Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) for Global Economy

Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) for Global Economy

Geospatial information, technology, and applications have become ubiquitous in modern life, offering businesses a competitive advantage and evolving into a daily necessity for digitally connected individuals. Users in various economic sectors are increasingly integrating geospatial technology and information into their workflows to amplify their sector-specific outcomes and therefore contributing to global economy. As geospatial technology adoption grows across sectors, there’s an opportunity for the geospatial ecosystem to evolve towards providing the sought-after geospatial knowledge. To meet the escalating need for geospatial services, National Geospatial Agencies (NGAs) need to persist in updating their geospatial strategies and workflows. This evolution should enable them to accommodate the growing demand while ensuring effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

Role and Relevance of Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) in National Development

The future lies in adopting geospatial way, and it is the most efficient and effective way to collect, process, integrate, and utilize information for overall global, national, and individual development. But, simply concentrating on data and information alone does not achieve this, so it’s time to move up from the data value chain to the knowledge value chain through Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI). GKI embodies a concept that champions the evolution of a nation’s geospatial ecosystem along the value chain towards knowledge, diverging from the current emphasis on data infrastructures towards the establishment of knowledge infrastructures. National geospatial infrastructures, oriented towards knowledge, serve as structures empowering countries to ascend the knowledge value chain. These infrastructures are essential for national development, and they require partnerships, knowledge sharing, and capacity building to be successful. Countries can adopt it by investing in developing a positive and collaborative approach, including government to government, government to private, government to funding agencies, academia, and research institutes.

The adoption and integration of geospatial knowledge in critical economic sectors is crucial for national development. GKI plays a significant role in this regard by integrating geospatial approaches, data, and technologies to deliver location-based knowledge, services, and solutions. By incorporating geospatial knowledge into user workflows, the potential impact on sectoral growth and development becomes evident.

Transitioning from Data to Knowledge: The Role of Contemporary National Geospatial Agencies (NGAs)

Trusted and authoritative foundation geospatial data refers to information that is highly reliable, accurate, and accepted as a standard reference within the geospatial community. This data serves as the bedrock upon which various geospatial knowledge products and services are built and act as a foundation of knowledge – focused geospatial infrastructure. National Geospatial Agencies (NGAs) play a major part in delivering critical, hopefully trusted, authoritative data into the digital ecosystem and onto the digital infrastructure.

It’s not that long ago when the role of NGAs was to solely focus on producing high quality datasets to underpin their national geospatial data infrastructures. Many NGAs around the world are doing far more than just creating data, they are providing the backbone for core decision making which is being driven by a marketplace who understand and recognize the importance of authoritative and trusted data.

“Ordnance survey has recently gone through a big digital transformation enabling faster and easier access to Britain’s most authoritative location data.”
         David Henderson, Chief Geospatial Officer, Ordnance Survey, Great Britain

Further, NGAs also play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of geodetic infrastructure. They are responsible for managing and making available national reference systems, which are fundamental to spatial data integration and autonomy. Geodetic data, serve as one of the primary components of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The geodetic infrastructure provides accurate information about fundamental properties of the Earth and has numerous scientific, civil, military, and commercial applications. NGAs are involved in maintaining and modernizing the geodetic infrastructure to ensure its accuracy and relevance for diverse applications.

GKI looks more broadly at an ecosystem where data and applications combine to deliver user-led knowledge. The development of a future-ready geodetic infrastructure is essential to meet diverse user needs. Therefore, NGAs need to redefine their roles from a basic mapping mandate to providing digital services and solutions to all stakeholders. Renewed investment in the geodetic infrastructure is needed to maintain and modernize existing national security, scientific, and commercial applications. The Road Map for the Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development also recognizes the global distribution of geodetic infrastructure as far from optimum and emphasizes the need for a global investment plan to enhance geodetic infrastructure.

“Satellites, like GNSS and Earth Observation are critical for safety of life applications and global economies, however, the supply chain of intelligence which enables them to operate is aging and degrading.”
Nicholas Brown, Head of Office, United Nations Global Geodetic Centre of Excellence, Germany

User demand identification and development of demand-driven knowledge are essential aspects of the GKI by NGAs. This involves understanding the evolving needs of various user groups and developing geospatial knowledge products and services tailored to their requirements.

“Mapping agencies often ignore the growing truth that consumers have a choice of data providers. Traditional mapping agency geospatial information management processes and data models need to adapt to support users to integrate ‘consumable’ data through services and solutions.”
Eric Loubier, Director General, Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation

The digital transformation and modernization of NGAs are essential to keep pace with the evolving geospatial landscape and to meet the growing demand for geospatial data and services. This transformation also involves the need for IT modernization to support GKI and to bridge the geospatial digital divide. NGAs are increasingly recognizing the importance of adopting emerging technologies and innovative practices to leapfrog to state-of-the-art geospatial information management systems. Geospatial technology is being leveraged as a powerful enabler of digital transformation in government, with NGAs persisting in updating their geospatial strategies to accommodate the growing demand and ensure effectiveness. The evolution of NGAs to support the digital and autonomous society involves collaborative efforts between geospatial, digital, and user industries to co-create enhanced geospatial knowledge services tailored to user demands. Therefore, the digital transformation and modernization of NGAs are pivotal in enabling them to provide efficient and effective geospatial services in the digital era.

