We’ve all heard the phrase that “80% of all data is spatial data” but why hasn’t this information reached a wider audience? Spatial data is the backbone of several industries, systems and operations. Still people view it as something hard to get a grasp and abstract concept. This is our industry’s own fault.

Helsinki, Finland. Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) conducted a wide study with Spatineo proving (again) that spatial data has a great impact within several stakeholders and utilizers of SYKE’s spatial data. This point has been proven again and again in many Finnish and international studies. Another great example of spatial data having great benefits for the whole society was pointed out in the United Kingdom’s Geospatial Commission report “Unlocking the power of location”.

But the aforementioned reports, the great societal benefits and economic impact of geospatial data aren’t well known outside of the geospatial industry. If everyone would know the benefits spatial data gives us, would it get larger support?

Through awareness to respected position: Spatial Data

This dilemma plagues every industry which only has an underlining role in several critical systems. But spatial data has, besides also being the critical underlying part in many systems, a more visible role. The maps, the services and the data we use from multiple spatial data infrastructures are very much in plain sight. Did you check the water temperature of your cabin via SYKE? Did you check municipal building plans via Finnish NLS, or did you happen to check the local restaurants location from your navigation software?

Once a wider audience understands that they actually rely on spatial data in their daily lives, it will be easy to start building spatial data to be even greater in the future. But wide support is needed for this long term goal.

Lest we forget the developers

Another point of view in making spatial data more widely known is to support the developers of all the systems that use spatial data. In order to make spatial data more approachable to developers certain standards must be met.

  • Proper education on spatial data is widely available
  • Spatial data has been made standardized and easily accessible to develop
  • We as a industry market and promote latest innovations and technologies

OGC has been making great progress in making spatial data more accessible to a larger audience of developers. Their work on industry standards has narrowed the gap in starting to learn more about spatial data. If you know that all data is standardized and guidelines are widely available, you’re more likely to start learning use of that data.

Some may ask, what is the end goal in marketing spatial data more? That is a valid question, and everyone considering whether they should put more marketing efforts into raising awareness of the topic should ask themselves. In my opinion we should emphasize spatial data to gain wider recognition of it within the general public. Awareness leads into understanding of the topic, and understanding leads into appreciation. And spatial data is such a critical part of our society that it should have far wider appreciation than it currently has.