Providing a Common View - 06/08/2013

Our common interest in geography can help drive engagement with people still discovering the benefits of GI but dialogue is key, says Anne Kemp. With a diverse range of AGI channels available this year – from SIGs, Showcase events and GeoCommunity’13 – there’s no better time to make your voice heard!

Walking up to the Royal Geographical Society in glorious sunshine, enjoying the holiday atmosphere, I find myself anticipating our family camping holiday wandering around France. We have no idea where we will end up, but I will be using the good old hardcopy Michelin Map and Camping Guide. This really is me returning to my roots. I’ve been doing this since I was nine years old – and love poring over the maps and discovering hidden gems to share with the family.

And arriving at the AGI office, this has left me reflecting on my belief that geography is such an important part of our identity as AGI – and why I love the fact that our home is now at RGS.

What drives your interest?

Throughout my own career, I believe the ease with which I can work with multiple disciplines, and be so stimulated by this, has been because of my background as a geographer. It has made me constantly curious about the world and how it operates. It is a key part of my success, something I feel I can be proud of and enjoy. And I think it is this inheritance that allows us as professionals to be able to access, interpret and integrate information from a wide range of sources, and across a wide range of industries, “for the benefit of the citizen, good governance and commerce” (from AGI’s mission statement of 20 years standing).

But I am also aware that a large number of AGI’s membership has very little to do with geography, and everything to do with information and technology. So I am wondering – just how important is the link to geography? What drives your interest with AGI – what do we need to do to ensure we keep that interest? I would really welcome your thoughts.

The real shift

We frequently talk about silos and stovepipes – not only in terms of data and systems – but in terms of people. We should be in a great position to enable connection across silos. How many projects have you been involved with where you were able to enable discussions across different groups because you provided a common view into the data maze? For me, it has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my job, facilitating better engagement and better dialogue.

Through my work in Building Information Management (BIM), I am constantly discovering people who are finding that geography is implicit to the problems they face – smarter cities, infrastructure development, asset management. The real shift that I am still determined we should facilitate at AGI is the understanding that GI has a big role to play in making BIM for infrastructure work. I am having many conversations now with planners, engineers and operators/maintainers who are asking how they can use geospatial technologies – they have realised that this is, to them, a part of the solution. But the dialogue with GI suppliers about BIM seems more difficult at the moment – there is less vision about the potential role they can play. I really hope that over the next few months this will change as we showcase the projects and organisations where this is happening, and open up connections across different industries.

What are your needs?

Our recent BIM4Infrastructure and AGI Showcase event – BIM Meets Geospatial – at RGS, London, was attended by over 100 people from a wider range of disciplines than we have seen before – and with sponsors and attendees who more usually frequent the engineering and infrastructure space (read more on page 17). This was a great opportunity to have some very different conversations to what we might be used to. This is certainly a model we would like to repeat for other sectors – for retail, insurance, health. We have more showcase events coming up where we want to demonstrate the “power of place”. So please do let us know if this is something you are interested in contributing to or if there are other areas that you think we should prioritise.

There is increasing activity across our special interest groups (SIGs) and we want to ensure this continues. The suppliers’ SIG is on LinkedIn and we are encouraging all suppliers to enter the debate about the content for our Showcase events and conference. We are more than prepared to take on feedback and adapt our thinking in line with your needs.

At the same time, the showcase events are proving a great way for the SIGs to pull together and demonstrate what is really happening across the industry. We have learnt a lot during our first events in Scotland, the South West and London – not least because of your willingness to talk to us about issues you may have. This is so important for us. We are working on the content for Northern Ireland and for the north of England events – focusing on the environment, asset management, smart cities and health. If you want to see something different, don’t hesitate to get in touch. With Chris Rhodes (see page 7) now in place, the AGI team has a much improved capacity to listen and respond to your ideas, together with all the fantastic volunteers who are beavering away behind the scenes on the SIGs and on the council. And over the summer we have two Defra supported events to discuss the Inspire directive – do visit the AGI website to find out more.

Year to remember

Preparations for GeoCommunity’13 also continue. Finer details for the programme are being thrashed out, and story lines being clarified, so that we can be confident that the conference delivers what you – our attendees and sponsors – really want. Please do get in touch with the AGI team if you have ideas or thoughts on this – we very much want to hear from you. As the editor writes in the GeoCommunity Preview (see page 18), this year is a tremendous celebration of the joint running of AGI’s GeoCommunity’13 and FOSS4G for which I must thank the AGI team enormously They have been working incredibly hard to support both events – and we are looking forward to welcoming many of you to Nottingham. It really does promise to be a year to remember.

The epitome of this year is the gathering of 170 global experts in the field of geospatial information at Cambridge during July to discuss the future of geospatial information. This event is the Third Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), co-chaired by the director general and chief executive of Ordnance Survey, Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB, and established as the official UN consultative mechanism on place, locality and geographic information. High on the agenda was a discussion on critical matters such as effective global geodetic reference frameworks, the development of a global map for sustainable development and the publication of a report on “Future trends in geospatial information management: the five to ten year vision”. This visionary report presents the thoughts of leaders in the geospatial world as to the future developments in surveying and mapping over the next decade. AGI will provide a commentary on this in the autumn. The starting point for me will be meeting the New Zealand minister for building and construction, customs, land information and statistics, who wants to understand any barriers, in the UK, to the use of geographic information, and also how the UK is succeeding in the implementation of BIM in combination with GI.

So, I am hoping that, as you read this, you are enjoying our beautiful summer, in all its guises, and are gearing up to join us in the autumn at Nottingham. I look forward to some great conversations!

This article was first published in GiS Professional August 2013.

Last updated: 22/03/2017