or speeds their journey. It is a good reminder to us that we are empowering and enabling. It is the users who are accomplishing and their constituents who are benefitting. The industry is advancing GIS for infrastructure, and we emphasise that because we think it is infrastructure that directly contributes to the quality of life.
Factor of production
Modern technology and information mobility have made it possible to have a hands-on approach from design to construction and the operation of infrastructure, instead of a hand-off between design and construction and a hand-over between construction and operations. Look at the example of China, where as a result of the Jiangxia 500-kV transformer project in Wuhan, rural citizens are getting electricity, in some cases for the first time. Doing that requires investment in generating capacity, transmission and distribution. Another example is in the area of hydropower. Hydropower projects are some of the most interesting and challenging projects because of their enormous scale.
Technology helps users in China, India or elsewhere in the world to create better-performing and smarter hydropower plants, the result is that less coal is burned and the whole world benefits. So, even though we normally think of infrastructure in an urban context, the quality of life of those who live in rural areas is also improved significantly. The need is for a handshake between government and industry to make sure that information is made available. And software without information goes nowhere, particularly in geospatial world.
I do not think it is really important for us to argue about the geospatial industry and its destiny, because the more time we spend asking that question, the more opportunity we are losing. Moving ahead, we should be thinking of the industry as a factor of production in most economic activities. In Italy, a number of people do not pay their taxes, and I ask the question, ‘Can technology help find tax evaders?’ In Italy, when the aerial surveys were compared to the cadastre maps, it was found that there were 1.2 million structures that had never been permitted and, therefore, never taxed. Thus, the use of technology can help the world to become a more resilient and fairer economy.
Five years from now, our subject area would expand from what was once 2D mapping and more recently has been 3D geospatial modelling. I say we are now increasingly into performance simulation. The ‘G’ is everywhere and we have learnt a lesson that geospatial is as implicit as it is important.