For those of you who missed the recent conference in Trinidad, here is a
conference report authored by Roger Longhorn and issued by GEO:connexion
International, one of the GSDI 10 conference media sponsors. Thanks to all
participants as well as the organizers for making the conference a great
success!

GSDI-10 CONFERENCE REPORT

The GSDI Association held its 10th International Conference for Spatial
Data Infrastructure at the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus, St.
Augustine, Port of Spain, Trinidad, from 25 to 29 February 2008. The
conference was attended by more than 250 participants from across the globe
and several international organisations. The theme of the conference was
“Small Island Perspectives on Global Challenges: The Role of Spatial Data in
Supporting a Sustainable Future.” More than 130 papers were offered over
four days of presentations, plus eight pre-conference workshops on the first
day. This was the first GSDI conference held in the Caribbean region.

The opening plenary featured welcomes by Prof. Clement Sankat, Pro-vice
Chancellor and Principal of UWI and the GSDI Association&apo;s outgoing
President, Jarmo Ratia, followed by a keynote address from Senator Tina
Gronlund-Nunez, Minister of State in the Ministry of Planning, Housing and
Environment. The conference was also honoured by a keynote from Ambassador
Albert Ramdin, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American
States. The World Bank&apo;s Knowledge and Management Officer for Latin America
and the Caribbean Region, Mr. David Gray (himself a GIS professional before
joining the World Bank), told the audience that the World Bank now
recognised the importance of geographic information in both planning and
monitoring its development loan portfolios as well as the importance of
Spatial Data Infrastructure for sustainable development globally.

Four additional plenary sessions throughout the conference featured speakers
from across the geomatics, standards and open source communities, including
technologists such as ESRI&apo;s David Maguire, Google Geospatial Technologist
Ed Parsons, and Intergraph&apo;s Director of Technology Architecture and
Strategy, Mark Doherty. UNHCR&apo;s Karl Steinacker, co-Chair of the UN
Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG), which is developing the UNSDI
programme, gave an update on that initiative.

Other plenary speakers addressed SDI progress in a number of nations and
regions, including Jamaica and the Caribbean, the Netherlands and EU, Norway
and Brazil. Advances in the standards and interoperability community were
reviewed by Mark Reichardt, President of the Open Geospatial Consortium
(OGC). Trends in the open source community were presented by John Wilbanks,
Director of Science Commons, speaking on the evolution of the research web,
and by Chris Holmes of the Open Planning Project which is promoting
development of the Open Geo Web, linking the open source communities”
“Architectures of Participation” to global SDI initiatives.

Conference themes addressed the needs of small island nations and included
issues such as:

  • sustainable development,
  • disaster warning, response, and recovery,
  • poverty and crime alleviation,
  • sustainable economic development,
  • removing the digital divide for access to IT,
  • food security,
  • support of transportation, health and communication systems, and
  • facilitating land ownership.

In addressing these issues, technical sessions focused on themes such as
regional and national SDI initiatives, policies and strategies in Latin
America and the Caribbean, disaster management (of particular concern to
Caribbean nations which frequently witness the extreme forces of nature
first hand!), land administration, and multiple sessions on Island and
Regional (Caribbean) “challenges” including for coasts, of particular
interest to a region dominated by small and large island nations. GEO and GEOSS were the focus of several papers presented in two sessions. A special
session was conducted on climate change by members of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Task Group on Data and Scenario Support for
Impacts and Climate Analysis (TCGICA) who held meetings in parallel with
GSDI-10. Technology approaches for providing the components of SDIs were
covered by papers in several sessions, including GIS, standards, and open
source movements for both GIS
software and geodata.

Other regions of the world were not forgotten in this global conference,
with sessions focusing on SDI initiatives in Africa and numerous papers
presented throughout the conference addressing SDI in several South American
nations, USA, Canada, several European states,
Australia, India, and larger
island nations such as Sri Lanka and Cuba. Capacity building for SDI
implementation and ensuring and enhancing sustainable development through
SDI were also featured in separate sessions.

The quality of presentations was high, following a peer review process for
submissions conducted by members of the GSDI Association and host local and
regional organizing committee over several months prior to the conference.
As with all GSDI conferences, one of the most important aspects was the
level of personal networking that took place “in the margins of the
conference” as the saying goes. Old acquaintances and friendships were
renewed and important new ones forged. In the past, such contacts have
proved invaluable in gaining insight into a wide range of SDI issues, seen
from often quite different perspectives – nationally, regionally, globally
and across myriad stakeholder groups, from users to technologists to
decision makers. Experience has shown that personal contacts lead to future
cooperation and collaboration, with positive benefits for all parties.

GSDI conferences, held globally about every 12 to 18 months, are also the
venue for much GSDI Association business, including Board and Council
meetings and roundtables and workshops from the various GSDI Committees and
Working Groups. The 2008 conference was no different, with GSDI Board and
Council meetings on the 23rd and 24th and a post-conference Board meeting on
the 29th – making for a very long, very busy, 7-day week for those involved
in all these activities!

All who attended wish to extend their thanks to the local organising
committee led by co-chairs Jacob Opadeyi and Bheshem Ramlal of UWI&apo;s Centre
for GeoSpatial Studies and Dept. of Surveying and Land Information
respectively – and their horde of student helpers. The conference was
accompanied by a packed social programme, including an evening reception
hosted by the UWI Principal at his beautiful residence, an exciting view of
Port of Spain “at night” sponsored by Intergraph and an excellent conference
dinner at the Hilton sponsored by ESRI. Conference details, the programme,
abstracts and papers can be found on the GSDI web site at http://www.gsdi.org/gsdi10/.
Proceedings containing all papers were distributed on
CD to registered participants and all presentations are on the GSDI-10
conference web site.

In closing, what more can we say than “Well done, Univ. of West Indies, for
hosting an excellent conference in an exciting location where the warmth of
the climate was matched only by the warmth of the people we encountered in
Trinidad and Tobago.”

Article by GEO:connexion International editor, Roger Longhorn, also co-Chair
of the GSDI Association Legal & Socioeconomic Working Group. E-mail:
roger@geoconnexion.com