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The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) voted to establish a committee of experts on global geospatial information management to coordinate international dialogue on spatial data infrastructures and enhance cooperation in that field. According to the latest report of the Secretary-General on global geospatial information management, the rapid technological advances in geospatial information and related technologies have made this kind of information readily available. Geospatial information has application in many fields including humanitarian, peace and security, environmental and development challenges facing the world, such as climate change, natural disasters, pandemics, famines, population displacement and food and economic crises, according to the report.
Building the infrastructure for the gathering, validation, compilation and dissemination of geospatial information is therefore as important for countries as the building of roads and telecommunications networks. However, there is currently no global multilateral or intergovernmental mechanism that can play the important leadership role of setting the agenda for the development of global geospatial information and promote its use to address key global challenges.
The Secretary-General proposed that the UN take the lead role and serve as the coordinating entity of the global geospatial information community, hence the decision to create the committee. The committee is mandated, among other tasks, with providing a platform for the development of effective strategies on how to build and strengthen national capacity on geospatial information, especially in developing countries.
The committee will comprise experts from all Member States, as well as from and international organizations, who will serve as observers.
Qatar rolls out nationwide geo-tagging project
Qatar’s Civic Ministry rolled out an ambitious project of replacing existing number plates on buildings with metal plates containing electronic chips. Set to be completed within 18 months, the electronic chips will show information like the building’s location, and numbers for water, electricity and telecom connections. The project is designed to help service providers such as fire-fighters and ambulance services to reach places quickly and with ease, in case of an emergency. The electronic chips will be linked to a database of buildings being created by the Geographical Information Systems Centre (GISC) of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning, Qatar. In turn, the GISC will link the database to more than 60 public service agencies, including utilities, Civil Defence and medical emergency units.
SLA to boost geospatial capacity building
The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) will work with the Ministry of Education (MOE), industry and training institutions to boost geospatial capacity building in Singapore, announced Singapore’s Law Minister K Shanmugam while he was addressing students during the annual Spatial Challenge event in Singapore. According to the Law Minister, the geospatial industry is experiencing high growth. Global sales of geospatial products are projected to grow by eight per cent this year to USD5 billion. He expects a similar growth trend in Singapore.
‘NGA falling short on archiving hard copy maps’
An inspection report from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), revealed that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency did not archive any of its hard copy maps since 1996 and now holds a potential treasure trove of historic documents that includes Colin Powell’s briefing map and captured Nazi maps. The targeted inspection was one of several that are performed by the archives agency each year on agencies exhibiting weaknesses in their archiving activities. In NGA’s case, the report was triggered by the absence of archiving activity for hard copy maps from 1996 to 2011.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Esri partnered in the implementation of a fully cloud-based geospatial portal. USDA’s prototype portal, Enterprise Spatial Mapping Service (ESMS), is built with Portal for ArcGIS, managed by Esri, and hosted on the Amazon cloud within USDA’s secure environment.
USDA and Esri designed the prototype’s geospatial interfaces with a focus on search and discovery, hosting and publishing USDA-owned data, and the capability to display and analyze data. The private cloud GIS makes the central repository for authoritative content accessible to users within the department.
The GIS market in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14 percent, according to a market research conducted by TechNavio, a market research firm. In addition the report, Geographic Information System (GIS) in APAC 2010-2014, indicated that the market is currently being driven by government and public sector adoption of this technology. A TechNavio analyst explained that governments of developing countries require GIS solutions for infrastructure improvement and disaster prevention management. In addition, the public sector and government also use this technology to monitor deforestation, water bodies, and river beds. As a result the public sector and government have become key end-users driving the adoption of GIS solutions in the APAC region.
In spite of the demand for GIS solutions in the APAC region, integration issues with cloud technologies are hindering the growth of this market. However, with this technology being used effectively for key issues such as population density control, the market is expected to grow. Moreover, the GIS market is witnessing an increase in the use of this technology in agricultural and urban development.
The GIS market in the APAC region has also been witnessing increased utilization of GIS for transportation management. However, barriers faced by vendors in the integration of GIS and cloud technologies could pose a challenge to the growth of this market. These are just some of the important findings presented in the report that will enable companies to fully understand the potential in this market and formulate their own strategies.
