Authoritative data – the backbone of global climate and pollution action

As a geographer, I firmly believe that there are few things that are more powerful than location; it not only tells us where things happen but also provides the link between information and action. This is very true when it comes to the impact geospatial data can have in fighting climate change and pollution.

Indeed, as the world counts down to the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda, trusted data is more important than ever for monitoring, managing and measuring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Data from Europe’s National Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authorities is already being used to realise national climate targets and biodiversity plans, and deliver smarter, sustainable, intelligent transport.

Geospatial data is at the core of all environmental actions ‘on the ground’ – when talking about farming, for example, it is key in defining exactly how much water would be needed for irrigation. It is also making transport more efficient, such as with the Belgian National Access Point for multimodal transport information, and is supporting the transition to solar energy in the Netherlands, and many other countries, through ‘solar-cadastre’.

Nonetheless, whilst I do find the ‘operational aspects’ of using geospatial data fascinating, I must admit that I have some soft spots for its wider use in supporting policies. In Portugal, land cover maps are revealing new insights about the landscape, whilst in France new land use and Lidar projects are supporting public policies, such as spatial planning, agriculture, forest, energy, biodiversity, and climate. This analytical aspect shows just how powerful geodata is for the public good.

However, all too often borders prove to be obstacles in translating national benefits into international policy success. In my opinion, geospatial data is the only smart way to work beyond the notion of border and be efficient.

In this day and age, challenges do extend beyond national boundaries, and knowing exactly where to target action and coordinate responses is essential.

For example, Pascal Canfin, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety recently noted that pollution does not respect borders. To track and tackle it across Europe, we need to be able to monitor its spread across different countries – and to do this we need pan-European data we can trust.

Together with our members, we provide the only interoperable pan-European datasets created using official authoritative geospatial data. All are updated annually and harmonised to standard specifications, so users can be confident that the information provided is consistent, comparable and easily shared — regardless of its national source.  Members’ foresight in creating datasets covering geographical Europe has already delivered huge value for users requiring cross-border information, and they continue to support both national and international policy through their strategic vision of a society empowered by the use of their trusted geospatial services. I know that they will again deliver should further datasets prove necessary to answer tomorrow’s challenges.

From knowing who owns the soil and its responsible management, to air quality and the reduction of pesticides, our members’ data is available as a tool to mitigate pollution and address the challenge of biodiversity loss. If we are to achieve a healthy planet, we believe authoritative geospatial information should be a vital component of the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan.

Zero pollution is just one of the EU environmental policies that benefits from members’ data. With the European Parliament calling for the EU Environment Action Programme to be aligned with the European Green Deal on climate and biodiversity, their official information also has a clear role in helping the EU to become a climate-neutral, resource-efficient, clean and circular economy. MEPs have also said that Member States should integrate the SDGs, as well as climate, environmental and social objectives, in their national plans.

The 2030 Agenda and SDGs depend on geospatial information which enables the connection between people, their location and place, and to measure where progress is, or is not, being made. Cadastral information, registries and mapping databases are therefore critical to enabling countries to report and monitor progress on achieving the SDGs.

More than ever before, the world needs accurate data that it can trust is up to date, definitive and detailed. We know we cannot expect users to always come to us, so we continue to find new ways of achieving its widespread use across both the European and international systems.

Members recognise that the value of their information lies in its use and reuse. Many have already made their data open and accessible, a trend that will continue.

The Open Maps for Europe project extends these benefits to pan-European datasets created using official map, geospatial and land information. These include topographic data and a digital elevation model to be released at the end of summer 2021, and imagery, a cadastral index map, and a regional gazetteer which will be available by the end of 2022. In terms of fighting pollution for example, these datasets can be used for visualising its impact but also enable analysis of data to help anticipate and mitigate its spread.

We are coordinating the project, which is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union, in partnership with the National Geographic Institute (NGI) Belgium.

The global pandemic has redefined business as usual – from accelerating the adoption of new technologies to refocusing resources. As a community used to constant and far-reaching change, we have a proven ability to respond strategically, as well as operationally, to these new ways of working. Together, we must ensure this agility, as well as our data, is widely recognised, understood and used for maximum impact and benefit.

That’s why we are highlighting the key role of pan-European data in tackling cross-border pollution and call for authoritative geospatial information to be included in EU Zero Pollution Action Plan.

Find out more by reading our case studies demonstrating the important role of EuroGeographics members.


What does 2021 hold in store for EuroGeographics’ members

EuroGeographics members are at the heart of the response to Covid-19, delivering the data that people need, in a format that they can understand to enable them to make the best possible evidence-based decisions quickly and confidently. Ireland, Germany and Denmark are just three examples of our members providing up to date, accurate data and expertise to national governments.

With the swift delivery of data and services, they have demonstrated not only the ability to respond rapidly to the fast-moving pandemic, but also that they can adapt their datasets to fuel a hyper resilient society. In 2021, they will undoubtedly remain instrumental in helping to monitor and manage the pandemic, especially as vaccine programmes are rolled out across the world.

