Guest Blog: Introducing Unlocking the power of location: the UK’s Geospatial Strategy

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg

The Geospatial Commission is an expert committee that sets the UK’s geospatial strategy and promotes the best use of geospatial data.  In this guest blog the Geospatial Commission introduce their National Geospatial Strategy.

This blog is part of a blog-exchange with the Welsh Government.

geospatial imageLocation is a defining element of the way we live, work and socialise. It can impact the services and spaces we have access to, the language and accent we speak in, even the quality of our wifi connection. Understanding the world in terms of location, using location-based data, is crucial to the functioning of modern society. This is most strikingly demonstrated today by the role location data continues to play in the response and recovery to the coronavirus pandemic. Has the question of ‘where?’ ever been more relevant?

The Geospatial Commission was established in 2018 as an independent, expert committee responsible for setting the UK’s geospatial strategy and coordinating public sector geospatial activity.  The Geospatial Commission recently launched Unlocking the power of location: The UK’s Geospatial Strategy, which is now available in English and Welsh.

What does the Strategy say?

The Strategy sets out a vision to unlock the significant economic, social and environmental value of location data. It identifies nine key location data opportunities, from infrastructure to oceans, and sets out an ambitious programme of activity, across four key missions to make the most of these opportunities. The missions are:

  1. Promoting and safeguarding the use of location data to provide an evidenced view of the market value of location data, set clear guidelines on data access, privacy, ethics and security, and promote better use of location data.
  2. Improving access to better location data to streamline, test and scale the development of new and existing location data ensuring it is findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable and of high quality.
  3. Enhancing skills, capabilities and awareness to develop more people with the right skills and tools to work with location data – across organisations and sectors – to meet the UK’s future needs and support global development.
  4. Enabling innovation to maximise the commercial opportunities for innovation and promote market-wide adoption of high-value emerging location technologies.

So, where next?

The Geospatial Commission aims to support the UK’s diverse and growing geospatial community, which spans many different sectors and industries. Through its four missions, the Commission will continue to identify where the biggest opportunities lie and support those across the public and private sectors to have the data access, skills and support needed to realise them.

Key next steps, informed by the geospatial data market study, include publishing guidance on measuring the value of location data, and on the ethical, privacy and security implications of location data use. The aim of this work is to enable individuals, businesses and the public sector to use location data and all its related services – from leisure maps to delivery apps – confident in the knowledge that the location data is reliable and privacy remains protected.

Accessing the full value of data requires the data itself to be accessible, of an appropriate quality, and easily integrated with other data and information. If you’re using an app to work out how much traffic there is on the motorway, you rely on the data being accurate – that it’s focusing on the right road, and isn’t showing traffic from three hours earlier! The Commission has a programme of activity, piloting and promoting means of improving access to and use of public and private sector location data. There is potential to have wide ranging positive impacts, from making it easier to buy and sell homes to reducing the length of time those roadworks stay on your street.

As the world becomes more interconnected, geospatial data will become increasingly important to businesses and organisations. Unlocking the value of location data requires people with the right skills, in the right place and with the right tools.The Commission will produce a skills demand study and convene a geospatial skills forum, bringing together key voices across industry, professional bodies and academic institutions to coordinate responses to specific geospatial skills challenges. This will ultimately help create the geospatial entrepreneurs and leaders of the future, ensuring the UK remains world-leading in its geospatial expertise.

For those with big ideas founded on location data, or big problems that require location based solutions, the Commission is establishing a location data innovation programme, and exploring how a geospatial network integrator model could encourage cross-sector collaboration and innovation. Data innovation is essential for sustainable economic growth across the nations and regions of the UK.

The Welsh geospatial opportunity

Throughout the development of the National Geospatial Strategy, the Geospatial Commission has worked closely with the Welsh Government, as well as the other devolved administrations, to inform and tailor the document to ensure its relevance to and reflection of Welsh geospatial industry and expertise.

Wales is already a hub for innovative production and use of location data. To make access to key datasets simple and easy, the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales have collaborated to launch a Welsh portal for public sector location data: Lle. When it comes to innovative applications of location data, Wales again remains at the forefront. Examples include the Mid and West Wales Fire Service’s development of a live tracking system for its firefighters (see page 28 of the Strategy), and the Welsh Government’s use of addressing data to coordinate its coronavirus response effort (see page 57 of the Strategy).

We believe location data will be the unifying connection between things, systems, people and the environment. How will you unlock the power of location?

Guest post by Ellen Bentley, Geospatial Commission

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