UN-backed meeting considers better use of geospatial technology

23 October 2011

Representatives from 90 countries and delegates from dozens of international organizations and civil society gathered in the capital of the Republic of Korea today for a series of United Nations-backed meetings on improving the management of geospatial information technologies and using them to tackle global socio-economic challenges.

“Over the last decade, new technologies have deeply transformed the availability and accessibility of geospatial information and its potential uses,” said Sha Zukang, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, at the opening of the five-day gathering in Seoul.

He noted that after the recent earthquakes in several countries there has been a great demand for quick and comprehensive geospatial information from various sources.

“There is still much fragmentation in national institutional arrangements, as geospatial information entities are often scattered across ministries. The same could also be said for the UN. Thus, there is a great need for a thorough discussion on the geospatial policies and institutional arrangements,” said Mr. Sha.

The use of geospatial information goes beyond national borders, according to the UN Programme on Global Geospatial Information Management (GGIM). Many natural disasters and pandemic diseases are cross-border in their impact and tackling them requires information located and displayed globally.

There is a need for common frameworks and standards for national data to be used regionally and internationally and to harmonize definitions and methods for enhancing the use, accessibility and application of geospatial information globally.

The power of pooling high-resolution satellite imagery, geospatial information, and census and statistical information for decision making has been fully recognized, while access to such information is seen as an important development tool, GGIM points out.

Traditional maps have long been the primary tool for users to view and access geospatial information, but in recent decades, rapid advances in geospatial information technology are enabling better access and integration of location-based information and transforming the traditional role of maps to include new tools for analysis and management.

Some 350 participants in Seoul will strive to bring countries together to share their experiences in how to organize their geospatial information infrastructure plan policy priorities and handle privately-sourced information and that produced by national authorities.

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