Increasingly technology is used to solve problems in our rapidly changing world. Along with this comes the production of data at a greater volume that ever before in history. This data has the potential to provide a critical contribution to overcome the challenges we face in society. This potential can only be fully realised if data is produced, maintained and interpreted in an appropriate way.
The seminar by Dr Anne C. Kemp, a leading figure in the GI world, addressed the issues of data management suggesting systematic ways to ensure the quality of geospatial data. Among Dr Kemp’s many credentials is her title as Chair of the Association for Geographic Information (AGI). The seminar Dr Kemp gave addressed data production and management in line with the mission of AGI which is “…to maximise the use of geographic information (GI) for the benefit of the citizen, good governance and commerce.” In order to successfully meet this aim it is argued that quality and management of GI has to meet certain standards.
Although the need for data quality and management may sound obvious to many of us in the GEO world it is an immensely important issue that others may not have explicitly thought about let alone implemented strategies to ensure their data is the best it can be and fit for purpose. GI (and its management) is a new concept for many fields, Dr Kemp gave the example of engineers using spatial data to improve the planning stages of projects by modelling outcomes. Techniques such as this are well established in the field GIS but a new concept to others.
Having known and clearly defined standards for data enables greater trust in the data and between stakeholders for a given project. Dr Kemp gave the example of use of GI in BIM and the Crossrail project where spatial data is shared through a common information portal. Through a concerted effort to manage and standardise the data quality metadata is made available. This enables all stakeholders to fully understand and trust the data.
With cities growing at an unprecedented rate it’s not just building management that needs to be addressed but also the services a city has to provide e.g. water, sewage, efficient transport networks. This type of development has major social, economic and environmental impacts. ‘Smart’ technology has been suggested to enable us to monitor cities.
The danger of ‘Smart’ cities is that technology replaces us as decision makers. Dr Kemp argued that ‘smart’ technology needs to be harnessed in such a way that makes it easier to for humans to make informed and democratic decisions, rather than it being an automated process.
The hope is that though better information management, out of the age of Big Data and information overload will come the ‘Knowledge Age’ where information is critically and effectively used to create new knowledge. ‘Better Information Management’ strategies and qualified professionals who understand all elements of data production and use are needed for this to happen.
(MSc in GIS at the University of Edinburgh)