More than maps

As we enter a new decade, it’s a timely and very public reminder that we rely on National Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authorities (NMCAs) for more than maps – their data and expertise is fundamental to everyday life. Our members’ authoritative quality-assured information underpins society in many other ways that are not so obvious, including secure and reliable land registration, cadastral services, critical infrastructure development, and planning and implementing health and environmental services.

In 2021, our community will continue to support national governments, European policy-makers and global initiatives by connecting maps, people and policies. In doing so they will play a key role in the countdown to 2030 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to the Digital Europe Programme, the European Strategy for Data, Open Data (PSI) Directive, Census 2021 and more. All of these need an unprecedented amount of statistical, geospatial and earth observation data that is official, reliable, comparable and verifiable.

Rapid adoption of new technologies

To continue to meet the demand of this data-driven world, we’ll see rapid adoption of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, along with some really innovative uses of earth observation by our members. This will not only help scale costs and overcome resourcing issues at a financially challenging time, but will also enable faster data delivery and increase efficiency in supporting recovery from Covid-19 while ensuring that they can maintain the excellence of their high quality data.

Members recognise that facilitating access to their geospatial information is in the public interest and supports the public good. They have put data access at the centre of EuroGeographics activities and continue to work in partnership to achieve the widespread use of their data across the European and international systems

Open data and Open Maps For Europe

Many of our members are already making their data open and accessible, especially through geoportals, with France just the latest to make its geospatial data free and accessible under an open licence, and Slovakia creating a new Digital Elevation Model. We will see the release of more open data in 2021 as restrictions to using and accessing authoritative data, be they technical, legal (licences) or other, continue to be removed. 

Later this year, we will be launching free to use maps from more than 40 European countries through a new online gateway. Open Maps for Europe will signpost and provide easy access to pan-European open data created using official map, geospatial and land information. The project, which is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union, is coordinated by EuroGeographics in partnership with the National Geographic Institute (NGI) Belgium.

Change is constant, and our members operate in an industry that has seen radical changes over the past 20 years, which show no signs of slowing down.

Collaboration and a continued commitment to serving the public good

Collaboration, such as the recent Memorandum of Understanding between our members in The Netherlands and Ukraine, is vital if we are to find solutions to common challenges, share best practice and improve capabilities and role. In these uncertain times, this unity is key to demonstrating the certainty members provide to citizens, to governments and to businesses alike, and raising awareness of their collective value in delivering better data for better lives.

The commitment to serve the common good is at the heart of both EuroGeographics and our members’ activities. Like us, they are driven by serving the public and realising benefits for society in general, a society that can trust us to keep data secure and act in its interest above all else.

More than ever before, we need accurate data that we can trust is up to date, definitive and detailed. We will contine to work in partnership with our members to facilitate access to their authoritative geospatial data and integrate it into a sustainable infrastructure for the public good. In doing so, we will take yet another step forward in our vision of a society empowered by the use of trusted geospatial services from official national sources.

More examples of how our members provide more than maps.

How do we justify continuous improvement?

In the first in a series of guest posts from the Heads of Member Organisations, Arvo Kokkonen, Director General, National Land Survey of Finland asks:

How do we justify continuous improvement?

The National Land Survey of Finland has maintained the Finnish real estate and terrain information system for three centuries. Emperor Alexander I approved the Statutes of the Main Land Survey on November 14, 1812. This created the central agency in Finland responsible for the current National Land Survey. This month we celebrated the 208th anniversary of our organization. Our work continues.

According to historian Matti Peltonen, Finland became an economically autonomous state in the 1830s and 1840s - an early precedent for a politically autonomous state and an independent Finland. From the perspective of the National Land Survey of Finland, Peltonen's view of the timing of the economic transition in the 1840s is correct. It was that decade that significantly paved the way for the renewal of the land surveying industry.

In 1848, a compendium of regulations was published, which contained regulations important to the business community concerning the organization of large-scale distribution. The aim was to solve the land access issues of budding industry, public construction projects and agglomerations. A couple of years later, a map of Gylden's forests in Finland was published. The land survey had a clear link to industrialization, access to industrial labor and raw materials, and major public construction projects.

We produce reliable information about the country

When I think about the current mission of the National Land Survey, the similarity to the goals set in the 19th century is still obvious. Our task is to create conditions for stable and diversified economic activities that serve the interests of the nation. We do this by providing reliable information on the distribution of land to different real estate units and the location of real estate, registration of holdings and data related to land use.

Of course, there are more information producers and distributors today. Likewise, there are several actors who need information about the country. It must be possible to combine data from different data sources. Large public or private construction projects cannot be carried out without unambiguous information on the extent, location, ownership and land use of the land.

We are able to cost-effectively handle the ever-increasing masses of data by leveraging new technology and new types of information generated by research and innovation. In this way, we can meet the expanding information needs of society, for example through digitalisation.

The National Land Survey is reforming its operations so that we can more effectively serve the needs of society and support productivity growth in various business areas. Governance structures and the management system must live on the nerves of time when the goal is to achieve a better common good. The National Land Survey is currently implementing the change in a common direction by developing its operations and organization.


The Impact of High Value Datasets

As former EuroGeographics Secretary General and Executive Director, Mick Cory retires from a lifetime career working in National and International Geospatial Agencies, he examines the impact of high value datasets. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of EuroGeographics or its members.

