Place matters

UK mapA recent discussion between a panel of experts assembled by the Government Computing magazine and ESRI highlighted that the UK needs to make the most of  its location or geographical data.

Participants, including Brian Higgs from the Observatory’s Geographical Information group, believe that organisations need to encourage the sharing of location specific data in order to improve decision making processes.

Location information is perceived as a critical element of  the contingency planning  system and can be used to understand what or who is physically at risk, and to assess social and economic value.

It was also stated that it’s important to monitor issues on a large scale in order to see whether certain issues were place-specific and required a particular plan of action.

Due to advances in information technology, location data can be analysed and integrated between geographical information systems into other IT systems. The Government has noted some of these points in the initial report, Place matters: a location strategy for the UK (PDF, 1mb).

However, during the discussion it was highlighted that datasets are large, much of the process is still manual and it can be quite a costly and slow process.

Also there are difficulties with defining a location, say by grid reference, address, physical type or use, for example.

Another issue was that placing information in a shared format can be difficult as different people have different perspectives on areas.

Although there are some obstacles to overcome, participants at the discussion talked about creating a culture of location awareness, where specialists know the value of geographical information and are able to access it. The overall consensus was that while location specific data may not provide all the answers, it is important in providing a geographical context to environmental and social issues.

Thanks to Brian Higgs from the Geographical Information group for providing the content for this post.

Photo by nickp.

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