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The AGI’s annual conference in 2017, GeoCom, delivered an emphatic message of stronger advocacy, wider collaboration, and the plethora of opportunities that lie ahead for the geospatial industry as a whole. 

The AGI’s annual conference took place on 26th October, at the Royal Geographic Society (with IBG) in Kensington, London.

This is the Association’s flagship event for members, but it also welcomes and encourages attendance by professionals and organisations that interact with the geospatial industry, with an interest in learning more about the potential for geographic information.

After an Executive Briefing, chaired by Dr Mike Short, VP, Telefonica, the Ondaatje Theatre was the venue for 13 speakers taking up the event’s theme, “Smart Geospatial”. In attendance were over 220 delegates, with four AGI members making a ‘lightning contribution’ in member presentations, plus 18 sponsor organisations who were on hand throughout the day.

The morning sessions were opened by Charlotte Jee, Editor of Techworld magazine, who hosted a panel discussing uses of technology and the pursuit of more-informed policy-making. John Abbott, Director of Digital Services, Land Registry: “At the Land Registry, we know that geospatial data is at the heart of how we can start improving Britain’s housing market and land management for the public’s benefit.” Lisa Woodhall, Chief Enterprise Architect, Ordnance Survey: “I have discovered that we are collaborative by nature in this industry but the key message is we need to communicate the benefits of GI more clearly.” Owain Hale-Heighway, Assistant Director Smart Cities and Government Affairs, Gaist Solutions Limited: “Collecting high quality data isn’t enough – we need to understand more about what we’re collecting and why we’re doing it, and then how to organise that data and communicate its benefits so that wider take-up and interoperability becomes a given.”

Following on were David Johnson, Deputy Director, Partnerships and Knowledge Exchange (ONS) Data Campus: “Geo is the key to everything: statistics do not make sense if we don’t understand where or what they relate to. We’re introducing geodata science into everything the ONS does.” Dr Helen Ferrier, Acting Chief Scientist, National Farmers’ Union: “We must address the productivity gap. Farmers may get excited about technology, but the software has to be connected; interoperable; design-led and independent: the role for structured data here is clear.” Phil Graham, CEO, National Infrastructure Commission: “We need to see more collaboration across the public and private sector – we could save up to a billion pounds if we could use data more effectively. It’s about availability, quality, and consistency: we need a lot more of all three.”

The afternoon started with a suite of ‘Lightning Sessions’, hosted by John Alderson, Chairman of Informed Solutions and a former AGI Chair. Andrew Zolnai, GI Consultant, challenged delegates to think about the developments of spatial grids and the structure of spatial data models; Ilya Klyachin, Regional Development Manager at Habidatum, spoke on the visualisation of data and its impact in analysing social media in particular; Dr Michael Groves, founder of Topolytics, talked about the application of geospatial data while focusing on improvements in waste management; Gareth Simons, CEO at CitySeer engaged delegates in a presentation on the importance of strong leadership and resources, as data helps stakeholders move from a ‘fuzzy speak’ scenario to a wider use of concrete data in analysis.

The penultimate session was opened by Javier de la Torre, CEO, Carto: ““Now is the most exciting time to be involved with geography, of any kind. We have new data; new analysis; new audiences – and this dynamic analysis, using geospatial data, is becoming an integrated part of the progressive business’s strategy.” Professor Kate Jefferey, Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at the University College London, closed the day’s sessions with a look at the progress being made in understanding navigation in humans: “We have to build a world that people can understand, so we have to understand people – we all have to collaborate, bringing our own expertise together, so that we can build navigable environments, navigable cities that are better and easier to live in.”

At the end of the conference, two awards were presented. Peter ter Haar, AGI Council, introduced a video message from AGI Scotland Chair Bruce Gittings and then presented the AGI Award for Career Achievement to Diana Murray. Abigail Page, AGI Chair, introduced and then presented the AGI Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service to the AGI to Rollo Home, who also led the day’s events throughout as conference Chair.

In her closing remarks, Abigail Page looked back on the AGI’s accomplishments over the past year, emphasising the need for greater collaboration and advocacy moving forwards:

“Today, we have heard how the availability, consistency, and quality of geographic information is key. However, improvements to that data and the way it is used cannot come about easily without the influence and advocacy of people. We must come together and act now to influence that change: the AGI is already leading the way in this work, and we also have future leaders within our membership.” 

Presentations from the day can be downloaded below (AGI Members Only) 

About the Association for Geographic Information

The Association for Geographic Information (AGI) is the membership organisation for the UK geospatial industry. The AGI exists to promote the knowledge and use of Geographic Information for the betterment of governance, commerce and the citizen.

‘Smart Geospatial’ was the theme for this year’s annual conference, GeoCom17. The event is a highlight for members (and non-members) of the AGI. It brings together thought leaders, forward-thinking individuals and geospatial businesses to explore the impact of our work on the emerging digital economy.

The AGI represent the interests of the UK's Geographic Information industry; a wide-ranging group of public and private sector organisations, suppliers of Geographic Information/ geospatial software, hardware, data and services, consultants, academics and interested individuals. The AGI, by way of its unique membership forum, brings together this previously disparate community to share ideas on best practice, experience and innovation, and offers access to unparalleled networking opportunities with significant business benefits. But the AGI also wants to facilitate exposure outside of this community, to the challenges and opportunities which are being or need to be met, which could benefit from a collaborative effort from the industry. As such the AGI acts on behalf of the community as whole. Since its formal inception in 1989, it has built up a significant membership base and established itself as the respected voice in geospatial and is the membership body for everyone with an interest or involvement with geospatial.    

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