Geospatial is big! The industry has a high growth profile according to the US Dept of Labour. GeoBusiness analysis showed continued steady growth, even during recent times of crisis and the prospects remain encouraging. But the industry cannot maintain its performance without building capacity in and strong connections to education and training. This was the theme of the workshop and sessions at the 2014 Geospatial World Forum. I attended the 2014 event to promote the GeoSkills Plus Project.
The greatest threats to the future of the geospatial industry are not economic or technological, I believe they are related to the low levels of geospatial awareness in political circles and especially among policy makers who are tasked with implementing education and training systems with the capacity and capability to meet the needs of society.
One of the most important but challenging elements of the 2014 Geospatial World Forum in Geneva was to establish agreed visions, a clear agenda with objectives around which networking between industry and institutions can be facilitated.
Emergent discourses will need to converge if we are to communicate a strong and unified message. Networking is required. Industry needs to meet education needs to meet policy makers. This involves consistently communicating shared visions, needs and concerns of the geospatial stakeholders into the political arena but also to define and offer genuine viable options. No forum exists at this time to do this. The geospatial sector is innovating at ever-increasing rates. The industry operates in a short-term perspective.
We should avoid a short-term focus on fixed-term 2 or 3-year projects so prevalent in institutions and business. I believe the time has come to scale-up our successful projects with the goal to integrate spatial literacy, spatial thinking and geospatial technologies into schools, colleges, higher education and initial and continuing forms of teacher training. Therefore we will need to wrestle with the most difficult challenges, namely how to work together in the political arena to get geospatial learning as a component vertically integrated into education and training structures.
To assist economic revitalization and stimulate growth, forecasters predict growing industrial demands for a workforce with geospatial information skills. Across our societies and cultures, citizens are being empowered by open sources of geo-data, but in the main they do not have the fundamental skills necessary to enable them to benefit from this emancipation. If we are to meet changing needs and stimulate further geospatial industry developments, we have to establish ways to influence policy makers so that they actively respond to this rapidly changing environment. It is significant that many politicians are not even aware the geospatial industry exists, most still think in terms of last century needs and technologies.
We need to have opportunities to think strategically, create dialogue, establish a broad picture of what capacity building needs to take place and confirm the long-term commitment of key stakeholders to unite, establish an infrastructure whereby regular collaborative action can occur in order to take these challenges forward.
Where is the forum for industry – education – policy to connect?
We need a long-term project to engage all stakeholders.
ILN, together with other partners is planning some pan-European action in the future – contact us if you would like to be kept informed.