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Geospatial information to catalyze efforts for achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Geospatial information holds an unprecedented opportunity to change the social, economic and environmental landscape across the globe, all it needs is the cooperation and collaboration of the international communities.


Devdiscourse News Desk Renu Mehta 01 Aug 2018, 06:39 PM
  • Geospatial information holds an unprecedented opportunity to change the social, economic and environmental landscape across the globe, all it needs is the cooperation and collaboration of the international communities. (Image Credit: Flickr)

Geographically referenced information such as latitude and longitude or simply the information describing the location on or above the earth’s surface is referred to as Geospatial Information.

It may have different forms including maps, satellite imagery, and aerial photography. Global Positioning System (GPS) used in the car navigation, Google Maps are the few popular examples of geospatial information, used daily by millions.

Today digital geospatial information has revolutionized the way we see the world and our place in it. All countries and all sectors ranging from urban mobility to education, telecommunication services, responding to natural hazards, agriculture, urban planning, water management, providing humanitarian aid etc. need geospatial information for developmental planning, policy formulation, and decision‐making.

In fact, making geospatial information accessible in today’s connected world is critical to implement the national strategic priorities and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Geospatial Information provides the digital version of the physical world where all the social, economic and environmental activities take place.

It is a blueprint of what happens where. Without relevant data on social, economic and environmental challenges, governments and policy-makers can’t make effective policies to more accurately direct resources and manage the development goals.

The paradigm of geospatial information has changed over the years, extending from mapping and visualization to data analytics, modeling, policy-making, and support for a wide range of applications and services that assist in decision-making.

The potential of geospatial information has continued to grow with the recent advancements in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) such as big data, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, Artificial Intelligence, to name a few. With the advent of big data technologies, the challenge of having up to date and accurate geospatial data has been reduced to a great extent. 

Video Credit: UN DESA)

Economic benefits

  • Businesses, particularly small, use geospatial information such as contact information, reviews, and maps to drive sales. According to the AlphaBeta report, Digital maps have supported more than USD 1 trillion in sales for businesses, in 2016.
  • Geospatial services industry generated revenue of USD 400 billion in 2016, as per the AlphaBeta survey conducted across 22 countries.
  • The geospatial services are estimated to create approximately 4 million direct jobs, and potentially 8 million indirect ones.
  • Tourists utilize the online information and maps with pictures and reviews which boosts business, thus driving success to the tourism industry.
  • Geospatial services can help monitor and prevent overfishing, which is estimated to create USD 50 billion of economic losses per year (AlphaBeta survey).

Environmental benefits

  • An important tool for monitoring and managing water resources.
  • Geospatial services play a critical role in wildlife preservation by monitoring animal health and detecting illegal poaching and deforestation.
  • Real-time monitoring and decision making for forest fires and climate change.
  • Emergency response and preparation for natural disasters like floods, landslides, storms etc.
  • Digital maps help reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles by suggesting alternative routes and use public transport during traffic hours.
  • Satellite imageries, drones, sensors and smart farming practices use geospatial information to monitor soil and crop health, thereby increasing agricultural productivity and mitigating food insecurity.

 Societal benefits

  • Autonomous and aerial vehicles use geospatial mapping for navigation.
  • Digital government services like e-health, e-education use digital geospatial information to deliver services to its citizens.
  • Digital maps with speed limit alerts and other features alert people and also suggest alternate routes that ensure driver safety and reduce time by avoiding traffics.
  • Geospatial technology can improve public transport when used to analyze traffic flow and accident blackspots, thereby saving lives, time and fuel.
  • Urban planning such as the Smart Cities, car parking and other infrastructure development utilizes geospatial information for efficient and accurate planning.

Geospatial services add value to the productivity and hold the key to the efficient delivery of socio-economic benefits. But, traditional geospatial tools, lack of investment infrastructure and policy framework and non-availability of reliable, quality and timely information has undermined the enormous benefits of Geospatial information.

(Image Credit: Twitter)

To recognize and maximize the value of geospatial information, the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) has been working with a wide range of experts, the UN Member States and the World Bank to improve access to quality geospatial information. 

The committee also convened in New York from 1 - 3 August 2018 to promote international cooperation in the field of global geospatial information management and adopt a new strategic framework for the geospatial community - a key document that will help countries strengthen their management of geospatial information.

The framework focuses on policy, perspectives, and elements of geospatial information and explains why geospatial information management is critical to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals at a national level.

The strategic framework identifies eight goals to promote and support geospatial information for sustainable development. These goals are:

  1. Effective Geospatial Information Management
  2. Increased Capacity, Capability and Knowledge Transfer
  3. Integrated Geospatial Information Systems and Services
  4. Economic Return on Investment
  5. Sustainable Education and Training Programs
  6. International Cooperation and Partnerships Leveraged
  7. Enhanced National Engagement and Communication
  8. Enriched Societal Value and Benefits

The Integrated Geospatial Information Framework has been developed as a reference guide for developing and strengthening arrangements in national geospatial information management. It has been designed specifically for low to middle-income countries and Small Island Developing States.

It intends to improve public services, develop the capacity for applying geospatial science, improve informed decision-making, boost the development of private sector, help achieve a digital transformation, and bridge the geospatial digital divide between countries.

With the advent of digitalization, an enormous amount of data is rapidly produced, but reliable and real-time quality data is still missing and inaccessible to monitor the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and their 169 associated targets.

Developmental issues like extreme weather, famine and food insecurity, urbanization, population explosion, inadequate water and sanitation services and protracted conflict, need quality, and reliable disaggregated geospatial information to track progress and provide real-time monitoring solutions to serve those in need.

Data is the new oil to drive development, hence it is critical to implement and integrate geospatial information into the national framework and global development agenda. Governments hold a key role in ensuring that comprehensive and robust frameworks are put in place with related policies, resources, and structures to ensure that geospatial information is easily accessible to decision-makers in a coordinated way.

Geospatial information holds an unprecedented opportunity to change the social, economic and environmental landscape across the globe, all it needs is the cooperation and collaboration of the international communities.


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