Letter from the Low Lands: GIN Congress 2011 - Geo breaking down barriers

By Jan Willem van Eck

At the end of this month, on November 30th and December 1st, the Geo-Informatie Nederland (GIN) Congres and GeoInfoXchange exhibition will take place in Utrecht, conveniently located in the central Netherlands. With 2,585 participants in 2009, expectations for 2011 are high. By longstanding tradition, the theme is rather general and can take the organization, the speakers and the participants in many directions. This year’s theme: “Geo breaking through barriers.” Will it break a barrier in attendance?

Breaking barriers for our society

The GIN Congres is an all-Dutch conference with only a few international exceptions. So promoting it internationally seems, at first glance, a bit awkward. But if you want to understand what is hot and what is not related to geographic information in the Netherlands, this certainly is the place to be. And most Dutch do speak English, after all.

The action style of the theme was chosen by the program committee on purpose: sometimes geo-information needs a bit of a push to get to new places. The program examines several perspectives on breaking barriers: between organizations, between countries, and the barriers to new applications and technologies.

The Geo-Information Nederland society also has broken a few barriers in recent years. We have started to organize regional events, we’ve launched a relatively large social media presence (with a LinkedIn group of over 1,700 members) and we’ve reorganized the way we do events - always in cooperation with a professional company.


As with most conferences, the GIN Congres has keynote presentations and parallel sessions. It is hard to single out particular presentations, but I find three particularly noteworthy:

  • Jantien Stoter, Kadaster/ TU Delft - has taken 3D geodata to a higher level in an already famous 3D pilot project in which almost 70 organizations cooperated.
  • Lucas Bolsius - mayor of the city of Amersfoort, will explain why geography takes such a central role, not just in his city, but also from a national perspective.
  • Joris van Enst - director of the Waterschapshuis, representing the water boards, will explain how he envisions authorities working together with businesses and citizens alike. The water boards are the oldest regional governments and have a clear and seemingly simple task: keep the water out, or keep it in where we need it most.

Several of the hot topics in the parallel sessions are key registrations (the centrally orchestrated databases, for example, topography, addresses, buildings), Openness 2.0 (on open geo data and open source), and a new way of working (on generalization and the new satellite data repository, with opendata). Presenters come from the expected organizations, such as Kadaster and Netherlands Space Office, and from some less-expected sources, such as the insurance company, Achmea and Mobile Result.

The conference ends with an extra focus on megatrends in openness: open standards and open source, with presentations from the National Spatial Data Infrastructure executive committee in the Netherlands (Geonovum , Marcel Reuvers), Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC, Athina Trakas) and Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo, Arnulf Christl).


The challenge of managing an event of this size is too large for our society alone. This one is co-produced by, among others, the Royal Dutch Society of Geography (KNAG), which will present a session on geo-education. The Netherlands Institute for Navigation (NiN) has put together a session on the topic of location-based services for a safe and secure society.

Many smaller co-organizing partners, like the open innovation platform, IIPGEO, and the labor market initiative, SAGEO, contribute as well. GeoBusiness Nederland has been a strong supporter since the beginning and both GeoBusiness and Geo-Information Nederland are sharing a booth in the Geo-InfoXchange exhibition area. All of these organizations are professionally supported by VNU Exhibitions, a key resource in making the Geo-Info Xchange exhibition a success.

I would like to think that it is the combination of efforts that makes the GIN Congress a success. As a not-for-profit society, Geo-Informatie Nederland exists in the space that other players allow it. But I see the society as a unique and vital player in this vibrant ecosystem of authorities, companies and communities. It is this kind of open cooperation that I believe will break down barriers for all involved. So, although the conference has not yet started, here is a great thank-you to all active members from the editorial board of our Geo-Info magazine, the program committee, Web team and general board, who contributed freely to make this event possible, for members and non-members alike.

A new direction

The society Geo-Informatie Nederland is more than a congress, a symposium or a magazine; it is an open network, for professionals and amateurs to openly share knowledge about geographic information. There will be a lot more barriers to break in the years to come. In my opinion, breaking the 2,585-participants barrier is not that important. It seems that the impact of geographic information in society will increase and we all contribute to that. We sincerely hope that more conference attendees will join the society and actively support that vision.

As an aside, I will be stepping down as president of our society. It has been an energetic learning experience filled with many interesting new challenges and the pleasure of new acquaintances. And it was a great pleasure (and fun) to push geo-information with our board and the many cooperating organizations in a new direction. There is an abundance of challenges left over for the new board of our society. 

If you happen to be near Utrecht in the next few days, do come and see us! Help us break that first or second barrier!

Published Monday, November 28th, 2011

Written by Jan Willem van Eck

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