Understanding the Value of Geographic Information in a Turbulent World


I was invited to give a keynote this morning at the Cambridge Conference: Exchange which is a conference of delegates from National Mapping agencies from developing, transitional and developed world.

My talk was about the two big changes that NMA’s were facing:

  • The need to deliver better return on investment to their customers
  • Switching from being producer centric to customer responsive and understanding that the value of geospatial data was determined by customers and their choices not by how much it cost to produce

I thought that it would be more relevant to the people from the developed countries who were facing the problems of funding, business models, relationships with the private sector and wrestling with free data and the pace of innovation in the geoweb.

But as I got to the bit about why I thought NMA’s should stick to what they were good at, namely cadastral type data, and not try and compete with the commercial and open data models at street and POI level I realised that there was a possible tip here for the people from the less advanced economies who are struggling to fund their GI capabilities and who had been hoping that the now stressed business models of the larger NMA’s would provide a solution. I showed them what was being done by the OpenStreetMap community in Egypt and suggested to them that crowd sourcing might be a model that they could use to supplement their cadastre.

I was surprised at what a good reception the ideas got from both representatives from the third world and some of the Europeans. Don’t expect a sudden conversion but perhaps one or two people will at least go back to their offices and have a more serious look at alternatives.

Incidentally on the business model front, the people who worked in cadastre’s that charged people in the property transaction chain were experiencing severe downturns in revenue with the currrent state of the property market throughout Europe. Some are having to consider increasing charges by 25% to cover costs. Not sure this is much better than the current model in the UK. Oh and they still don’t give their data away to other interested parties for free!

The slides are here. No notes but some pretty images with a few bullet points which may give you an idea of what I was talking about.