Are Geospatial Professionals in the Netherlands Ready for a Celebration?
Jan Willem van Eck
On December 2-3, the biannual Geo-Informatie Nederland (GIN) Congres will take place in Utrecht, the Netherlands; it's theme: Broadening Geo.
This is the 25th edition of this event. A lot has changed since the
first time geo-professionals got together. Is it time to celebrate?
The GIN society (and its predecessors) has always
valued the opportunity to meet with members and non-members alike.
After all, knowledge sharing is part of its purpose. The first formal
meeting, which had a clear photogrammetric focus, was on October 13,
1961 in Delft, the "then" gravitational center of geospatial technology
in the Netherlands. The Topografische Dienst (Topographic Survey), ITC
and KLM Aerocarto were all there.
Throughout the years, many new events have debuted, initiated by many
others, but about the same number have ceased. I vaguely remember an
AM/FM meeting in the south of the Netherlands and an "Internet in
Business" event, when we weren't even sure what the Internet would
bring us. If there are too many conferences being organized, I am
convinced the "conference market" will correct itself.The situation is
much clearer now. Although there remain some lesser attended events,
the only other 1,000+ person event is the annual GIS Conference
organized by ESRI Nederland.
The way we meet for professional enrichment has certainly undergone a
lot of change. It is now possible to "feel present" at a conference by
attending an Internet-based event like a webinar. That is really great
for those unable to travel or only interested in part of a conference.
For those participating, it helps to look back at "what exactly did she
say again?" I really enjoy a bit of TED coming to the geo world.
The board of our society was satisfied with the previous GIN Congres in
2007. However, we listened to the comments from the over 2,000
attendees and exhibitors of that event and set out the following
changes. First, the duration of the event went from a three-day to a
two-day event. We changed the location from Amsterdam to Utrecht,
located more centrally in the Netherlands. We also made the attendance
free for participants, both members and non-members alike.
In addition, and unbeknown to most attendees, we changed the business
model of the event. VNU Exhibitions was tasked with organizing the
exhibition and support of the conference itself, partly at its own
financial risk. Why? Says John van der Valk, managing director of
Exhibitions and Cross Media at VNU Exhibitions Europe: "VNU Exhibitions
was happy to take up this challenge. With our (worldwide) expertise, we
have a core competence in organizing events like the GeoInfoXchange. We
look forward to an even greater support of participating organizations
during the next edition."
The exhibition component of the Congres is now dubbed the GeoInfoXchange. GeoBusiness Nederland,
the almost 100-company strong association of geo-companies, has become
a strong partner in supporting both the Congres and the exhibition.
GIN Congres 2009 and GeoInfoXchange
We are already passed the 2,000 mark for registrations at the upcoming
Congres. Its theme: Broadening the Attention for Geo. In my opinion the
program committee has done a good job: keynote speakers at (former)
minister level, the highest civil servant from central government
responsible for Geo and Google to discuss its latest initiatives. The
program also brings you Nulaz, Open Source GIS, GIS and (micro) agriculture, mobile mapping by Geomaat and much more.
Says Frederique Coumans, editor in chief of Vi MATRIX,
the leading GIS journal in the Netherlands: "GeoInfoXchange. Nicely
put. The power of geo-information is in exchanging, communicating, and
broadening insight. I doubt, however, if the event will be interesting
for people outside the traditional target group. Someone who is not
'into geo' is not likely to attend a conference for one or two
presentations, at an otherwise not so relevant conference, with no
known exhibitors to him/her. Nonetheless, the speakers from the new
corner of geo-information applications can be very refreshing."
As a consequence of the changes, fewer members are now actively
involved in the organization of the Congres and the exhibition, but
they still manage the content of the event. Our LinkedIn group,
Geo-Informatie Nederland, has helped a little, but we expect more from
our part of the crowd in the future. The professional support of VNU
has really helped here.
The theme of the conference has also echoed across the exhibition floor. Branded the GeoInfoXchange, it brings visitors from 70 organizations with a wide variety of products and services.
In addition to the usual exhibitors, which cover CAD and GIS, asset
management, surveying companies, data management, 3D technology and
engineering firms, you might discover a few surprises: the Netherlands Space Office; GeoFort,
an educational living lab experience with a world full of maps and
navigation; and the foundation for the promotion of geo to the labor
market or the Hollandse Cirkel, the foundation for the geodetic heritage of the Netherlands.
Point of view
Face-to-face meetings in the hallways of an event, planned or
unplanned, will always play an important role in our sector. It is in
these meetings that we learn most of the information that we believe to be worth sharing with others.
If you believe all of the above to be shameless self-promotion, let me
cordially invite you to our GIN Congres, but you'll need to practice
your Dutch. For those not able to attend, I will be using Twitter
during the Congres via @jwvaneck (in English) as a tweetreporter. Our
live video coverage is not yet online.
By the way, there will also be a general assembly of our society. We
hope to get a positive vote on our strategic plan for the future. Is it
time to celebrate? Yes, geo has come a long way since that first
meeting in Delft 25 years ago, but I prefer to wait for the big
celebration until the Congres is over. Allthough already a higher attendance then ever before, there is still lots to improve!