Abu Dhabi, September 9: At the GIS Forum MENA conference, which is currently being held at the Hilton Capital Grand, Abu Dhabi, experts equivocally stressed that with more people relying on technology such as Google Maps in their everyday lives, the demand for public services that utilise reliable location data from geographic information systems (GIS) is gaining traction.
Speaking at the conference about privacy concerns, Vanessa Lawrence, secretary general of Ordnance Survey International said, geospatial technology tends to help people rather than affect their privacy. “Around the world there is a constant debate about privacy, but the data that our industry uses is about place and location, not about people,” she said.
“What we have very much recognised is that as long as you don’t collect information about people, which we don’t and nor do we advise anyone does, then privacy issues are not an issue at all… So what I am seeing around the world is that this is assisting people, not affecting their privacy,” she said.
She, however, cautioned that governments need to rely on authoritative data rather than data that is ‘just good enough’ and which may be available elsewhere. “What is happening in Bahrain and in many countries across the road is they need to build authoritative data, where everyone can trust the data and knows that the data is the exact representation of what’s happening on the ground, so a road is exactly where it says it is,” she said. “Just good enough data is not for the future.”
A survey found an increase of 20% in the number of people who use location-based services compared to the time when they were first introduced in Abu Dhabi, said Khawla Al Fahim, executive manager of the Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Centre (Adsic) spatial data division.
“We must collaborate across sectors and turn data into Geo-Intelligence that will produce geo-enabled, customer-centric services and channels. This is the optimum way to truly transform government services and create resilient cities that will continue to evolve and adapt to the trends in technology and innovative practices," added Al Fahim.
Another delegate at the conference, Omar Al Shaiba, director of spatial data and property at the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipal Affairs, added that 65% of the emirate’s population benefits from geographic information services.
In his session, he also said that a large number of people were using these services to map tourism sites in Al Ain. He cited example of Adsic’s City-Guard smartphone app, through which people can take a picture and report a problem such as a broken bench or pothole. Adsic claims that till now more than 84,000 people have downloaded the app, and 90% of cases have been closed.