18th November 2009

Today is GIS Day


It’s National Geographic Society’s Geography Awareness Week this week https://www.mywonderfulworld.org/gaw.html and today is GIS Day. GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems (GIS) technology in more than 80 countries to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society. Since Geography Awareness Week’s inception in 1987 we have seen profound and often disruptive changes in the way geographic information (GI) is captured, managed, traded and used.

GI is now part of the mainstream information economy, an essential ingredient to decision making in the public, private and increasingly third sectors. It is made widely available to all, at home and in the workplace, through common user interfaces provided by global players: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Nokia and other information, device and service providers. It is now exchanged under global (W3C based) information standards and has incorporated developments in: wireless, mobile, positioning, sensing, location, imaging, storage and processing technologies. These developments enable GI to be expressed and visualized in 2-, 3- and as 4-Dimensions (the temporal dimension) as well as in virtual and augmented reality and increasingly, to be delivered as an, often hidden, ingredient to on-line services, often on the move.

A new generation brought up on social networking technologies, with Web 2.0 skills, expertise and experience have enabled an inter-networked, participatory GI model where users can create, share and “mash-up” data using application programming interfaces, open source and open innovation platforms on which ideas and applications can be shared and built, collaboratively.

Against this background of rapid technological developments the world today faces unprecedented global challenges: sustainable (one planet) living and working, climate change, aging populations and competition for scarce resources for example. Tackling these “grand” challenges requires unprecedented local to global collaboration, between governments, businesses, communities and ourselves as individuals.

With increasing ease of access to and ease of use of geographic information, from all sources, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to build solutions to pressing community needs, collaboratively. This is what GeoVation is attempting to do: to match the needs of various communities with the skills and resources available to realise them – and to have fun doing so. GeoVation now has over 280 members, over 110 ideas and more than 30 ventures submitted.

The polymath (and cartographer!) R. Buckminster Fuller conceived the idea of a Geoscope that would…. “make it possible for humans to identify the true scale of themselves and their activities on this planet. Humans could thus comprehend much more readily that their personal survival problems related intimately to all humanity’s survival”. (R. Buckminster Fuller, in Critical Path)

Buckminster Fuller didn’t live to see his Geoscope realised. But through using GI with the technology, skills, expertise, and GI now available, we can realise his vision collaboratively.

Happy GIS Day J

Chris Parker

Join the GeoVation Challenge and GeoVation Awards programme at: