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UN launches guide for countries to improve geospatial data management for better decision-making

geospatial data management for better decision-makingIn a development that is likely to change how governments treat location data, the Statistics Division of the United Nations and World Bank launched what they are calling “a new guide” last week to help nations worldwide better manage geographical information data.

The guide, called the Integrated geospatial Information Framework – A Strategic Guide to Develop and Strengthen National Geospatial Information Management, was launched during the Eighth Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) held in New York last week. It includes advice for countries  on how to collect, access and use geospatial information, and will help governments, especially in low- and middle-income countries, to develop effective policies, and support decision-makers in directing aid and development resources. Further, it gives concrete recommendations on establishing national geospatial information management processes and putting that information to use.

“Geospatial information is a critical component of national infrastructure and a blueprint of what happens where, and with proven societal and economic value,” said Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the Statistics Division, which is part of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

“Better understanding and management of digital location-based data and services, and good geospatial information integrated with urban planning and census data, can enable more efficient resource allocation for better service delivery,” he explained.

It is largely established now that access to reliable geospatial data helps policy-makers, international organizations, civil society and others gain better insights into the distribution of needs and ways to optimize development planning and investments.

“Geospatial information has emerged as a major contributor to economic transformation in many countries, including e-government, e-service and e-commerce,” says the Framework.

However, there remains a considerable lack of understanding — and often, even awareness — about the role of geospatial information and its contribution to national development. This is particularly found to be acute at the policy and decision-making levels in developing countries. And this calls for better institutional collaboration, interoperability and integration across the various national data information systems and platforms that exist; particularly those related to people and place — statistics, administrative, environment, earth observations, etc.

“High-quality, timely geospatial information is often overlooked in policymaking, yet is fundamental to achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development,” said Anna Wellenstein, who leads land and geospatial activities at the World Bank.

The effort is in continuation with the joint UN-World Bank collaboration initiative agreed upon last year to promote growth and prosperity through creating and strengthening geospatial information capacity and development. It is believed that this Framework will now assist countries to move towards e-economies, improve services to citizens, build capacity for using geospatial technology, enhance informed government decision-making processes, take practical actions to achieve a digital transformation, and be able to bridge the geospatial digital divide in the implementation of national strategic priorities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For example, integrated geospatial information management can enable Small Island Developing States to better monitor climate change impacts, plan mitigation, and manage disaster risks.

While all governments hold a considerable amount of geospatial information, including databases on who has access to education; communities most affected by poverty; areas at risk of disasters; as well as mobile data that can keep more people informed about disease outbreaks and weather patterns. But the information, although critical to improve lives and livelihoods, is often not current, shared, or integrated with other necessary data.

The Integrated geospatial Information Framework can be downloaded from here.