UK: It is not GIS but the proximity with the people who use GIS that has made a real difference in our operators in Afghanistan, said Col (retd) John D. Kedar, Comd JAGO, UK MoD. “So being in the forward operating bases with the infantry companies, with the battle groups and being able to give what the user needs, there and then, is the big difference. Hence, it’s less the development of GIS; it’s more where we are using it that has been the biggest development for us in three years,” he added.
Elaborating further, Col Kedar said, “It is not technology that will make a difference now. It is how we use the technology within defence. It’s how we make sure that we get information to people; it’s how we make sure that all information is specially referenced in some way so we can use it in GIS. I think the big difference the GIS will make in ten years’ time is we’ll be able to pull in all sorts of web served information, from cloud computing and the SOA type architectures. But if we can pull in information, then the analysts for supporting the commander can provide something the commander really needs there and then.”
Talking about challenges the soldiers faced in Afghanistan, Col Kedar said, “There are several challenges for GIS team in Afghanistan. The first is getting hold of useful data. There’s a lot of data around, but it doesn’t flow within Afghanistan.
The second real challenge for us is turning the information into things that the commander can use. Commanders need to know a lot more than we are giving them. For example, if I build a well in a village, commanders need to know who will benefit from it, what will they think of the work we have done and where else do I need to build the wells to stop that friction. So it’s a much bigger problem and we need more information to solve this problem.”
“If there was one thing I could change in GIS today, here and now, it would be the ability for GIS to be used by a range of users. In order to use GIS, one still requires an expert knowledge. Actually, a lot of simple tasks could be taken care off, but at a much lower level. If we can provide simple GIS algorithms and so on, it will take some of the work off my guys in theatre and they can concentrate on the more difficult stuff while the simple line of sight and so on and so forth is being delivered by the infantry man himself,” added Col Kedar.
In January 2010, Col Kedar and his colleagues gave one of the most popular DGI presentations, talking about GIS capabilities in theatre, with real life examples from Afghanistan. GIS has been successfully used in Afghanistan. Col Kedar is now part of the Defence Geospatial Intelligence (DGI) 2011 Advisory Board.