This years GeoDATA series focuses on “driving efficiency through geographic information”. This is quite a topical area as most organisations are feeling the pinch and being asked to do more with less. As ever, the GeoDATA team had managed to put together a varied and interesting list of speakers and importantly, left enough time for networking between sessions.
I dont intend to summarise all the presentations, rather i will pick out some of the key points that came up. The first speaker was Katie Metcalfe of Environment Systems who gave a talk on Ecosystem goods and services, which are apparently the new buzzwords to look out for. I hadnt heard of them but now know that they describe the economic benefit that our environment offers us. This can be split into 5 categories:
- What we get from the landscape for free
- provisioning services (water, crops)
- regulating services (carbon storage, flood attenuation)
- cultural services
- supporting services (photosynthesis, water filtration)
The message from Katie’s talk was that the environment that we live in is important and seemingly undeveloped land may be benefiting a community already. Changing the use of some land may have an economic benefit in one sector but could result in an economic cost in another. One example of this would be building on a flood plain. If you reduce the natural capacity of the river valley to store excess water, water levels will increase downstream and potentially cause flooding damaging assets (buildings, infrastructure and crops). GIS is a great way to assess and monitor land-use. It can alos be used to give land parcels a tangible economic value. If you want to find out more about ecosystem goods and services, reading the TEEB Report is a good place to start.
Taking the do more with less mantle was Tom Timms from Star-Apic. Tom had 5 top tips:
- Question why – why are you doing something and what do you want to achieve
- Integrate – join up processes and work-flows to increase efficiency
- Automate – saves time and free’s up resources
- KISS – Keep it simple stupid.
- Be radical – don’t be afraid to embrace emerging technology. Think about mobile tech and services in the Cloud.
Alun Jones of the Geoinformation Group who discussed Efficiency without Compromise. Alun focused directly on the topic of doing more with less and how new technology could bring efficiency and save time and money. A critical component of this was to ensure that data and systems were “Digital by Default“. Automation can only happen when information is organised in a logical and consistent format.
Following on from Alun was Alan Moore of Forth Valley GIS. Forth Valley GIS is a organisation that provides GIS services mainly in the public sector. But Forth Valley GIS is an example of a shared service. It was started as an in-house group in a council and soon became consortium providing GIS services for 3 councils. By providing shared services Forth Valley GIS has saved these councils a significant amount of money. They are now operating as a plc and the major shareholders are the 3 councils so there is further payback for their investment. Alan’s message was that creating effective shared service is not easy, nor is it a quick process. It took several years and hundreds of thousands of pounds to get Forth Valley GIS up and running, but the benefit in cost savings and improved services to the councils outweigh the cost.
Envitia (oops i don’t have the speakers name in my notes!) talked about standards implimentation. This is a topic that i totally agree with, standards should not be seen as a pain in the neck, rather the stuff that make things “just work”. Standards should mean that you can mix and match software components and they should just plug and play. Want an example of standards at work, well you are reading this on the internet. I don’t know what operating system or browsers you might be using and it doesn’t really matter. The code in my blog conforms with standards and the browsers know how to interpret that code. The user doesn’t need to know about the standards, the result of standards compliance is that it all works.
Finaly, the AGI gave a presentation on the benefits of membership. AGI offer a comprehensive CPD (continual professional development) scheme. They offer courses and events that help you to earn points to satisfy your CPD requirements and they run a scheme that helps you organise and document your CPD. This could be very useful for anyone who is trying to attain, or maintain, their CGeog status. More details can be found on the AGI website.