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“We have done all the technical work very well, and now we have to show how we can make a difference to the nation economically”

Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB, Director General and CEO of Ordnance Survey
Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB
Director General and CEO of Ordnance Survey

How was the process of transforming Ordnance Survey to a model mapping organisation on a global level?

Ordnance Survey is one of the world’s leading national mapping authorities and I think the main reason is that we have worked intensively for many years to always look forward as to what the future trends going to be, to serve our customers. Our customers are various ministries, central governments and small civil authorities. We work very comprehensively with business, insurances industry and also look at the risks that the insurances companies take. We have to make sure that the data is available to the research world and is used by about 200,000 researchers in England, Scotland and Wales every day. So we always work to invest in the digital world, probably slide their head about us. Most of the times, we get it right, sometimes of course we don’t. But it has made us preeminence in the world and we are delighted to be leaders and help people with different aspects of life.

What are your views about the national mapping agencies here in Latin America?

Some of the mapping agencies here are looking forward to modernising themselves. They are looking to be able to underpin the whole economics with geospatial information as we do in the United Kingdom. And for that, they are searching for new ways to get the data that the costumer requires. Like many organisations around the world, it sometimes takes top political leadership to get the priority of the budget. I hope of some of the work we do here in Latin America is assisting them to be able to bring that work great prominence so that this big investments into data authorities.

How according to you politicians can be educated about the value of the geographic information?

I am fortunate that I speak to politicians all around the world on a regular basis. I always frame my discussion around the biggest problem in that particular country. It could be traffic, or pollution, or land landslides, or lack of education, or conflicts.

When I am talking to a politician about the value of geoinformation, normally no one understands half of it. Therefore, my job in the first 10 minutes is to make them realise that a good geographic information base can solve a lot of their problems. Once this is explained, it is quite easy to interact with them after that.

There are two things to think about while educating politicians — who is the relevant politician and what is your key message. And that is how the technology makes the industry brilliant. Apart from that, it is about how you can make decisionmakers to realise the importance of data. We have done all the technical work very well, and now we have to show how we can make a difference to the nation economically.

After your experience in the London Olympics, what should be your advice for the Brazilian institutions that are involved in the organisation of Olimpics in 2016?

I am delighted to know that the Brazilian government has been talked to the UK government every day since the closure of the games in London. We at the Ordnance Survey had a several visits from people who work in the geospatial aspects of the Brazilian games. So you can be very sure that people are working in close collaboration. The key is to make sure that every agency that needs the geospatial information is given exactly what they require and it should be up to date. I myself did not think about it as much as I could have until I had to do the games. As professionals we think about real world geography, so we think about the building, the stadium, the inside of the stadium, the geography of that… but we also have to think about the geography of temporary constructions as keys and we had to map those. So if there is an emergency, they need to know the way to solve the problem quickly. The Ordnance Survey is always ready to assist.

Any final worlds about the future in the region?

I think if you’re working in the geospatial industry then you will have a fantastic future ahead. It’s huge and growing every day. So if you are a professional and you understand all aspects of your work then you will do very well in your community.