Home Articles What do they think about Latin America geospatial scenario?

What do they think about Latin America geospatial scenario?

A select group of the most important actors in geospatial world community express their thoughts about the region.

Jack Dangermond
Jack Dangermond
President of ESRI

How do you see the geospatial market in Latin America?
Use of GIS is growing rapidly in Latin America. For the 20 years, the region has been collecting basic information, setting up the core data infrastructure, and also focusing on key mission areas, for example map making, environmental sciences, emergency and response. As with the rest of the world, in Latin America too, people are learning how to use Web services and Web mapping, and beginning to learn about Web GIS. Now, we have users with development background and also with the ability of traditional mapping. This is growing in multiple levels of governments and businesses.

What are the challenges for this market?
There are three main challenges. The first one is the cost, but Web GIS is cheaper than the traditional GIS technology. So, steps to overcome difficulties in those areas are being facilitated by server architectures with very low price of Web access clients. Secondly, there has been a lack of technicians who knew how to do the development work. Universities across Latin America are developing strong GIS programmes. This is changing the picture of software development too. People who are getting into the job market now already know about GIS, so they can work in places like INEGI or IGAC, where they can change how organisations work.

The third big challenge is that the policymakers lack knowledge about the power of maps and geography. That is changing though, because of the power of super mapping, people like to be on Google and they have opened their eyes to the power of geospatial world. People want much more than visualisation, they want connection to the authorities and Web sources to understand the pattern of Web GIS which allows the authorities of the agencies to create data and also analyse it. There are all kinds of new apps that serve the policymakers. This is the big change in the sector.

The US government uses GIS to ask important questions and I think they will set an example for other organisations like natural resources agencies, planning agencies, utilities, environmental agencies. I have a strong believe that the geospatial, not just visualisation, will succeed in solving the challenges that the world is facing. It will overcome challenges faced in climate changes, biodiversity, and challenges that policymakers face every day, creating a more sustainable city, a more sustainable country, a more sustainable world.

ESRI has a big market in Latin America, how you see the competition and the new opportunities in the region?
My feeling is that we have been able to contribute in Latin America because the tools are good and people can count on that. But we also made a lot of mistakes and we sure have an open view to have a local market with many competitors. That is what makes it a healthy market, make us better and makes our competitors better but mostly it makes it a healthy environment. I don’t think that we have a strong presence in Latin America but we have a lot of users and that will increase.

Mark Reichardt
Mark Reichardt
President of OGC

How is the status of OGC in Latin America?
OGC has a good number of individual members but not a lot of membership representations. Therefore, we need to find a model that will bring more members to resolve the lack of communication about Latin America issues. We have several universities and institutions in many countries but in some places I feel the local culture is against approving organizations memberships. I think is important to have Latin American representations in our process because environments are different from region to region and it’s good for us to understand these cases.

How do you see the geospatial market in Latin America?
The market is growing, they are using OGC’s open standards and they can export that; so it’s an advantage to be able to export and create an impact on the market. We saw that in areas like Taiwan and India, they are not looking only on the inside, but also at the international market and it can be a big difference. Once you get recognition in major countries in the region, others will automatically follow. We support LAGF and other high-level events and we see that people are putting in a lot of energy right now.

Fraser Taylor
Fraser Taylor
Professor and Director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Carleton University, Canada

In general, how do you see the geospatial activities in Latin America?
To generalise about Latin America is impossible because each country is doing its own thing. I think there have been some exciting developments in Latin America, but to compare one nation with the other is not good. I will say Latin America has started moving towards the modern field but only since the last five or six years. It was too conservative in the past, but it’s changing now.

Is this change about the more stable economic and political scenario in the region?
I think the change varies from military control of many of the services to civilian control of the many of the services. This is really important because when the cartography and geographic information processing was dominated by more traditional and security-oriented processes, the ability to share information between sectors was usually less. That has changed so as the result the freight to share the information has been revolutionising the way people are moving. It’s also increasing role of the private sector.

Do you think the higher numbers of user technology is also influencing these changes?
For a long time, the users moved back because of the high costs of Internet access. Now that these costs are going down, more people are becoming involved. But the costs are still higher than it should be in some countries in Latin America. But I do think Latin America has a great future.

Sebastian Mayoral
Sebastian Mayoral
Director of National Center for Geographic Information and secretary of INSPIRE Program

How do you see the geospatial market in Latin America?
I think there is a great interest on the subject in Latin America. For many years we have been aware of the importance of geographic information and it has been organised quite well. The region has very good institutions that produce and manage geographical information and are becoming important institutions to the nation. Some of them are INEGI, IBGE, IGAC and other geographical institutes. The region has also a few institutions and organisations dedicated to work on initiatives related to geographical data infrastructure.

What do you see as the challenges?
The problem is the lack of organisational structures. IPGH has shown interest in participating in action at country level including Andean countries and Central America. But such institutions still need a more strong support from their governments and their structures need to measure up to the international standards. I hope that the recent initiative from UN, the UN-GGIM, can play that role.