Unleashing the power of ‘where’

Everything that happens, happens somewhere over space and time. The world is getting more connected and goods, persons and information can travel greater distances in shorter amounts of time. However, this has not eliminated hunger, poverty, disease, disasters and environmental challenges. In order to measure, monitor and mitigate these challenges we need to bring together the best data – satellite, demographic, statistical, geospatial, and environmental – linking the data together with the one thing they have in common – location.

To highlight the significant role that geographical information – collected at local, national and global level – plays in the realization of the sustainable development goals, the United Nations initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), in collaboration with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations organized a side event themed ‘Unleashing the power of “where” to make the world a better place: How geographic information contributes to achieving the SDG’s’.

“Satellites can do much more than just take pretty pictures from space,”

Lawrence Friedl Director,
NASA Applied Science Program

The side event outlined the many ways in which geographic information helps governments measure and monitor the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Satellites can do much more than just take pretty pictures from space,” Lawrence Friedl, Director of NASA’s Applied Science Program and one of the panellists remarked.

Geospatial information systems help statisticians collect, manage, analyse and display detailed geographical information about the earth and all processes and circumstances existing on it. These systems can be used to visualize complex data in the form of charts, maps and report. By making the data easily understood and shared, they give policymakers an insight into patterns, relationships and trends that occur within our society.

Yusuf Djajadihardja, Deputy Chair of the Indonesian Geospatial Information Agency, and one of the events’ panellists, emphasized the importance of the collection of geographic information for the Indonesian archipelago. The country not only has a rapidly expanding population and economy, but also experiences many natural threats, including volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes.

The same is true for the world’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS). While most of them are popular tourist destinations, the deterioration of fragile ecosystems severely impacts both traditional agriculture and the tourism industry locally. Getting a clearer picture on where most of the problems occur is the first step into creating policy that promotes sustainable development.

“Geospatial data is critical to contribute to evidence-based decision making in addressing the unique vulnerabilities of SIDS,” Nadine Brown of the Sustainable Development and Regional Planning Division of the Planning Institute of Jamaica said.

The United Nations initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) aims at playing a leading role in setting the agenda for the development of global geospatial information and to promote its use to address key global challenges. It provides a forum to liaise and coordinate among Member States, and between Member States and international organizations.

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