Geospatial data is the record of what we do and where we do it, allowing us to make sense of the past, be in touch with the present and model the future. In our modern digital society, it offers substantial opportunities that the UK, as a global leader in the use of location data, is ready to exploit.
With my background and experience in geospatial technologies, I welcomed the recently published UK Geospatial Commission’s ‘Unlocking the power of location: The UK’s geospatial strategy'. By opening up access to location data and fusing it with data from other sources to deliver location-enabled services, I believe there is huge potential to equip the country to tackle the biggest challenges it faces this century such as managing the environment, tackling climate change, safeguarding the vulnerable and protecting our borders.
So, what is location data? Well, interestingly, around 10% of the UK economy is already reliant on location data[i]. With the high-level use of smartphones, most of the population is already walking around with a location-based device, meaning there is immense scope for further growth.
Often we are not aware of how the ‘power of where’ can touch citizen’s lives in so many ways. It is at its most powerful when we fuse location data with software engineering capabilities and integrate into business and operational systems.
It is about unlocking the ‘power of where’. It is said that 80% of data has a location element, which refers to events that occur at a specific time and place. Developing location-enabled services means we can harness the ’power of where’, and use it to inform analysis, drive decision-making that then enables better outcomes.
In response, to the strategy, CGI has written a white paper that draws on our experience and identifies four key principles that will accelerate the delivery of location services in the public sector. At the heart of the four key principles is integration. To me, location data is most valuable as an analytical and decision-making tool when fused intelligently. CGI’s four principles are:
- Democratise the power of where: this will enable end users to interact with – and benefit from – location-enabled applications by using connected devices, IoT devices and automation.
- Embrace ‘open’ as an enabler: use open standards, open architecture and (in line with government guidance) open source to build integrated location-enabled applications. Open makes it easier for data to be shared between different sources and allows data to flow easily between different applications.
- Join the dots, enable the connections: reach across organisational boundaries to give access to data, enable data sharing and the fusing of data from different sources. Note that ‘joining the dots’ is often more about culture than technology.
- Secure by design: security must be at the heart of all location-enabled solutions to protect sensitive data, safeguard applications and give confidence to users.
CGI is already delivering work with public sector organisations across the UK using a diversity of location-enabled applications. These include:
- Systems that support agricultural payments for farmers in Europe – Earth Observation (EO) is processed by CGI and used to validate payments to farmers
- Common Land Management Tool – on behalf of the Welsh Government, CGI has developed a public register of Common Land in Wales that also has a suite of tools for administrators to manage the boundary holdings
- Mining reports delivery – working with the Coal Authority, CGI has developed a self-service portal that allows end users to order a mining report that outlines the risk to individual properties as part of the conveyancing process.
Much of the work carried out by UK public sector organisations revolves around location data, particularly for planning and management of resources. These agencies have access to vast amounts of location data – as well as other data, such as demographics, housing, health and crime. However, I believe that in some areas, the public sector has barely begun to unlock the ‘power of where’. For example, often public sector organisations do not have complete inventories of data - they do not know what data they hold. Often there is a lack of awareness about the potential for location data-enabled innovation in the public sector, coupled with a shortage of the skills required to harness this potential.
By harnessing the ‘power of where’ the UK public sector will add to the momentum already underway.
Contact me to learn more about how CGI is helping public sector agencies unlock the power of where.