Category Archives: Education

The Spatial Enablement of Society

FIG2010 has provided many insights into all aspects of Surveying and Land related activities. Surveying is not only related to cadastral land surveying as it covers all activities involving land as highlighted in my previous post.

I like to share with you some learning’s which relates to some work currently being generated with my colleagues that has been developing over the last few months and happily been reinforced with presentations at FIG 2010. The spatial enablement of society, (a FIG2010 congress plenary theme) talks about the engagement of communities, citizens and government for the betterment of society as a whole. This concept at its heart requires that we move towards a system that sees information managed spatially. The concept itself is a change to the normal ‘technical’ thinking of our industry where Spatial Data Infrastructures and technology to collect, manage and use data is traditionally the focus of our projects.

Managing Data Spatially – We know that by using a common geodetic base framework for data that we can connect, integrate and analyse data, creating information that becomes enriched intelligence. A quote from the FIG 2010 congress that stuck with me stated ‘data on its own is useless’. Quite poignant in that we as a society require information and we interpret data to create the information we require.

An issue to overcome in reaching the Mecca of data management spatially lies in the understanding, worth and inherent under valuing of our industry compared against global challenges of environment, health, climate and urban growth. Perhaps a rethinking is required to how we promote and market the industry. Surveying and Spatial are expert terms we use to describe our industry yet words such as position; location and place are more commonly understood. Using these words we could promote the industry and career opportunities in conjunction with environmental issues, climate change, health and urban growth where we create and provide intelligence for the future planning and management of these issues.

Spatial Data Infrastructures are a core component for the future information society although this is only the technical enabler. Engagement with managers and leaders of society needs a cohesive vision and strategy that looks at these global challenges, communicates the linkages to land management and heightens the value of managing information spatially. For the first time the challenges of the surveying and spatial sciences industries are moving forward with recognition that we have to do more to educate and lead in the future information society.

I suggest that you read through some of the books that touch on this subject, some of which can be found here:

Spatial Industry Marketing – Where is the next generation?

As the New Year grinds into motion I take a look at the spatial education industry within Australia. Recently the Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) and the Institute of Surveyors Australia (ISA) merged and formed the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute. ( This single body represents all the geomatic sciences and industries in Australia and is the representative body for FIG ( on the global stage.SUrveying and Spatial Sciences Institute

The amalgamation of these two bodies was not an easy task for the merger committee to accomplish throughout 2008 and 09. Firstly, in Australia, the Surveying discipline is divided between a traditional surveying degree and a Geographic Information Sciences degree thereby leading to a distinction between a surveyor and a GIS/spatial professional. This divide itself is quite uncommon within the global industry as we can see from the FIG definition of what a surveyor is:

—- —– —–
A surveyor is a professional person with the academic qualifications and technical expertise to conduct one, or mInternational Federation of Surveyorsore, of the following activities;
•    to determine, measure and represent land, three-dimensional objects, point-fields and trajectories;
•    to assemble and interpret land and geographically related information,
•    to use that information for the planning and efficient administration of the land, the sea and any structures thereon; and,
•    to conduct research into the above practices and to develop them.
—- —– —–

As with the definition above, the divide within Australia of a Surveyor and a Spatial/GIS professional is potentially damaging and can affect the next generation of potential surveyor/spatial professionals. The need for capacity building within the industry is now paramount as we have seen with the explosion of ‘location’ services. By providing a professional consultancy to location information, the Surveying and Spatial industry is primed to become a leading force for the future.

In guiding the next generation into this industry it is important to focus on building a ‘brand’ that easily defines what we do and showcases the value to the overall Australian economy. By doing this the definition of the Spatial/Surveying industry remain a key challenge to the overcome and ensure that the general awareness of the industry becomes known to the lay-person.

In building brand it is important to focus on grass root development and linking the outcomes of what we work on day to day to lead to recognising the learning courses available throughout our universities. We see in Australia that Surveying and GIS generally falls under the Engineering or Science faculties with some other universities grouping ‘spatial’ within the urban development faculties. A single identify that is easily recognisable will no doubt drive the industry forward. It is good to see that the first steps have been taken with the merger. Now it is up to us to instigate the cultural change throughout our peers to fully recognise and drive the future directions of the industry.

p.s. My ranting here is part of a joint presentation titled “Identity Crisis:
Challenges and Capacity Building for Next Generation Surveyors” that will be given at FIG 2010 in Sydney (April 11 – 16). More information can be found at