The Open Data PSI Directive

Mick CoryThe Open Data PSI Directive[1] encourages European Union Member States to make certain high-value public sector datasets available as open data.  ‘Open’ means free for re-use with minimal legal restrictions, free of charge and in machine- readable format, via suitable APIs[2] and, where relevant, as a bulk download.   According to the Directive, ‘high-value’ means data with the potential to:

  • generate significant socio-economic or environmental benefits and innovative services;
  • benefit a high number of users, in particular small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs);
  • assist in generating revenues; and
  • be combined with other datasets.

Six thematic categories of high-value datasets are identified in the Directive:

  1. Geospatial
  2. Earth observation and environment
  3. Meteorological
  4. Statistics
  5. Companies and company ownership
  6. Mobility

National Mapping, Land Registry and Cadastral Authorities in the European Union are included within the scope of the Directive, as are all public bodies such as government departments, state agencies and municipalities, as well as organisations funded mostly by or under the control of public authorities. 

Proposed High-Value Geospatial datasets

Administrative Units

Describe the geographic location and extent of areas of public administration where Member States exercise legal jurisdictional rights for local, regional and national governance, separated by administrative boundaries.  When combined with demographic and other statistical data they inform regional and urban policy implementation, urban and regional development planning, managing the delivery of public services, for judicial or other legal purposes and for determining parliamentary or local democratic constituencies. 

Place Names

Placenames, or geographics names, are the proper noun applied to a natural, man-made or cultural feature on Earth. They represent an important reference system used by individuals and societies throughout the world, and often have historical and cultural significance, and are valuable in emergency response, for economic, social and environmental analysis, or as a reference to cultural identity and heritage studies. 


Address datasets typically containing the road name, house number, postal code and geographic location of properties, and normally refer to a building, or other permanent construction intended or used for the shelter of people, having at least one entrance from publicly-accessible space.  Such data are of high value because the combination of addresses with location permits sophisticated geospatial analysis for a wide range of uses, including statistical analysis based on location (linking, for example, census data to location), locating people for emergency rescue, permitting accessibility studies and the analysis of economic activities.  The efficient and effective delivery of mail, parcels and a wide range of public services (such as utilities) rely on addresses in general, and can be improved greatly by including some form of geospatial analysis, such as route optimisation, when combined with transportation network data.


This dataset contains the location and extent of the two-dimensional footprint of a building or a three-dimensional model of the building.   Such data are considered high-value as they refer to facilities essential for the shelter and employment of people and in combination with other datasets can provide important information on usage, environmental impact, for air and noise pollution, risk assessment for earthquake, fire or flood, monitoring of land use and consumption, analysis of population concentration and the requirement for and access to services. 

Cadastral Parcels

Cadastral parcels describes the geographic location and boundaries of areas of the Earth surface under homogeneous real property rights and unique ownership.  Cadastral parcel datasets are considered high-value as they provide a link between the land parcel, its ownership or other rights and potentially other information held in a national cadastral database (such as property value).  These are important for the definition and protection of state lands, they reduce land disputes, facilitate land reform, agriculture, land management, disaster management, the real estate market and form the basis of an equitable property tax system. 

Geospatial datasets - legislative intervention

The geospatial thematic category is estimated to have the largest share (at 34%) of the public sector information market, with the potential for further growth if the Commission introduce some low-level legislative interventions in:

  • licences and terms of use,
  • APIs and bulk download,
  • Formats,
  • Granularity (scale),
  • Metadata and
  • key attributes

In all of these cases, proposals are broadly aligned to the requirements, definitions and standards already set out in the INSPIRE Directive, with some new open standards and formats being suggested to increase re-usability.

Earth Observation and Environment

The Earth Observation and Environment thematic category includes the following geospatial datasets:

  • Digital Elevation models.These are three-dimensional models of the earth’s surface, and include terrestrial elevation, bathymetry and shoreline. 
  • Hydrography, covering the topographic description of all inland water and marine areas covered by river basin districts as defined in the Water Framework Directive.
  • Land parcels describe the location and extent of areas of land in terms of their physical or biological cover, such as agricultural, woodland or water bodies (land cover) and their economic and ecological purpose, such as farming, tourism etc (land use).
  • Ortho-images are geographically referenced satellite or airborne imagery (from the visible and non-visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum) that have been geometrically corrected (orthorectified) to remove distortion caused by differences in elevation, sensor tilt and by sensor optics.

These data are of high-value for environmental reporting, for geological investigations and engineering planning, and ortho-imagery may be used to supplement a wide range of mapping applications, cadastral surveying and agricultural planning and management.    Higher levels of legislative intervention are being considered for Earth Observation and Environment datasets, removing restrictive terms of use and fees, and extending the  INSPIRE Directive data harmonisation efforts to include the datasets listed as open data


These data include transportation datasets required to support Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and published under the INSPIRE Directive.  Geospatial datasets within this thematic category   contain the geographic location and extent of road, rail, water and other transportation networks.  They are considered vital to increase safety and tackle Europe's growing emission and congestion problems and to achieve a more efficient management of the transport network for passengers and business.  A low-level legislative intervention is being considered by the Commission for data under this thematic category, including on licensing, formats, accessibility, completeness, granularity, and data attributes.

