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‘Location features driving spatially enabled societies’

Singapore: The four-day annual conference of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) Association was inaugurated here today. Vincent Hoong, Chief Executive, Singapore Land Authority (SLA) gave the welcome address. Giving the statistics of the conference participation, he informed that 60 countries were represented in GSDI-12 and the breakup of the participants was 57% government, 25% private sector and 18% academics. Looking at the response, he was confident that the event was off to a flying start.

Hiroshi Murakami, Vice President, PCGIAP, in his address, called the event as the biggest geospatial event in South East Asia this year. He stressed that variation in development in different countries calls for spatially enabled societies to end the disparities. The GSDI- 12 was a forum to learn from each other. He expanded upon the role of PCGIAP, its activities and working relations with UN and GSDI.

Abbas Rajabifard, President, GSDI Association talked about disasters, natural, manmade and financial crisis, and their impact on urban centres. He said, immediate relief and recovery requires spatial enablement; so does the planning for disaster prevention, mitigation and early warning. He touched upon the importance of location and the need for better understanding of locational features. This was the driving force behind the theme of the conference: Realising Spatially Enabled Societies. He touched upon smart applications and said that collaboration is central to spatial enablement and geospatial community must stress on these factors.

The Chief Guest of the event, Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister, Ministry of Information, Communications and Arts, Government of Singapore, in his inaugural speech drew upon his experience in Navy and commented on how maps have changed from being paper objects to data on hand-held devices. He said that maps have also become more precise, more detailed and as a result have new and unique utility. This transformation was due to the GPS. He also extolled satellite imagery which mimics reality.  He quoted as examples Google Earth, 3D models and 3D city models for urban planning. Geospatial will become even more pervasive and government has to take the right approach to better harness the technologies with better policies. He highlighted the Singapore inter-agency effort to create the SDI, SGSpace. He said many agencies like Ministry of Law, Ministry of Information, Communications and Arts, SLA and Infocomm came together to contribute to this effort. Public, private and community participation resulted in 300 layers of data which caters to many users. For the general public, One Map has been implemented on the web using this database. He envisaged the need for more bandwidth, common standards for different agencies, incubation of more industries and capacity building.

ESRI President Jack Dangermond was presented the Global Citizen of the Year Award by GSDI in a simple but elegant function. He accepted the award as a recognition of the work done by him and his team and thanked GSDI for this honour.

In his plenary speech, Jack dwelt upon the context of spatial applications in the society. He felt that we need to co-evolve technology with applications and science. Population growth and human activity is impacting environment, society and economy and challenging sustainability for all of us. Pollution, overuse of resources, climate change all require us to find a new approach to understand relationships and patterns among various factors and do something about it. Geospatial enabling of society will provide a framework for action. GIS is helping in reasoning, sharing, communicating and so providing a framework of action and changing how we work. GIS helps data become quantitative, visual, analytic, holistic, systematic and enables transperancy, accountability and citizen engagement.

Talking about the concept of SDI, Jack said it is about integration and sharing a common infrastructure. It enables to expand to a global scale, from 1000s of researchers to billions of users. He cited China and Abu Dhabi as examples of such progress as are SGSpace in Singapore and European Environmental Agency. The convergence of computing, networks, mobile phones, measurement, GIS Software, Geographic Science, open data policies are leading to collective geographic understanding, he opined.

According to him, GIS is moving from tools and data to an ecosystem of services; connecting into the cloud; building systematic geographic knowledge, spatial analysis models, visualization and workflows. Crowd sourcing is adding a new layer of information.

Today, GIS becomes a strong scientific platform and 3D GIS has become a reality. Open standards and APIs are helping to move to the cloud from desktop via servers and federated GIS. He said pervasive computing is the next frontier. Demonstrating ArcGIS.com as one solution, he showed how raster cache of vector data from crowd sourced authoritative data can overcome data sharing issues. He concluded saying that SDI is more than technology. It is about vision, leadership, understanding of business value, management support, governance and financial models.

Ivan Deloatch delivered a talk on the GEOSS vision, progress and future. GEO has 83 member countries and 58 organisations. It established GEOSS in 2005. He said there is a many-to-many relation between data sets and applications, though duplications and data gaps exist. He opined observation systems should be coordinated and shared and added that common infrastructure provides trusted data, services, information and is open. According to him, Geo portal and GEOSS clearing house are the successes to date. He enumerated the data sharing principles of GEOSS and said full and open exchange is permitted at nominal cost and is provided free to education sector. He listed Landsat, CBERS, ASTER as followers of this model.

Abbas Rajabifard spoke on spatially enabled society. He expanded on GDSI vision and challenges before the association. He said collaboration among government, industry and academia holds the key to the success of SDI. He made a pertinent point that the divide of spatial knowledge that exists between spatial practitioners and users has to be overcome. And this is possible through collaboration and cloud. He then described the activities of GSDI and concluded saying that the next annual conference of GSDI Association will be held in Canada.

Source: Our Correspondent