Crystal Ball Gazing Part 1 – The AGI Foresight Study

Way, way back in the deep dark past, Autumn 2009 to be precise, myself and several other people with an opinion on matters geo were asked to contribute a paper towards the Association for Geographic Information’s 2015 Foresight Study.

The geographic information industry is undergoing radical change. Stimulated by technology and social developments, the balance of power between existing and new players is shifting. Government policy is also undergoing transformation with the publication of the UK Location Strategy, INSPIRE, the Marine & Coastal Access Bill and a new business model for Ordnance Survey. The economic strictures under which the public and private sectors will need to operate, as the UK attempts to handle enormous public debt, are also certain to drive changes in market dynamics.

There can be little doubt that in 5 years the industry will look very different to how it does today.

As the industry association, the Association for Geographic Information (AGI) needs to be sure it can continue to deliver its central mission to serve and represent our current and future members through these changes. In order to do so, we need to better understand what these changes are likely to be and how they will impact the geospatial industry and its customers

Which is a nice way of saying that we were asked to look forward 5 years hence and try and predict how the UK geospatial industry would change. I had two issues with this.

Crystal Ball

Firstly, we don’t have a terribly good track record for predicting how the future of a given technology will turn out …

“There’s no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home” … Ken Olsen, founder and CEO of DEC in 1977

… and …

“I think there is a world market for maybe 5 computers” …Thomas Watson of IBM in 1943 (apocryphal)

Secondly, I have a slight issue with the phrase geospatial industry which, to my mind at least, conjures up images of people dealing with maps and not the geo industry as a whole, although to be fair, I’m not precisely sure what the geo industry actually covers but it’s more than just maps.

Pin the Mustache on '70s Burt Reynolds - Instructions

So rather than not participating I chose to conveniently ignore the spatial specialisation an instead, attempt to play pin the tail on the (geo)donkey instead with the following paper submission:

AGI Foresight Study – Teaching Human Geography to the Internet (Gary Gale) Scribd Edit

Photo Credits: pasukaru76 and archiemcphee on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Yahoo! London office (51.5141985, -0.1292006)

2 Comments

  • Good points Gary. What I’ve noticed when this report is being presented at events is that the usual health warnings and anecdotes are mentioned regarding the perils of forecasting. Additionally the ‘narrow’ interpretation of what traditionally constitutes the ‘GI Industry’ is made far more wide reaching.

  • cool – quite interesting that (in this particular paper) you’re coming at the geodebate from a linguistic standpoint…

    not so much a data management standpoint (which is a viewpoint perhaps a simpleGeo might take) but simply from understanding the terms people use when referring to places (hence High Street, down’pub, London etc etc)…

    on a search level – where humans are communicating location to computers in “language” I can see how this is paramount.
    but I’m not sure how this translates when these same GPS/wifi/cellid devices you talk about become ubiquitous.

    eventually user communication carries with it a tag of its location (And therefore its geo-context is more readily understandable to the receiving computer)

    hmmm…