Next steps

The final proposal for high-value datasets is expected to be submitted to the European Commission’s Open Data Committee during the first quarter of 2021.  An Implementing Regulation is then planned during 2021 which will define the agreed list of specific high-value data sets along with legislative interventions agreed to further encourage the availability of the datasets identified.

A number of actions are underway or planned to support this policy implementation, including the availability of data through the European Union’s Open Data digital infrastructure: the European Data Portal and the EU Open Data Portal; and funding through the Connected Europe Facility (CEF) and the development of the Digital Europe Programme (DEP), with the specific objective of supporting the provision of data for Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In the longer term the European Commission is required to carry out an evaluation of the impact of the Directive no sooner than 17 July 2025, that will assess the scope and scale social and economic impact and to identify further possibilities for improving the proper functioning of the internal market and supporting economic and labour market development.

[1] The ‘Open Data PSI Directive’ (Directive (EU) 2019/1024) entered into force on 16 July 2019. It replaces the Public Sector Information Directive, also known as the ‘PSI Directive’ (Directive 2003/98/EC) which dated from 2003 and was subsequently amended by the Directive 2013/37/EU.

[2] An API is an Application Programming Interface.  It is a set of rules and protocols that act as a software intermediary to allow two applications to talk to each other: in this case as a means to utilise the data.

The Evolving Role of National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies

As former EuroGeographics Secretary General and Executive Director, Mick Cory retires from a lifetime career working in National and International Geospatial Agencies, he reflects on their history and evolution. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of EuroGeographics or its members.

Mick CoryMost European National Mapping and Cadastral Agencies (NMCAs) have roots in the military or land administration.  Lantmäteriet in Sweden dates from 1628, and the Ordnance Survey in Ireland from 1824.  In both these cases official standardised maps were required as a basis for the equitable taxation of land.  Others, such as Ordnance Survey in Great Britain or IGN in France, have some form of historical connection to the military and they were originally established to support National security.  Some NMCAs still have organisational connections to the Military, such as the NGI Belgium and the Italian and Latvian mapping agencies, but the majority are civilian and their role has evolved significantly. 

In all cases the State has determined that it is in the national interest to mandate a public authority to produce maps in support of a public purpose.  The maps thus created have a wider purpose as well; for example, they form the basis of determining administrative, democratic, judicial or property boundaries, and over time these maps have grown to play an important role in our increasingly sophisticated societies to aid planning and development, and to help improve the delivery of public services.

Over the last 40 years, technology has had a profound impact on the way in which maps are created, and more recently in the way in which the data is held and is being used.  Even the concept of the map itself has evolved, and they are increasingly embedded in systems that are essential for our daily lives.  The increased availability of data from multiple sources and the ability to combine such data to visualise and analyse the information derived has been significantly enhanced and continues to evolve.  This has required NMCAs to fundamentally re-evaluate their roles in government and society and this re-evaluation is still underway.  Whilst we cannot yet predict the outcome from such change, it is possible to discern some trends.

The first trend relates to the changing nature of the map itself.  The traditional two-dimensional paper map has evolved into three-dimensional model of the real world.  We are now going beyond that to encompass not only the geometric description of the real-world, which is effectively a digital map, but a full digital model of the  real world – so called “digital twins” – in which information about a real-world object such as a house, a river or a road, can be determined along with  its chronological evolution, other information associated with that object as well as its relationship with other objects.  Some of this information may be held in cadastral databases but also by other agencies, as well as from other sources such as Earth observation data and volunteer geographic information.  This is geospatial information in its broadest sense, and we can clearly see that it is no longer just about maps.  NMCAs are having to consider what their role is in this complex data landscape – where they add value, and how they can help others deliver on the effective use of their data in support of a wider range of business and public service applications.

It will be no surprise that the second key trend we can discern is that of technological disruption.  NMCAs have always experienced technical disruption to their activities – it is part and parcel of their operational landscape.  They have been very successful at introducing and effectively using new technologies in their map making activities.  For example, over the 200-300 years of their existence we can see the introduction of triangulation; the use of aerial photography, and more recently digital technologies, satellite positioning systems, drones and earth observation data.  Technological developments continue to astound us, and NMCAs continue to apply them to their business, often in advance of other established government agencies, with many having a well-deserved reputation for technical innovation.  Nevertheless, a word of warning is appropriate here.  It is very easy to get excited about technological developments, and new concepts and new buzz words, enticed by the glamour of the technology.  But we must remember that state bodies require stability and certainty, and many in less mature or economically successful societies still struggle with small budgets, changing political priorities and a fundamental lack of capacity to deliver their basic role and purpose.  An increasing digital divide is a worrying aspect of this trend and must remain a concern.       

The third trend we may discern is the increasing number of other forms of disruption that affect the role and mandate of NMCAs.  Some of these may be as a result of other actors using new technology to disrupt the traditional function of official state actors (and geospatial agencies are not alone in being affected by this); but we can also find plenty of examples of political, geo-political, policy or legislative disruption that has the potential to more fundamentally change the role and function of NMCAs.  For example, the creation and expansion of the European Union which now sets policies and legislation that impact on NMCA business models through policy and legislative interventions such as the Open Data Directive, the INSPIRE Directive and the European Strategy for Data.  Historically we also see that NMCAs are affected by major geo-political disruptions, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, which has seen the increased awareness and focus on fundamental land rights and the resultant land-reforms, which many countries (even in Europe) are still struggling with. 

