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Advancing role of geospatial knowledge infrastructure in world economy and society

The past decade has witnessed unprecedented technological advancements. Technologies like Cloud, mobile, Internet, and Internet of Things (IoT) have led to data explosion and analytics. It is estimated by IBM that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. This comprises largely of unstructured data, generated by transactions, logs, records, social media, audio, visual and video consumption. New data sources are added every day, resulting in valuable data ecosystems for governments and businesses alike.

The availability of such large amounts of data has given rise to a Data Economy, which is thriving on analytics and value derived from these varied data sources. This data economy is supported by a converged Digital Infrastructure, which ensures seamless storage and exchange of data through communication systems.

Given that 80% of all data has a spatial component, a foundational component of the Data Infrastructure also includes the geospatial data infrastructure. Geospatial data provides the critical ‘where’ or location component to any data or system. Geospatial Data not only serves as an infrastructure, but as a knowledge source and a service provider for the country.

The significance of ‘place’ has been well recognized by our ancestors — for ages maps have been used for defence, trade, navigation, land and resource management, infrastructure planning and administration. People have been making decisions based on knowledge of the environment provided by maps, hence, the better the maps, the better and the decisions.

With the evolution of technology, the face and form of maps have also changed. Nowadays, digital geospatial information provides far more value for societal, economic and environmental use than just a simple map, and serves as an essential national information resource. It provides an integrating underpinning ‘location’ reference frame that enables government systems and services, and national development initiatives. With the development of mobile devices and telecommunications infrastructure, its use is also increasing in business services provided by companies like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, etc.

Geospatial Information is nothing but a digital version of the physical world in which all human, economic and environmental activities take place, and without which a digital economy is not possible. Geospatial information is presented in many forms and mediums including maps, satellite imagery and aerial photography.

Geospatial information and related location-based services silently extend value and benefit to all sections and stakeholders, including citizens, communities, businesses, governments and others on a daily basis by providing the digital connection between a place, its people and their activities. It is also used to model and portray the impact of the past, the present and the likely future.

Geospatial information is a nation’s ‘digital currency’ for evidence-based decision-making. As already established, it is a critical component of national infrastructure and knowledge economy that provides a nation’s blueprint of what happens where, and the means to integrate a wide variety of government services that contribute to economic growth, national security, sustainable social development, environmental sustainability and national prosperity. All governments, both at the national and local levels, hold considerable quantities of geospatial information and location data, for example databases of schools and school performance, flood risk data and mobile phone ownership data. However, this information is often not up to date, or of sufficient quality for effective decision-making. In contrast, a geospatially enabled nation is one that shares, integrates and uses a wide range of data to achieve social, economic and environmental benefits. This use and associated benefits extend across governments, businesses and citizens, and from national to city and small community levels. Geospatial information is the underpinning infrastructure for all these applications.

Having said that, it is important to highlight that governments and national geospatial agencies need to consider country’s respective geospatial readiness to build further strategies to advance towards digital transformation. However the challenge is an increasing digital and geospatial divide. It is high time to invest in developing a positive and collaborative approach towards building global geospatial infrastructure and policy frameworks. It is critical that countries develop a collaboration and partnership model to co-create the geospatial knowledge platform, including government to government, government to private, government to funding agencies, also involving in the process the academia and research institutes.

In the quest to strengthen Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure in transforming economy of digital age, Geospatial Media and Communications is organizing an exclusive workshop at the Geospatial World Forum on “Advancing Role of Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure in World Economy and Society” to discuss the geospatial readiness of the country, eventual transformation model including existing and required integrated policy framework and most importantly enriching the knowledge platform adopting collaboration and partnership model.

To know more please visit www.geospatialworldforum.org