"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"
When T.S. Elliot penned those words in his work, "The Rock" in 1934, the vast amounts of geospatial information that would one day be available was unimaginable. Today his words ring especially true. We now have billions of bits of data being generated, but without access to the data, and without the support needed to leverage the information to improve our decision-making, and ultimately, to improve our lives, what value does the data really have?
In an era in which the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals highlight the necessity of geospatial data and information to support beneficial, sustainable development, global movements such as Eye on Earth are committing themselves to identifying solutions for greater access to environmental, social and economic data in support of informed decision-making.
With the same goal, the Pan-American Institute for Geography and History implemented its Pan-American Agenda in 2009. The agenda prioritizes institutional actions and studies related to climate change adaptation, natural risks and spatial planning. It also manages the relationship between the Institute and the Inter-American system, coordinated by the Organization of American States.
A Joint Action Plan to Accelerate the Development of the Spatial Data Infrastructure of the Americas has been established, which includes among its members:
- Geocentric Reference System for the Americas(SIRGAS);
- United Nations Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management for the Americas; and
- The GeoSUR Program, led by CAF The Latin American Development Bank and PAIGH, and seed-funded by Eye on Earth.
These organizations have an integrated vision regarding each of their roles:
- PAIGH is working to improve coordination and collaboration processes in order to develop spatial information, especially in developing countries which require technical assistance;
- SIRGAS will cement its role as the sole Geospatial Reference System for the region;
- The UN-GGIM: Americas and its expert group will contribute to proposed policies for developing regional geospatial data infrastructure for the Americas. This partnership will also seek to cooperate on linking information and alphanumeric data — censuses, statistics, etc.— with geospatial data to help with the creation of indicators and information in benefit of regional sustainable development; and
- The CAF-PAIGH GeoSUR Program will serve as the instrument to develop applications.
The Joint Action Plan also aims to consolidate the geospatial information network of North, South, and Central Americas and the Caribbean.
The ultimate goal is to contribute to the sustainable development of the region by providing a better understanding of the territory. Geospatial and statistical data is vital for underpinning indicators properly, highlighting gaps and unmet basic needs of the population, and providing indicators that measure the situation of both the natural and cultural landscapes. The subjects established in the Pan-American Agenda are vital for sustainable development, especially because they illustrate the relationships between the natural and anthropic aspects of the region.
Collaborating with Eye on Earth will provide the strong relationship needed to establish interregional cooperation networks. With the shared purpose of exchanging experience and best practices on geospatial matters, Eye on Earth and PAIGH will help provide an understanding of how to generate relevant data and information to produce territorial knowledge supporting integral development.
Given the importance of this development, the priorities should be:
- To continue with the capacity building process on geospatial matters, through workshops, seminars, training and virtual courses, among others; and
- To continue efforts to have a continuous and seamlessly integrated continental cartography as a platform that could support several territorial applications and services.
The geospatial data itself is important, but it is the processing of this data and the implementation of applications and services that will contribute to the generation of new territorial knowledge, subsequently support sustainable development and greatly improve quality of life.