Building capacity in the upcoming generation, fostering outreach, and working cooperatively were key themes at the National Mapping Organization Executive Forum on Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22. More than 40 national mapping organization (NMO) executives and directors took part in the event to discuss the challenges they face and network.
The forum kicked off with a lively talk about the success of Sweden’s mapping agency by Bengt Kjellson, the Director General & CEO of Lantermateriet. Sweden is an innovative country that has incubated companies like Spotify and Skype and was also the first country to develop land information services in a computerized format.
Kjellson addressed the impacts of financing land services and how the government is collaborating with private companies to deliver applications that serve the community’s needs. “There is demand for a lot of trust and coordination between organizations – these are keywords,” he said.
Vincent Hoong, Chief Executive of the Singapore Land Authority, and an Esri Enterprise Award Winner at last year’s conference, agreed that the issues Sweden faces are the same as Singapore, even though the countries vary dramatically in size, population density, and type of government. Although Singapore is relatively the size of San Diego, California, efficiently sharing information can be challenging. Hoong’s department spends a lot of time engaged in outreach with other government agencies, businesses, and academic institutions. “Creating a sustainable collaborative environment where data, policies and knowledge are integrated and foster collaboration between government, business, and the community is always our goal,” said Hoong.
Timothy Trainor, the chief of the geography division from the US Census Bureau, also spoke on how mapping agencies have changed over recent decades. Explaining that although the Census Bureau is not a national mapping organization, with output of 17 million maps a year, the statistical agency faced the same challenges as the audience – policy issues, shrinking resources, and difficulties in efficiently sharing data. Even with these roadblocks, however, there are many opportunities today to continue providing authoritative data that drives business innovation and is helpful to the general public. “The geospatial world is maturing with new technology,” Trainor said. “Our goal has been and continues to be to keep costs down, but do it in a way that still provides data to the agencies that need it.”
The forum was sponsored by DigitalGlobe, and John “Jack” Hild, the vice president for US and International Defense and Intelligence Strategy at the company was an active participant. Hild commented on innovative techniques, like crowdsourcing, that are keeping national mapping organizations up-to-date and connected with their users. Hild discussed ‘community sourcing’ of data and how it was effectively used after the devastating Christchurch earthquake that hit New Zealand in 2011. “By sending imagery out in small blocks to engineers, they were able to quickly report damage to buildings,” said Hild. “This was an effective way to generate trustworthy data.”