From The Council

WGIC’s Barbara Ryan calls for hyper-partnering at GKI Summit

During the 2nd GKI Summit, WGIC’s Executive Director Barbara Ryan discussed the position of the geospatial industry in the context of the Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI).

WGIC Secretariat February 24, 2022
2nd GKI Summit

The Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) is a concept that helps harness the value of geospatial knowledge. The UN GGIM Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF) is an essential building block and enabler to success. GKI is an evolving concept to establish a ‘what next’ for geospatial, to increase its value to society. It spans the whole geospatial and digital ecosystem and looks toward delivering knowledge-centric solutions. This infrastructure aims to project the weight enhance adoption and evolving understanding of geospatial knowledge for social, economic, and environmental development in the Digital Age. It wants to build a sustainable future empowered by the geospatial ecosystem. “The private industry is not just adapting to the 4th Industrial Revolution; it’s advancing and pushing it, said Barbara Ryan, Executive Director of the World Geospatial Industry Council, at a panel discussion that she was featured in. “So, whether we look at the efforts of, call it what you may, the Metaverse, the mirrored world, digital twins, geospatial artificial intelligence, and machine learning. These are substantial technological advances that are taking place.”

A good voice for the private sector

That is not to say that there are no challenges. “Right now, in many of the international conventions that are out there, there’s not really a good voice for the private sector. Of course, individual private sector companies can come up through their respective governments and push particular agendas. There is a key voice that the private sector can have in these international deliberations. So I applaud the work that’s going on in UNGGIM, both its academic network for partnering and its private-sector network for partnering. We’re very interested in strengthening those mechanisms.” What the WGIC is trying to do, is coordinate and consolidate through policy advocacy. “Whether it’s on geospatial AI or the role of public-private partnerships. Also, you’ll see we will be releasing a report on April 5th on Spatial Digital Twins. But we’ve got to do more.”


“One of our strategic objectives is to enhance and ensure that the geospatial industry is contributing to, of course, the global economy, but also society,” said Barbara Ryan, “That’s why a partnership on this effort with GKI and the UN-GGIM, in particular, is so important.” Ms. Ryan stretched the need for the geospatial community to take up partnerships. She remarked: “There have been many references today about increased collaboration. We are picking up some terminology from, I think it’s from the Association of Investigative Journalists, that call it ‘hyper-partnering’. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of time. It’s much easier to go off by yourself and work in a silo. But we just can no longer afford to do that.”

Get the infrastructure in place

In response to a question from the online audience, Barbara Ryan said: “When we’re talking bout GKI, we should realize it’s an infrastructure; it will not ask questions. In my view, it’s the role of the governments to adopt this infrastructure, full stop. Get the infrastructure in place or this framework in place. Then all of a sudden, you’ll see that infrastructure populated with data. It could be from the earth’s center to above the earth. As long as that data’s there and it’s of high quality, you can start modeling. So this innovation that we’re seeing on the private sector side, with digital twins. There are visions out there that they will, in fact, be fractal. Regardless of what scale you’re looking at, you’ll have digital twins of this entire environment. Hopefully, whether it’s this room where I’m sitting in, the house, neighborhood, city, state, country, and world. What you want is an integrated model or simulation of the entire earth. So that then you can put the individual questions that you have, whether it’s supply chain questions, or environmental questions, into that and simulate what will happen.”

Innovation from the private sector

Barbara Ryan concluded her speaking slot with a concise summary: “For me, it’s quite clear. We got to have the public sector set that policy; public agencies should adopt those policies at their own level. We got to get that innovation in from the private sector. And then, everyone would have access to modeling their problems regardless of the scale that they are interested in.”

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