The report is based on extensive research conducted with industry experts, vendors, and end-users. It examines the key trends, drivers, and challenges impacting the evolution of this market. The report also contains an in-depth discussion and SWOT analysis of each of the key vendors in this market.
Key vendors dominating this market space include ESRI, GE Energy, Autodesk, Cadcorp, and IBM.
South Sudan map is a lie
Collins Geo, a publisher of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, decided to include South Sudan map in its next edition of the atlas. About the map, Mick Ashworth, consultant cartographic editor for Collins Geo, said, “The map is a lie but we strive to incorporate as much truth and as much neutrality in it as possible.” In Glasgow, British cartographers, experts in geopolitical policy, and members of the Collins Geo division of Harper Collins, congregated to define South Sudan’s borders for a new issue of the atlas to be published in September. The first question for debate was whether to include South Sudan in the new map at all. “A key visual confirmation that a country has been accepted into the global order it is its presence on a map,” opined Mick Ashworth, consultant cartographic editor for Collins Geo.
Ashworth added, “In the case of South Sudan, there was a risk that the [declaration of] independence could have been postponed or cancelled after we went to print. We also had to figure out whether South Sudan would become a truly independent country. Many regions around the world, such as South Ossetia, declare their independence and function fairly independently, but aren’t recognised internationally as a country.”
“It was a difficult balance. We did not want the atlas coming out in September, with everybody knowing about the new country, but the atlas not showing that new country. We wanted to be one of the first atlases out there to depict [South Sudan] as it really is, so we had to take a chance.”
These decisions would not only have had consequences for the atlas’s sales figures. The atlas and its related products are used as key reference tools by governments, the United Nations, the World Bank, aid agencies and classrooms across the globe, according to Ashworth.
To achieve that level of accuracy, Ashworth and the committee rely on a team of around six news-gatherers to monitor constantly the geopolitical developments to help to inform their decisions, and ultimately, the authoritative depiction of nations. They carefully examine the projections of the UN, international governments, aid agencies, geopolitical experts on the ground, and specialist academic institutions such as the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University.
Despite this vast amount of fact-finding, Peter Barber, head of maps at the British Library, once said that a map is, essentially, a lie. “Unless you have a scale of one-to-one, every map is subjective, and always will be,” he explained.
PBBI launches MapInfo Professional v11.0 in UK
Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI) announced the UK launch of Pitney Bowes MapInfo Professional v11.0, the latest version of the company’s flagship solution for business and mapping analysis. MapInfo Professional is a powerful Microsoft Windows-based mapping application that enables organisations to capitalise on location-based data, gaining deeper insights into their customers, resources and overall operations to make better informed decisions.
US students lack proficiency in geography
Less than one-third of the US students achieved at or above the proficient level in geography, according to a recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) ‘Report Card’. Although fourth-graders made gains in achievement since 2001, “The Nation’s Report Card” shows that performance by eighth-graders remained flat, and achievement by 12th-graders declined from 1994. Male students scored higher than female students in all three grades and black and Hispanic students’ scores increased at grades 4 and 8, with achievement gaps narrowing. The scores follow similar reports on civics and U.S. history and, “add to the picture of stagnating or declining overall achievement among U.S. students in the social sciences,” according to NAEP.
Malaysia to re-delineate constituencies using GIS
Malaysia’s Election Commission (EC) will re-delineate constituencies using GIS after the General Elections 2012, according to the EC Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof. The Chairman was in conversation with a Malaysian Daily, The Star. Yusof said that the constituencies’ demarcation is very sensitive. Hence, the EC has decided to hold off correcting these errors until after the next re-delineation exercise. Once the demarcation using GIS will start, it will take two years to complete and there is less than two years for the next General Elections. So, the EC decided to wait until after elections to do the re-delineation.
Recently, the EC and the conduct of elections in Malaysia came under scrutiny. Several voters complained that they have been transferred to another voting constituency. Yusof explained, “In the past, rivers or roads were used for demarcation of constituencies but when we introduced GIS, we discovered in terms of locality these voters are in the wrong place.”
