Going Global – Letter from Istanbul

Going Global – Letter from Istanbul

I just returned from a trip to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities.  Most of Azavea’s past work has been focused on projects in the United States, but we have recently been dipping our toes in international waters.  Work beyond our borders is not necessarily new – we have been working in Canada for the past couple of years and our Cicero API has had coverage in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK for several years – but we think that our high performance processing (GeoTrellis), crime analysis (HunchLab), urban forestry (OpenTreeMap), redistricting (DistrictBuilder) and other work have the potential for positive impact beyond our shores.

So why Istanbul?  Apart from being a city of great beauty and energy, Istanbul was the site of the 6th annual European INSPIRE conference.  Building on the success of some members’ national spatial data infrastructure (SDI) – the UK’s Ordnance Survey is a standout example – the INSPIRE project (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community) is an effort to establish a standardized spatial data infrastructure for all 27 members of the European Union.  Established in 2007 by the European Parliament and Council, INSPIRE standards are aimed at 34 map layers that are required to support environmental policy and decision-making.    Getting 27 different sovereign nation-states to work together on anything is a challenge, and this annual conference is a way for people working with GIS data in Europe to discuss about how to get along in terms of managing their GIS infrastructure.

A few of my observations included:

  • Data Portals:  Many European countries do not necessarily have a tradition of data sharing by governments, but several countries now have data portals for sharing and distributing geospatial data.  There is also a European-wide data portal.  Many of these are powered by Esri’s open source GeoPortal software.  (Esri also has one of the best explanations of INSPIRE)
  • Tracking Property:  Many of these countries also have relatively advanced efforts to develop a digital cadastral map (a cadaster is the real estate property registry).  This puts them way ahead of the U.S.
  • OGC Standards:  While INSPIRE outlines requirements for metadata and data interoperability, standards from the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), like WMS, WFS, WCS and WPS, are significant part of the interoperability story.
  • Work in Progress:  This is the 6th year, but many of the services are still in the planning and development stages and a fully operational framework won’t be complete until October 2020.

We had an Azavea booth in the exhibit hall and met a lot of folks doing very interesting GIS work.  We are working hard to grow the community of people using GIS to solve problems.  We hope to be back in Europe again soon.  We are also planning to be at the FOSS4G 2012 conference (for open source geospatial software) in Beijing in September.  Maybe we’ll see you there!