SDI is at the forefront of the UK’s new Geospatial Strategy

July 13, 2020 Gordon Plunkett

The United Kingdom (UK) recently released a national 5-year geospatial strategy, which outlines opportunities, data trends and strategic missions for addressing current geospatial data challenges. A significant requirement of the UK’s strategy is the technical and operational capability for sharing geospatial data throughout the UK, which is implemented through a spatial data infrastructure (SDI). It could be argued that Canada currently has a lead over the UK in the development and implementation of a national approach to spatial data sharing; however, it is apparent that without a new strategy, innovative actions and targeted investments, Canada’s SDI will lag behind the UK within a few years. Read this blog to find out more about the UK’s geospatial strategy, why geospatial data is now more important than ever and how Canada can benefit from modernizing the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI).

The United Kingdom recently released the country’s Geospatial Strategy for 2020 to 2025, which sets a vision that by 2025 the UK will have a coherent national location data framework. The strategy sets out an ambitious work program to achieve that vision, across four key missions:

  • Mission 1: Promote and safeguard the use of location data.
  • Mission 2: Improve access to better location data.
  • Mission 3: Enhance capabilities, skills and awareness.
  • Mission 4: Enable innovation.

For me, one of the key takeaways from the strategy is that spatial data infrastructure (SDI) technology and collaboration are essential for implementing the strategy. Some organizations need to create the data and keep it up to date, while other agencies manage the data and other agencies use the data. The only way of efficiently sharing up-to-date spatial data between organizations is by using SDI principles.

The industry and public service applications targeted in the UK strategy are far flung and include: revitalizing infrastructure and transportation; promoting social equality; fighting climate change; providing affordable housing; preparing for electric vehicles; supporting healthcare and emergency response; and improving agriculture and land management. These applications are quite diverse, but they all depend to some extent on geography and thus all have a common need for readily-available, up-to-date spatial data.

Keeping location data current is essential for effective decision making. Once real-world changes are detected and the corresponding spatial data is updated, these updates need to be shared broadly and quickly through an SDI so that all users have the most up-to-date data upon which to base their decisions.

Canada’s SDI, referred to as the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI), is the relevant base collection of standards, policies, applications and governance that facilitate the access, use, integration and preservation of spatial data within the country. The UK has chosen a more holistic approach by adopting the United Nations Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF) and implementing a national spatial data framework that is consistent with the IGIF.

The UK has chosen to adopt and adapt the UN Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF), which provides a basis and guide for developing, integrating, strengthening and maximizing geospatial information management and related resources across a nation.

The vision for the UK strategy is that by 2025 the UK will have a coherent national location data framework. Future technologies will be underpinned by data about events occurring at a time and place, so location data will soon be the unifying connection between things, systems, people and the environment.

The UK strategy indicates that valuable data that currently sits locked in departmental data silos will be easy to access and combine securely to create new insights, new services and new businesses that are almost unimaginable today. Innovation across the UK economy will be made possible by better location data, skills and tools that will help drive economic stability and national productivity. Location data is already pervasive, and its benefits will continue to increase throughout the UK economy and across all regions supporting economic recovery, attracting investment, creating jobs and boosting exports in an environmentally sustainable way.

The strategy highlights nine predominant sectors where location data will have a significant impact in the UK. This non-exhaustive list shows that the potential for location data to support growth and sustainability reaches across almost all parts of the UK economy and society.

The UK is already innovating with location data, and further opportunities are ahead. In the longer term, geographic data will underpin the next generation of public services and businesses across a range of sectors including infrastructure, construction, housing, transport, retail, the environment, healthcare and emergency response. More immediately, spatial data could form the basis of innovations and collaborations to help the UK tackle the COVID-19 challenge and make long-term data provision commonplace to help manage future dangers. The UK has created an aggressive strategy to weave spatial data into the fabric of government and business and one of the essential technologies to implement this strategy is SDI.

Because Canada has created a large debt from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that governments at all levels work more efficiently and that companies are given business opportunities for increased growth. Enhanced use of spatial data across numerous sectors is an area where Canada can create significant economic activity, which will benefit Canada’s economy and society. Now is the time for Canada to develop a modern, forward-looking geospatial strategy for increasing and improving the use of geospatial data, which will further government and business efficiencies and effectiveness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated to the world the importance of geospatial data and now is the time for Canada to create a new geospatial strategy, building on existing successes and making spatial data more ubiquitous and opportune as we move into the new post-COVID world.

This blog post contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Gordon Plunkett

Gordon Plunkett is the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) Director at Esri Canada. He has more than 30 years of experience in GIS and Remote Sensing in both the public and private sectors. He currently sits as a member of the Community Map of Canada Steering Committee, GeoAlliance Canada Interim Board of Directors, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Technical Committee, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Committee on Geomatics, the University of Laval Convergence Network Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board to the Carleton University Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre. During his career, Gordon has worked on projects in more than 20 countries and has contributed to numerous scientific conferences and publications. At Esri Canada, he is responsible for developing and supporting the company’s SDI vision, initiatives and outreach, including producing content for the SDI blog.

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