The fourth area of change we may discern is the changing use in society and within government itself of geospatial data produced by government agencies.  This use of geospatial data has been revolutionised by technology and we can of course see this in our daily lives, with in-car navigation technology and mobile mapping in our pockets.  Such tools are fantastic and very useful, but can very easily make us take for granted the availability and use of geospatial data.  Behind the widespread consumer based uses we do see the increasing trend in very sophisticated analysis and use of data from a very wide range of source – some of known but more often of uncertain quality.  It is in this area we see the greatest excitement and often exaggeration of the potential of artificial intelligence, big-data, as well as still unproven claims about autonomous vehicles.  All of these developments will require data of known quality and from reliable sources; to be effective they will rely on fundamental data that can underpin an uncertain and very rich data world. 

This is where we see the interesting and important development of fundamental data themes as identified by the United Nations Committee of Experts on Geospatial Information Management, and the concept of key registers in many European countries.  There is increasing recognition that such fundamental data plays a critical role in achieving National priorities as part of a National Data Infrastructure.  Geospatial data, together with other key registers of data, form part of an integrated framework on which government can leverage benefits for their citizens and on which societies rely.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights and emphasises these trends.  Covid-19 has had significant and ongoing impact on the world; it is still uncertain what the long-term implications will be of the pandemic and unfortunately it is still not over.    However, we can see how geospatial data is being used to track, analyse and visualise the impact of the pandemic.  The use of mapping to help analyse health emergencies is not new: there is the well-known case of John Snow’s mapping of cholera outbreaks in London, where he plotted cholera deaths on a map and noted that they clustered around a water pump, which enabled the source of infections to be established, and action taken to stop its spread. 

Today, NMCAs are helping map the impact of COVID-19.  They support the tracking and monitoring as well as informing the response to the Covid-19 outbreak.  Many NMCAs are supporting National health authorities in the provision of mapping to visualise its impact and plan the response by combining health data, demographic data, statistics and mapping.  In all of these applications geospatial data is being used to highlight the importance of people and place; and this emphasises the necessity of understanding the role and importance of NMCAs in such times.

It is here we must note, with a sense of humility, how important NMCAs are.  The reality is that national geospatial agencies play an important role, but it is a supporting role for other key government agencies.  We can see this important support role in the case of Covid-19, where mapping supports the health agencies in order to help them manage the crises more effectively.  Covid-19 underlines and emphasises how well they support the delivery of government priorities, and it gives us a clue as to how NMCAs must evolve in the future in order to remain relevant and continue to add value.

The important role of the future will be to support others in delivering on government policy and operational objectives, whether this is security, tax, property rights, public health or building a digital economy.  The biggest challenge to achieving the effective integration of geospatial data into all parts of public administration is the proactive partnering with others in government.  This requires two key attributes: leadership and facilitation.  NMCAs must play a core role in contributing to their National priorities by actively seeking out and contributing to priorities set by their government.  Leadership requires courage, perseverance and adaptability, particularly during times of political uncertainty.  No one else will champion the use of geospatial data within government, and so this responsibility falls to the NMCA.  The development of the United Nations Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF) is an important tool to allow NMCAs to evaluate how they can add further value in this regard.  The second key attribute, of facilitation, refers to the most important element of the NMCAs role, that is data content.  NMCAs must today embrace new sources of data, helping users to get the data they need for the government’s task recognising that some data is better than no data, and that if the NMCA does not provide the data that the user wants then the user will obtain the data from other sources themselves

Successful NMCAs are beginning to proactively seek out and partner other government agencies, to seek out and enable the use of their data in support of the public good. This is a clearly how they must evolve in the future, if they are not already doing so, rather than to continue their historic role as a passive provider or supplier of mapping data.   And if we look to the future and beyond the current pandemic, the big issue remains that of climate change.  How NMCAs support our collective response to this critical global issue will determine their future relevance and their future value.

So, in conclusion, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can see the evolving role of NMCAs over many years, from the development of topographic and cadastral maps, to using technology to make this task more efficient and more effective, to obtaining data that is part of a national data infrastructure, and in particular a geospatial information framework.  The role of NMCAs has changed, and will continue to change, from being a passive provider or supplier of map data, to one in which they proactively partner others as an integrated part of public administration, supporting the delivery of public services and government policy priorities, and delivering value for the wider public good.



United Nations implementation guide for integrated geospatial information framework

EuroGeographics has welcomed the adoption of the United Nations (UN) implementation guide for an Integrated Geospatial Information Framework Mick Cory(IGIF) but stresses the need for consistency in implementing country-level action plans to avoid duplicate efforts.

In our response to the global consultation on the IGIF implementation guide, we strongly suggest on-going engagement and collaboration includes other agencies active in geospatial globally as well as international donors. We believe that this will help ensure assistance continues to align with the IGIF, reducing the likelihood of activities overlapping whilst maintaining country level ownership and prioritisation of action plans.

