By Remco Takken, WGIC
The Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) Summit, a virtual two-day intensive program on 24th and 25th February 2021, spawned a host of new stakeholders into our ‘ecosystem’ of location data and mapping capabilities.
The concept of a Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) aims to think beyond geospatial. It wants to redefine IT building blocks by placing geospatial as a multi-purpose technology at the heart of our digital and knowledge economy. Through integrated policy frameworks, data partnerships, and integration with 4IR technologies like AI, IoT, 5G, it essentially follows the concept of integration. In order to make GKI a reality, the geospatial stakeholder ecosystem has to transform. New business models have to be adopted, along with the development of standards and interoperable systems.
GKI: What is it?
Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division set the context when he said: “The democratization of data has enabled businesses to unleash the power of information”. Sanjay Kumar of Geospatial Media and Communications feels that a GKI is a great foundation layer, but ‘how will it help pursue the vision?’ Schweinfest noted that the current pandemic helped grow the appreciation of geospatial technologyu among the larger public by the minute. “Geospatial solutions show how many people are affected and more importantly: where they are.” This basic notion is a great starting point for further development. That the democratization of data has enabled businesses to unleash the power of information, as Schweinfest explained, was further proved by Barbara Ryan of the World Geospatial Industry Council. She took the opportunity to point out the economic success of open data and the position of the geospatial industry in partnerships as important ingredients. By doing so, she emphasized the importance of data partnership and sharing information.
Bridging the digital divide
Peter Rabley of PlaceFund sketched out how a GKI can help bridge the digital divide between governments and (multinational) industry, and to fight the neocolonial tendencies that arise. Albert Hilaire Anoubon Momo of Trimble and Paloma Merodio, National Institute of Statistics and Geography Inegi, state that, thanks to open data, open source and concepts of GKI, developing countries don’t always need to take all formerly obligatory steps ‘to get there’.
WGIC and EARSC member Roberto Gigotti of e-geos made the interesting observation how the adoption of data spread and collaboration coincided with its growth path to completeness.
GKI will be the next step, provided that there’s a marketspace for public and private sector. This can only happen when clear policies are there, said WGIC member Dr Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse of SpatialVision.
Poignantly, Ed Parsons spoke out a wish to enhance what’s already there: “Identify what are the key elements of an ecosystem that act like a multiplier”. He would like to put the emphasis so that we make sure that the whole is greater than the parts. He derived this from a comparison between a natural ecosystem, and the concepts around the GKI, which are also refered to as an ecosystem. But in nature, Parsons asserted: “the sum of the parts is the sum of the parts. There is no greater outcome. What we do regarding the GKI is different.”
Nadine Alameh of WGIC partner the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), seemed to get a little weary of the age old question whether we need standards or not: “I would challenge anybody: how do we go from data to knowledge (put ‘wisdom’ on hold for a minute) at scale, operationally, without standards?”
Derek Clarke, WGIC’s esteemed advisor on geospatial connections within the UN, moderated a session called ‘Co-creating Geospatial Infrastructure and Services and the evolving business model’.
GKI Summit in context
GKI Summit is a part of a three-year project “About the “Advancing Role of Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure in World Economy, Society and Environment”. The initiators state: “The ‘Geospatial Way’ is the future. It is the most efficient and effective way to collect, process, integrate and utilize information for overall global, national and individual development. Geospatial Knowledge is the result, enabling us to identify, contextualize and understand the many challenges and opportunities facing society within a geographic context. However, realizing the potential of this future state, particularly for developing countries, requires three key enablers – partnerships, knowledge sharing and capacity building.”