Ordnance Survey moves to business department
David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK announced that Ministerial responsibility for Ordnance Survey, alongside Land Registry and the Met Office, will pass to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). This move is being considered as a step towards establishment of the Public Data Corporation (PDC) which were announced by the Government in January this year.
The Government shareholding of Ordnance Survey and the Government’s customer functions both move from the Department for Communities and Local Government. Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB, Ordnance Survey Director General and Chief Executive, said: “Bringing Ordnance Survey together with some of the other major data providers in government under BIS will provide an excellent opportunity to share best practice and strengthen our existing relationships.”
Geo-info gives billion dollar boost to NZ economy
In New Zealand, it is estimated that the use of geospatial information adds more than USD 1 billion a year to the national economy, and there remains significant opportunity for additional financial and non-financial productivity benefits. “Geospatial research is a key contributor to New Zealand’s economic growth and is set to contribute even more in the future,” said University of Canterbury’s (UC) Dean of Science, Professor Wendy Lawson. “It has a very significant role to play in the rebuilding of Christchurch and has applications in a range of areas that impact on all New Zealanders.” To strengthen the geospatial education system and exploit the opportunities in geospatial industry, the UC officially became the first New Zealand university to partner with Australia’s Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI).
Azerbaijan set to offer e-cadastre service
The State Committee for State Property created an information data base for e-services in the cadastre. The work has been carried out within the “Cadastre – Real Estate Registration” project in Ganja and Sheki. At present, the State Committee works on technical inventory of land and real property regardless of ownership. The main objective of the project implemented is to rationally use real estate and land and to create full digital cadastral maps of Ganja. The information database in the future will serve as an information source to provide the population with electronic services.
Japan’s citizen scientists map radiation
Using Geiger counters, a group of tech-minded citizen scientists in Japan measuered fallout in the disaster area (March 11 earthquake and Tsunami). They assembled thousands of radiation readings plotted on maps (http://safecast.org/) that they hope will one day be an invaluable resource for researchers studying the impact of the meltdown at the crippled nuclear complex. A Geiger counter is a type of particle detector that measures ionizing radiation. They detect the emission of nuclear radiation: alpha particles, beta particles or gamma rays.
The volunteer network of scientists, tech enthusiasts and residents of Japan collectively known as Safecast (an amalgam of “safety” and “broadcast”) sprang to life in the weeks after the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, cutting off power to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and knocking out its backup generators. That shut down the plant’s cooling system, triggering meltdowns or partial meltdowns in three of the plant’s four reactors, followed by explosions that released radioactive substances into the air and allowed contaminated water to leak into the ocean.
China will not bar Google and Microsoft services
China’s industry regulator will not shut down online mapping services provided by Google Inc and Microsoft Corp, according to the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM), China. This is the first time, the regulator has firmly denied that it intended to close the companies’ online mapping services – has banished concerns that Google may have to cancel its service in China, which has been losing market share.
“We will not investigate or shut down the websites that have submitted their applications and are under examination,” the SBSM said in an e-mailed reply to queries from China Daily. It added that it has received applications to provide services from the Chinese divisions of Google and Microsoft.
Companies have to obtain a license from the bureau to provide online mapping services in China. The bureau said earlier that it began closing down unqualified websites, and those that have failed to apply for a license, from July 1.
Irish mapping agency offers global data process facility
Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI), the national mapping agency of Ireland, started an international business to provide data processing services from its Dublin base to global customers in sectors such as urban and rural planning, engineering and utilities. It has already won its first contract with Vision ME, a Dubai-based aerial survey company. In recent years, the national mapping agency has invested in optimizing its IT systems and has been accredited as an official reference site for advanced use of Oracle’s spatial database technology. OSI now sees an opportunity to take the same computer processing capability it uses to update its own records and to provide it as a service to other public and private sector organizations.