4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) Transforming Geospatial Knowledge Creation & Management

Advancements in 4IR technologies have revolutionized the process of capturing, managing, and generating geospatial data. A growing number of entities within various industries are actively involved in generating geospatial content. This ongoing contribution serves to broaden the geospatial value chain and its wider ecosystem. Sharing and collaboration around national data and downstream applications and services will not only create value but also forge new business models, benefiting both NGAs and the industry at large. 4IR technologies provide opportunities to achieve this. The agencies may capitalise on AI, EO and other sensors, cloud and high-performance computing and partnerships and may integrate data from many sources, including private industry, in their data management. As leaders, they are also likely to focus on steering national policies and strategies towards knowledge and may offer knowledge services where there is a public task requirement.

“One particular aspect, where the rules and mandates of the agency has scope for evolution is the analysis-ready data that is applicable to an increasing number of users, and needs in various ecosystems.”
Jani Kylmaaho, Director of Development and Digitalization, National Land Survey of Finland

Improved surveying techniques that allow large-scale and accurate LiDAR data capturing, very high-resolution satellite imagery, and modern technologies, such as AI, cloud computing etc, have offered tremendous potential in recent years to develop digital twins. Digital twin has been an indispensable tool for a long time. A virtual model simulates various processes considering an object’s relevant aspects, functions and properties. Though enlarging the scope of digital models from small areas to whole country can be a mammoth task, the possibilities of creating digital twins have increased significantly in recent years.

“A digital twin is not just a technical innovation originating from the remote sensing sector but rather a tool beyond specific thematic areas and applicable to all kinds of the decision maker. But to exploit the full potential of the data, interoperability is key.” 
Paul Becker, President, Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy (BKG), Germany

Evolving Business and Collaboration Models for Co-creating Knowledge-focused Geospatial Infrastructure

One common requirement is to become closer to national challenges and user sectors, thereby understanding the knowledge required to deliver value and their part in delivering that knowledge. It may be data, services and solutions but it may also be new partnerships that directly deliver knowledge services. However, the ultimate knowledge-centric goal under GKI is for NGAs to facilitate autonomously delivered continuously maintained and integrated machine QFAIR data services for users. To fully meet today’s challenges, national governments must embrace new ways of working in partnership with their subnational governments.

Next-gen geospatial content offers various business models and revenue streams for organisations operating in the geospatial industry. These business models and revenue streams are driven by the increasing demand for accurate and up-to-date geospatial data, the rise of new data sources, and the need for advanced analytics and visualization tools. GKI involves collaboration between geospatial, digital, and user industries to co-create enhanced geospatial knowledge services tailored to user demands. It allows organizations to share and build knowledge with various stakeholders, leading to new revenue streams and business opportunities.

Integrated National Geospatial Strategy and its Role in Powering the National Economy

The integrated national geospatial strategy is a strategic guide to develop and strengthen national geospatial infrastructure. It provides an overarching strategic framework that sets the context of why geospatial infrastructure is a critical element of national development, focusing on policy perspectives. GKI is significant in national development as it states that national geospatial strategy should be designed to improve integrated information flow, enable a coordinated situational awareness for crisis response, enhance information-sharing, power analytical capabilities, and provide insights for decision-makers. It is an essential tool for creating an enabling environment to harness the power of geospatial knowledge for the benefit of national social and economic development.

GKI emphasizes the critical need of the alignment and integration of geospatial and wider national digital policies for delivering better knowledge services to users.

“A certain information made for a particular organization may have value outside of it. We are trying to build bridges to get that information shared across the value chain, creating a far bigger foundation”
Ruud van Rossem, General Programme Manager ZoN Data Foundation /Policy Coordinator 
Geo-information, Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Affairs, The Netherlands

Through collaborative efforts NGAs, the geospatial industry and sectoral users can collaborate to formulate and execute integrated national geospatial strategies. These strategies aim to provide enhanced knowledge services to users, facilitating more efficient decision-making, crisis response and bolstering national development initiatives.

To discuss the need for development of knowledge-focused national geospatial infrastructures, a ground-breaking National Mapping Summit with the theme ‘Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) for Global Economy’ is being organised at Geospatial World Forum 2024 in Rotterdam on 15-16 May 2024. The summit will bring together the stakeholders from across the globe to discuss the role of geospatial infrastructure on the development of demand-driven geospatial knowledge products, and its impact on the workflow of critical economic sectors thereby supporting national development mandates.

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