spatial@gov – The last one and what a week it was!

As always, spatial@gov started with the exhibition open day and the visitors arrived thick and fast.  The opening day presentations were diverse, interesting and packed!

I presented on a topic that I have great interest in, both personally and professionally – GeoHealth. The geospatial profession is ideally placed to assist health agencies in tackling ‘health issues’, rather than focusing on sickness.  Location is critical in demonstrating the areas of our community most at risk of serious health consequences.  The ability to present these on a map clearly enables policy makers to see the link between ‘at risk’ areas and current services and determine if they are located appropriately.

It is also clear that there is a direct correlation between lower socio-economic demographics and serious health consequences.  As such, using a map as an enabler to understand where education and other programs are required is an indispensable tool to improve the health of Australians.  Health policies need to consider increasing the overall health of Australians and to take the pressure off a struggling health system.  Currently, Australians are living longer but are also predominantly more overweight and obese – but this cannot continue or our health systems will collapse.  The answer for policy makers is to utilise the benefits of spatial technology to assist in mapping Australian’s health.

The opening day also included an industry briefing from the Office of Spatial Policy and PSMA Australia.  The briefing announced that the Australian Government – through the Office of Spatial Policy – was in discussion with PSMA Australia for a whole of Government licence for GNAF (Geocoded National Address File – a comprehensive address index for Australia).  I hope the government will continue to hold more briefings for the spatial industry, as it has the potential for closer interaction between government and the spatial sector.

The second day of the conference saw the Hon Martin Ferguson MP, Minister for Resources Energy and Tourism, delivering the keynote address, speaking of the importance of spatial information to the government delivering its policies.

This was followed by the Hon Maurice Williamson MP, New Zealand Minister for Land Information,  who gave one of the most passionate presentations I have seen by a politician when speaking on geospatial issues.  Hon Williamson spoke of the critical role spatial information had played in the rescue, recovery and the reconstruction of Christchurch, following the massive earthquakes.

Nunzio Gambale spoke of the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) – and the elephant in the room scenario – what happens if GNSS signals are denied.  How reliant have we become on GNSS for timing, location and a range of other services?  The answer is very reliant – however Australia is leading the way in the technology to prevent GNSS signal deniability.

Last and by no means least in the Plenary session was Drew Clarke, Secretary of Resources, Energy and Tourism, and Chair of Australian and New Zealand Land Information Council (ANZLIC).  He spoke about the ‘One ANZ Foundation Spatial Data Framework’ consultation paper.  This paper was released at the end of the presentation for public consultation.  As Drew put it “Government has finished talking to itself”, now is the time for industry to show the important role we have to play in the creation, establishment and operation of a truly National Spatial Information Infrastructure.

The conference dinner saw the announcement of the Hon Gary Nairn as the next Chairman of Spatial Information Business Association (SIBA).  I’m looking forward to Gary’s leadership.  Exiting SIBA Chairman, Alan Smart provided some new ideas and direction and has ensured that SIBA is at the forefront of influencing government policy with spatial concepts.  David Hocking was awarded the Chairman’s award for his efforts as CEO at SIBA over the last 10 years.

Also at the dinner, it was great to see the APSEA (Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards) recognise achievements beyond Australia, with Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) winning the JK Barrie award for overall excellence.

At the conclusion of day three of spatial@gov, a final announcement was made – the 2012 spatial@gov will be the final conference.  The challenge now is for new events to reach the highs of spatial@gov and to attract the number of high quality delegates we have seen at spatial@gov over the last four years.

Esri Australia is committed to supporting the spatial community and will continue to have involvement in these events.  The next big event on the Calendar is Surveying and Spatial Sciences Conference (SSSC) in Canberra in April 2013 – the perfect location for this conference with the city founded a century ago by spatial science professionals (surveyors) and continuing to be a centre with a strong spatial presence.

I look forward to seeing you at this event.

Craig S

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