Philippine Prez approves micro mapping project
Department of Science and Technology, Philippines, embarked on a Disaster Risk Exposure Assessment and Mitigation (DREAM) Project, according to the department’s Undersecretary Graciano Yumul. He said that President President Benigno Aquino III approved the project’s budget of PHP 1.6 billion (PHP: Philipine Peso). DREAM is a micro mapping project that will utilise the LiDAR technology to get a picture of the ground to produce 3D maps. He said the project will prioritise the 16 river basins in the country and urban areas prone to flooding. This two-year project will be implemented by the University of the Philippines. Yumul also revealed that the department is looking into solving the problem of water hyacinth clogging the rivers through a water hyacinth clipper. He added that they are exploring the use of dried hyacinth for possible energy source.
GU programme on GIS, GPS from August
The Academic Staff College of Gauhati University will coordinate a satellite-based training programme on basics of remote sensing, geographic information system and geographic positioning system from August 1 this year. The course, which is sponsored by the National Resources Management System of the depertment of space of the Union government, will see 50 interactive sessions throughout the entire training period.
Indian state maps industrial area
The Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) in India scheduled GIS-based mapping of industrial areas, numbering over 125 in the Karnataka State. The Board has partnered with Rolta, a geospatial solutions provider. The system is likely to be ready in early 2012. Through GIS mapping, the Board aims to ensure orderly development of industrial areas to attract more foreign investment. The onus is on the KIADB to ensure a balanced industrial development in all the regions, with Karnataka being promoted as a premier destination for industrial ventures. In addition, the board planed to computerise all its activities including acquisition and development and allotment of land, as well as linking the headquarters with field-level officers for better governance.
Tamil Nadu, Andhra coasts now on 3D GIS map
Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) is ready with multi-hazard vulnerability 3D-GIS maps of the India’s Tamil Nadu and Andhra coasts, according to INCOIS scientist Dr RS Mahendra. However, these maps are due to come out. These maps aim to strengthen the protection of coastal belt from tsunamis and cyclonic floods. They will pinpoint the exact areas liable to be submerged in case of natural calamities.
Indian state to digitise revenue records
The Haryana State Government in India initiated a project for digitising and updating land records by using high resolution satellite imagery, according to the state’s Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Mahender Pratap Singh. The minister explained that the project would be implemented through Haryana Space Applications Centre, Hisar, which is the nodal agency in the state for remote sensing and GIS related work. Revenue records available at the district headquarters would be digitised in a GIS environment and the same would be updated by the respective village revenue officials (patwaris) using the maps and other land records available with them.
GIS empowers retail business in India
Hindustan Unilever (HUL), a consumer goods company in India, is using GIS and relying on unconventional distribution channels to up its rural reach in a cost effective manner. Financial Chronicle reported that the company is using network of 68000 volunteers (known as Shaktimaans and Shakti ammas) to reach consumers in villages. This network has tripled its outreach in 2010-11, equalling what the company had done in the last 75 years of business in India.
“Through GIS, villages around the ‘Shakti’ families are tracked and based on this, Shaktimaans are allotted five to six villages. They go to these villages and sell HUL products. Project Shakti contributes significantly to our rural sales and is growing in double digits,” the official said.
HUL estimated that India has more than 630,000 villages, most of which are ‘hard to reach’ and offer relatively lower business potential. Reaching them through the conventional distribution system is a challenge. Using Self-Help Group (SHG) members, HUL extended its direct reach into untapped markets and built its brands through local influencers.
India gets new science and technology minister
Announcing reshuffle in Indian cabinet, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assigned Ministry for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences to Vilasrao Deshmukh. It is the first time; Singh has considered the ministry at Cabinet rank. Deshmukh is a member of Rajya Sabha representing Maharashtra State. He was also a two-time Chief Minister of Maharashtra, from 1999 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2008.
Indian state’s excise dept to be armed with GPS
To give impetus to the working force in the Excise Department, the Karnataka State Government in India planned to establish an Excise Academy at Sira taluk in Tumkur district, according to the state’s Excise Minister M P Renukacharya. The minister said, “Excise inspectors and guards would be armed with GPS facility, better vehicles, wireless sets and modern weapons.” He claimed that during the last three months he had focused to wage war against the menace of the illicit brewing dens and its supply chain.