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Posts Tagged ‘geospatial data’

A United Nations resolution on geospatial data

May 31, 2015 2 comments

During their 69th General Assembly, the United Nations passed a resolution on a “global geodetic reference frame for sustainable development“.   This resolution reaffirmed earlier endorsements of resolutions (1) concerning transport, search, and rescue operations that depend on GNSS, (2) concerning coordination among global observing systems and programs, including remote sensing efforts, and (3) concerning geospatial information for sustainable development policymaking, programming, and project operations.

Specifically with regard to work with geodetic reference frames, the resolution “recognized the economic and scientific importance of and the growing demand for an accurate and stable global geodetic reference frame for the Earth that allows the interrelationship of measurements taken anywhere on the Earth and in space, combining geometric positioning and gravity field-related observations, as the basis and reference in location and height for geospatial information, which is used in many Earth science and societal applications, including sea -level and climate change monitoring, natural hazard and disaster management and a whole series of industrial applications (including mining, agriculture, transport, navigation and construction) in which precise positioning introduces efficiencies.”  The resolution also recognizes “the extraordinary achievements made by [many organizations] in measuring and monitoring changes in the Earth’s system on a best-effort basis, including the development of the now adopted International Terrestrial Reference Frame.”

It recognizes “the investments of Member States in developing satellite missions for positioning and remote sensing of the Earth, supporting a range of scientific endeavours that improve our understanding of the “Earth system” and underpin decision-making, and recognizing that the full societal benefits of these investments are realized only if they are referenced to a common global geodetic reference frame at the national, regional and global levels.”  It acknowledges that “the global geodetic reference frame depends upon the participation of countries all around the globe, and the need to take action to strengthen international cooperation.”  The UN mentioned a Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management to develop a global geodetic road map that addresses key elements relating to the development and sustainability of the global geodetic reference frame.

The resolution encourages UN Member States and other relevant international organizations to enhance global cooperation in providing technical assistance, especially for capacity development in geodesy for developing countries, with the aim of ensuring the development, sustainability and advancement of a global geodetic reference frame.  It urges Member States to implement open sharing of geodetic data, standards and conventions, on a voluntary basis, (which we discuss in this blog frequently) to contribute to the global reference frame.”  As an educator, I was especially glad to see that the resolution “invites Member States to develop outreach programmes that make the global geodetic reference frame more visible and understandable to society.”

To move the GIS field forward, and to ensure that geospatial data is available and is shared, we need grass roots efforts, but also recognition from high level organizations.  These statements from the UN are welcomed, and it is our hope that the Member States will take these resolutions seriously and translate them into actionable items in their own countries and across countries to grapple with the 21st Centuries all around us — almost all of which transcend borders.

A global geodetic reference frame for sustainable development from the United Nations.

A global geodetic reference frame for sustainable development from the United Nations.

Reflections on Geospatial Information and Consolidation Options for the US Federal Government

April 19, 2015 1 comment

GIS analyst Nathan Lowry has written a paper on geospatial information coordination and consolidation options for the US Federal government.   The paper examines recent reports by the US Government Accountability Office that criticize federal departments and agencies for their lack of progress on supporting, managing, and coordinating geospatial information, and analyzes these criticisms and the effectiveness of these and other proposed solutions.

Mr. Lowry begins the paper by providing an extensive background of US federal government involvement in mapping, through the formation of the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, with each section of the paper, provides thorough references. As such, this section is an excellent supplement to Chapter 5 of our book, where we discuss national and state data portals and metadata standards.

Mr. Lowry cuts right to the heart of the matter in statements such as “centralization never seems to work out the way it’s planned” and the focus by the GAO on three large government data producing agencies “may indicate some systematic issues, but will never redirect the redundant efforts of the federal government as a whole because the scope is too small”.  He recommends that “If the problem is that the US federal government wastes money by duplicating expenditure for geospatial data(and hardware, software and personnel) required across many agencies and underfunds activities that could most effectively and efficiently meet those needs (my assertion), then more time needs to be spent understanding the problem culturally, procedurally, organizationally and comprehensively in order to craft the right solution”.

One of the most interesting sections of the paper is an analysis of several models for geospatial portfolio management, beginning with the concept of the Geographic Information Officer for the state of California, and other states, federal agencies, and local governments, continuing with a consideration of how the US intelligence community funds and staffs its geointelligence activities, and discussion of principles of intergovernmental relations as a way to implement the NSDI.

As a fellow resident of the same state in which Mr. Lowry resides, I can attest that he is a strong proponent of geospatial technology and a valued member of our GIS community, and his comments and reflections about the problems surrounding geospatial data coordination are thoughtful and insightful.  In other words, he knows what he is talking about, he cares deeply about the value that geospatial technologies brings to decision making, and he’s not afraid to make strong recommendations.  I hope that many decision makers read his paper… and act upon his recommendations.

Federal Geospatial Information Coordination and Consolidatioin

Nathan Lowry’s paper on federal geospatial information coordination and consolidation. Photograph by Joseph Kerski.