EuroGeographics is pleased to have been able to play a part in the development of the guide by providing high-level support, helping with engagement and communication with our members, and in our ongoing role of providing the secretariat to the Executive Committee for Europe. In addition to offering our high-level support for the IGIF and Implementation Guide, we believe it is a tangible example of progress and are delighted that it has been adopted by the UN-GGIM Committee of Experts.

Our Secretary General and Executive Director, Mick Cory writes:

Our membership network covers the whole of geographic Europe, and consists of countries at different levels of maturity in the management of geospatial information. As a result, our members are not only active donors but also recipients of support for developing country level action plans.

For example, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands are active international donor countries and have begun to use the guide in their international aid work, such as in North Macedonia. Furthermore, a number of our members such as those from Albania, Montenegro, Ukraine and Belarus, have been assisted and participated in the development of country level action plans.

We also note with interest the potential for the IGIF generally, and the implementing guide in particular, to act as a benchmark for national spatial data infrastructures, both at country level, but also regionally.  For example, it has been used to align the national geospatial strategy in Ireland and more recently used as a guide for the development of the UK geospatial strategy. We also believe that it may be useful for framing the proposed analysis and review of the INSPIRE Directive as indicated in the recently published European Commission communication on an European Strategy for Data.  

These all provide interesting case studies and examples of further cooperation and collaboration.

The IGIF resonates with our vision of a society empowered by our members location data and services. We strongly encourage and support actions that inform and disseminate further the benefits of the integrated geospatial information frameworks empowered by the authoritative data of our members. We will continue to offer the use of our network to help inform, consult and encourage the use of the guide, improve collaboration and avoid duplication of effort.

Too many parts of the world lack fundamental data and/or their use that helps inform stakeholders and meet operational requirements for delivering policy: the role of basic fundamental data themes, even in Europe, is not well understood at a political level, nor is there sufficient awareness of how important good quality data is to achieving national and global goals.

This guide, to which many of our members have contributed, provides a framework within which not only national priorities for addressing this need can be identified and delivered, but also help enhance national data infrastructures to help monitor progress against the 2030 Agenda, and the achievement of the goals demonstrated.  Sustaining this momentum is essential.

Realising the value of data through use and reuse: European Strategy for Data

Mick CoryThe value of data lies in its use and re-use. For our members, the National Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registry Authorities (NMCAs) of Europe, making their information available for use and re-use by others is at the core of their public task.

High value authoritative geospatial information is one of the basic building blocks for digital transformation, and has significant potential to contribute to the European Strategy for Data. Together with our members, we warmly welcome the important development of this overarching strategy for data and we look forward to contributing to its success by using our experience in facilitating cross border data sharing and re-use of geospatial public sector data.

We fully support the Commission statement: “The value of data lies in its use and re-use”. It is our aim, and our member’s long-standing role, to add to that value for the public good.

Geospatial is not an isolated silo of data; it is ubiquitous across the dataspaces set out in pillar four of the Strategy. In pillar one, it is one of the five High Value Datasets themes expected to be available free of charge in machine-readable format via suitable APIs. With sustainable funding, our members can ensure a continued supply, indeed an increase, in the provision of high value authoritative geospatial data for use and re-use.

Within EuroGeographics, our way of working is built upon the success of our enduring collaborative effort with our members to avoid gaps, eradicate duplications and contradictions, and avoid missed opportunities. We have indeed experienced the problem of fragmentation set out in the Strategy.  It provides an opportunity to address this fragmentation that we must not miss.

Technical and policy duplication hinders progress, is costly and should be avoided. A horizontal, cross-sectorial governance framework for data, regardless of data theme or sector of origin, is therefore an appropriate step forward to the alignment of the different actions.

Trusted, authoritative sources of geospatial data are an important part of a European digital society, and complement many of the policies and projects launched by the European Commission in support of the data economy. We fully support the opening up of public sector data in line with the Open Data (PSI) Directive. The Directive is fundamental to our commitment to provide easy access to, and encourage increased use of, members data, and a key part of our joint purpose. Sustainability will be key with the development of new funding or finance streams needed to ensure that this is done effectively. National governments and the EU will be important in these situations to enable and maximise the re- use of high value datasets and realise the potential that exists as is highlighted by the Strategy.

We also believe that the future Digital Europe Programme will help enable and maximise the best use of digital capacities, standardisation and interoperability. This support is needed to ensure citizens, researchers and business have easy, trusted, and seamless access to public sector data and services. Developing capacity related to new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, is a crucial driver for the full digital transformation of our members and society.The Digital Europe Programme may also support national authorities in making high value data sets available for re-use in different common data spaces.

Authoritative information  from our members can underpin and be used across all the dataspaces set out in the Strategy. For example, public administration relies on trusted authoritative sources to inform policy; transport needs authoritative geospatial datasets for cross-border requirements; and geospatial data supports smart energy systems, identifies where energy efficiency support is needed to deliver it at the right time, in the right place and at the lowest cost.

Cadastre and land registry data provide a basis for property tax in many countries, and provide an important aid to combating fraud and tax evasion at national and international levels. Data from NMCAs also forms an important component of the land parcel identification system which supports the common agricultural policy and makes managing environmental protection easier by adapting actions to the reality on the ground.

