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How geospatial investment helps grow an economy

Profile of By Peter Hedlund
By Peter Hedlund
Managing Director, International, Ordnance SurveyPeter is responsible for driving Ordnance Survey's international business.

The global population is growing, and more than half of this growth to 2050 is expected to occur in Africa. This presents opportunities for economic development – but it also presents challenges as governments try to grow their economies sustainably and equitably, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Achieving geospatial maturity is a key technological enabler that facilitates progress towards these goals. It can be a catalyst for economic development that benefits the country as a whole. At Ordnance Survey we measure geospatial maturity, to provide an investment roadmap that governments can use to expand their geospatial capabilities. 

When a government has the geospatial capabilities to build a base map, it sets off a chain reaction, enabling effective land administration that can supercharge a growing economy.

Two men looking at a buidling design
Building a base map sets off a chain reaction, enabling effective land administration that can supercharge a growing economy.

According to the World Bank, only 30 percent of the world’s population has legally registered rights to their land and homes, meaning huge portions of the global population don’t have proper land rights. Governments can only begin to issue secure, reliable land rights to their citizens once they have developed a detailed, mandated national base map. Families thrive and are more economically active when they have government-issued land rights – as shown by a study of residents in a poor suburban area of Buenos Aires. 

Property rights and permanent addresses allow citizens to secure and maintain work and apply for mortgages, which can pave the way for the kind of economic development that can help to reduce the proportion of a population living in slums and poor housing in the long run. It’s this kind of socio-economic development that our mapping expertise can support. 

As societies around the world seek to digitise records and expand their digital services and data economy, establishing an authoritative national base map facilitates the linking of data from different sources. This is critical to securing international investment needed to grow an economy. 

Birdge at night spanning a motorway
Geospatial links data from different sources - this is critical to securing international investment to grow an economy.

Another area of Ordnance Survey’s expertise that governments around the world are drawing upon is remote sensing. OS has extensive experience in collecting and processing data from aerial photography. We are also working closely with our partners at Mobileye to develop our automated object recognition capacity, which turns raw footage from vehicle-mounted cameras into detailed maps of the roadside.  

Remote sensor data capture and processing can also provide insights into the impact of urban expansion on the environment. Using aerial photography from satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), we are helping the local government in Dubai to monitor the number and health of palm trees. By measuring the area of a tree’s crown – the aboveground vegetation as viewed from above – we can assess whether the tree is receiving enough (or indeed too much) water. As water is a scarce resource in Dubai, monitoring green spaces using automated remote sensor tech can provide other insights too.  

Palm trees in the desert near Dubai
Using aerial photography from satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), we are helping the local government in Dubai to monitor the number and health of palm trees.

These techniques can help to detect where an oil pipeline may be leaking, as vegetation will recede in these areas. Conversely, we can use the same techniques to spot where a pipeline carrying water may be leaking, as we can detect the vegetation that will spring up in the vicinity of the leak.  

Capturing and analysing geospatial data automatically can lead to better policy decisions regarding the provision of food and improve agriculture by reducing operational costs, waste, pesticide use and pollution.  

It can also provide insights that allow regions to maximise their yields from harvests by detecting changes in vegetation captured using remote sensing. Better data of this type can have other economic downstream effects, such as reducing insurance premiums for farmers. 

Women cultivating plants for human consumption
Capturing and analysing geospatial data automatically can lead to better policy decisions regarding the provision of food and improve agriculture by reducing operational costs, waste, pesticide use and pollution.  

Geospatial data provides us with unique and precise tools to monitor our changing environment, which allows us to accurately take stock of climate change. Monitoring of glaciers, sea levels and polar ice is enhanced with precise and reliable geospatial data. Monitoring and analysing wildfires using geospatial data is a powerful way to manage them - a pressing concern given the devastation wrought by the recent fires in Australia. Automatic data capture and processing can allow governments to act efficiently and rapidly in the event of natural disasters driven by climate change. 

These are just a few ways that governments around the world are harnessing geospatial data and Ordnance Survey’s geospatial skills and experience. Geospatial data is also critical to the emerging smart city technology that local governments are using to optimise their transport networks and improve efficiency and reduce waste in urban areas.  

We are working on a number of projects in Dubai to help them effectively implement their smart city strategy. Dubai municipality already has a sophisticated vision for the future of the city, and are drawing on our expertise to help them realise it.  

More than half of the global population currently live in cities, and this is set to expand to almost 70 per cent by 2050, with most of that change taking place in Africa and Asia. Geospatial data is critical for governments in all parts of the world to level-up their economy at a time of rapid population growth and urbanisation. Achieving geospatial maturity can address the challenges population increase represents for land rights, transport, agriculture and the environment.

In the coming weeks, Everything Happens Somewhere will explore some of the opportunities geospatial data present across the globe. 

Profile of By Peter Hedlund
By Peter Hedlund
Managing Director, International, Ordnance SurveyPeter is responsible for driving Ordnance Survey's international business.