Canada has enjoyed a global reputation for the development of new technologies needed to manage its resources. A few familiar examples include the legacy of Roger Tomlinson in the field of GIS, the early work of the Canadian Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) and more recently, the development of LiDAR technology. Besides the technologies themselves, there has been their creative application in forestry, mining, agriculture, conservation and regional planning.
Now, there are major shifts in context, with the widespread availability of location enabled mobile devices, web applications, sensor networks and robotics. From the perspective of a resident in rural Nova Scotia, with an interest in economic development, there has not been a matching shift in the decentralization of geographic information and the placing of application tools into the hands of the citizens.
The CGCRT conversation remains between the public institutions, the academic community and the private sector.
If you accept my argument, there should be more time spent on the following questions.
a) Rather than focus on the sharing of information between government departments, focus on the access to tools and data for citizens to formulate their own analysis e.g. community mapping.
b) Consider geographic information as part of our infrastructure e.g. community information utility in Sault Ste. Marie.
c) If the funding agencies can provide sufficient monies for Geographic Sciences and Geomatics Engineering, we will continue to see technology breakthroughs and innovation.
d) Make sure that the graduates not only have strong conceptual understanding, well-honed practical skills but have the opportunity apply these skills, along with the new media, to assist local businesses and communities.
We live in a large diverse country, encompassing many different geographies. The challenge is to build the grass roots networks that will impact the regional economies. This requires Geographic Sciences education and collaboration at the regional scale.
This is the antithesis to Boxall’s ‘moonshot’. It should be viewed as a complementary perspective – small incremental steps at the local level, merging the traditional technologies of the geographic sciences with the new technologies.