A key asset for achieving the goal set in the Green deal political priority lies in data that complys with the INSPIRE Directive, in which our members play a key role, and in many cases, have responsibility for implementation. We would therefore be pleased to contribute to any review of INSPIRE, both within the GreenData4All initiative and across sectors.

In the health sector, geospatial data locates facilities and enables analysis to better inform public policy and operational delivery, and in industry, which need interaction with customers, personalised location-based applications are already available and developing daily.

The full exploitation of data requires adequate awareness and competences: the geospatial sector is no different. Producers and users need geographic information specialists but also coders, programmers and highly skilled information technology professionals to support the Strategy. These skills are transferrable across all the data spaces.

We look forward to being able to make a significant contribution to the success of the Strategy, and welcome being part of a conversation on how best we might do this.

Read our full information paper here.

How the New EU Directive Will Change the Geospatial Data Market

The European Union (EU) is adding a new dimension to the digital data-distribution policies of mapping agencies, cadastres and land registries. In two years’ time, a new EU directive will make it compulsory to provide open and free access to the most crucial, publicly funded geospatial and Earth observation data for use and re-use.

EuroGeographics and EuroSDR, the two most renowned pan-European organizations in these matters, have reacted positively, assuming there will be sufficient national funding. After all, both society and the geomatics sector stand to benefit from increased use of ‘authoritative’ geospatial data.

Read the article. 

Spotlight on spatial data quality

The 3rd international conference was organised by EuroGeographics and EuroSDR in conjunction with Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 211 Geographic Information (ISO TC211), and the International Cartographic Association (ICA).

Chair of EuroGeographics Quality Knowledge Exchange Network, Jonathan Holmes provides an overview of the discussions which showed that the field of spatial data quality and quality management is still evolving as it continues to deal with new technologies and methods of data capture.

Technology is driving the geospatial information industry forward at an ever-growing rate with increasing recognition that quality is of paramount importance. High quality data is the calling card of national mapping, land registry and cadastral authorities (NMCAs) who must continue to meet user demands.

As well as embracing new capture and quality assurance methods, we must also meet user expectations that data will be readily available, accurate, trustworthy and free. This presents new challenges for NMCAs who are the official sources of authoritative geospatial information.

Traditional methods of checking quality are now regarded as too expensive and the focus has shifted onto ways of ensuring that quality assurance is built into a method or process from the very beginning of data capture and production. More rapid data collection methods are creating a need for quicker quality control and assurance procedures and the workshop saw examples of the automation of quality tools from around Europe. 

Managing quality when data comes from multiple suppliers is a key challenge. Delegates heard how this is being achieved in the Finnish National Topographical Database with solid schema transformation, comprehensive quality checks and a dynamic process that ensures no invalid features are included. National Land Survey Finland has also developed digital services to advance the harmonisation of spatial data. These use common definitions, solutions and services with data quality  playing a big part.

E-government brings challenges for data quality and a number of speakers, including our sponsor 1Spatial, offered a number of solutions. We also heard examples from Norway where the Digitalisation Agency and Mapping Authority are working together, and France’s knowledge-based collaborative platform. In addition, e-government was cited as a driver for work on a new common method for declaring quality of data in Denmark.

International standards were very much at the forefront of delegates’ minds during our two days in Malta. Research from the University of Jaén found that ISO 19157-1 must be adapted for dealing with BIM data and other data types with the presenters proposing a model that can be applied in different phases of a BIM project. We ended day one with a focus on the upcoming revision of ISO 19157 (the primary standard for measurement of Geospatial Data Quality). The audience were invited to participate in a session on the forthcoming revision and there were many useful comments made that the authors will take away for consideration.

Meeting users’ needs remained a key theme, with delegates acknowledging that this can often pose difficulties in relation to open data which can be downloaded without having any contact with the supplier.

Presenters also tackled how best to promote the value of quality spatial data. Many users know little about how the data is produced so we must find ways to communicate the trust, quality, provenance, and relevance of our content to all potential users – not just those in the professional community. We were very pleased to welcome representatives from two research projects who shared their findings. The first, from University College London, examined the importance of provenance from the perspective of a geospatial decision-maker. The second, from EuroSDR, looked at definitions of authoritative data across Europe. Finding quality data can also be a challenge for users and in the Netherlands is being addressed through a linked data approach.

New methods of measuring and declaring quality always attract great interest and were addressed by several speakers from academia as well as from NMCAs. These were thought-provoking and, from the feedback received, many delegates will be taking these back to their own organisations to see how they can fit in with what they currently do. Presentations included OpenStreetMap data quality analysis by Ohsome; an interesting case study on the thematic accuracy and completeness of topographic maps by the University of Tartu and an evaluation of height models by Leibniz University Hannover, Germany.

Creating data quality models is one of the main topics of interest to the EuroGeographics Quality Knowledge Exchange Network and our presentation not only discussed how it should be implemented but also gave the example of the European twinning project between Belarus, Spain and the Netherlands.

Further case studies were provided by the MapMalta project and the rebuilding the cadastral map of The Netherlands. 3D capture has long been talked about and there are now some examples appearing, notably in Croatia where data in the third dimension is used in cadastral surveying. Addressing the quality issues that arise with this will continue to be an important consideration. 

EuroGeographics Quality Knowledge Exchange’s mission and objectives are to:

  • Establish a network of data quality experts;
  • Support EuroGeographics policy towards European data interoperability;
  • Share knowledge amongst members; and
  • Promote experiences on quality.

The International Workshop on Spatial Data Quality is a key date in our calendar, with previous events held in 2015 and 2017 providing valuable and innovative contributions to the ongoing debate on spatial data quality, and plays a central role in our aim of improving the usability of geospatial data (In conjunction with EuroSDR), identifying what customers need with regards to quality metrics and how best to present this information.

Bringing together the different players in the spatial data quality arena is mutually beneficial. As well as a welcome opportunity to share their expertise, it also provides a great insight into the latest trends to help inform software development, academic research and production processes.

All presentations are available here.

What’s next for NMCAs?

Mick CoryThe next decade promises continued, fast-paced, and pervasive change set against on-going international geopolitical, technological, environmental and economic uncertainty. Agility in responding to these challenges and opportunities will be crucial and in 2020, National Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authorities (NMCAs) will continue to develop and adapt their activities to reaffirm their relevance, as well as the value of their information to society as a whole.

Benchmarking their activities against wider policy objectives using the integrated geospatial information framework (IGIF) developed by the United Nations Expert Group on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) will provide a clear picture of where geospatial data generally, and that from NMCAs in particular, can add value. Furthermore, the UN 2030 Development Agenda presents an unrivalled opportunity to promote the tangible benefits of NMCA data and expertise. Cadastral information, registries and mapping databases are critical to enabling countries to report and monitor progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Issues such as climate change, sustainable development, migration and health do not stop at borders and require fully connected national databases for stronger cross-border emergency planning and environmental monitoring. As a result there will be a drive towards even greater collaboration and cooperation both within and beyond the geospatial sector to ensure an effective global response – with a clear role for trusted, reliable and detailed geospatial data from official national sources to help provide context and insight.

There is now the expectation that public sector information must be open. In Europe, the new Open Data Public Sector Information Directive, which is to be enacted by each European Union (EU) Member State within two years, identifies geospatial data as one of five ‘high-value’ data themes that warrant further regulatory action. At our 2019 General Assembly, members agreed to put data accessibility at the heart of our strategy. In 2020, they will be working to make appropriate pan-European datasets more widely available to meet international requirements under terms that are free for use and reuse consistent with this legislation.

Within the EU, the INSPIRE Directive provides the de facto basis for the European Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI). It will be interesting to see its future direction now that the legal roadmap is coming to its end. NMCAs will take an active interest in how it relates to the IGIF and fundamental data themes identified by UN work. Recent experience has identified the need to address the technical complexity of the current specifications, and the need for Europe to address the diversity of business models, legal frameworks and lack of European policy lead and coordination on geospatial matters – all of which prove to be a challenge in developing effective pan-European use cases.

European space policy and space regulation will be another key area of interest for NMCAs in 2020, specifically pan-European data projects for satellite sensors to support lower resolution environmental applications. As resolution improves, we will see better spectral range, faster processing and more up-to-date information, although the market for this may be limited. There is also the major development of a new €16 billion space programme for 2021-2027 with the GSA developing into the European Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) with an expanded mandate to manage the market uptake and communications of the Copernicus Earth observation programme, and exploit synergies between Galileo and Copernicus.

Photogrammetry will remain a key data acquisition science and technology for NMCAs; its high resolution capability, and in particular the level of detail needed for cadastral surveys, is not currently matched by other technologies. With technological developments such as drones and other sensor and earth observation platforms, this is changing, but at this point in time, for example, a high-resolution Pan-European Digital Terrain Model (DTM) cannot be fully satisfied with satellite imagery alone since in forestry areas the imagery is not accurate for DTM purposes.

Classical photogrammetry and earth observation are converging. Many NMCAs already use general satellite imagery for detecting and monitoring change but will continue to watch the cross-over between airborne sensors and the usability of satellite imagery, particularly in rural areas. We also expect to see aerial LiDAR used more and more in a wide range of applications from high resolution Digital Surface Models (DSM) to detailed railway surveys. Whilst drones are not yet useful for national scale mapping, they have proved satisfactory for small urban areas, industrial zones or protected areas with higher density, resolution and frequency. Their real value will be proved by ensuring that data collected from them is simple and inexpensive to integrate with information from other sensors.

Trusted authoritative sources of spatial information are fundamental requirements of a modern state. As the national authorities for official geospatial reference data in Europe, our members’ role is to continue to capture an ever-changing landscape accurately for public purposes to provide certainty to citizens, governments and businesses. In 2020 and with increasing uncertainty in all areas of life, it will be more important than ever to communicate the value of authoritative data from NMCAs. We must spread the word and make sure the benefits are well understood beyond our own communities and coordinate our efforts to avoid duplication and better deliver on priority areas.

Working together, we can demonstrate the benefit of authoritative, trusted information and raise awareness among politicians and policymakers of our value in delivering better data for better lives.