Join Canada’s Surveyor General for a National Dialogue to Revitalize the Geomatics Community

Feb 24, 2014

What is the status of the Canadian Geomatics Sector? How critical is the Sector to the Canadian economy? These are key questions we hope to answer through the Geomatics Sector Scan and Economic Value Studies (Hickling, Arthurs. Low, 2013/14). The studies form part of an initial action plan produced by the Canadian Geomatics Community Round Table (CGCRT). They are not simply about data collection. Rather, they are about creating a national dialogue; a dialogue supported by the Roundtable, that in my opinion, is long overdue and essential to revitalize and re-focus the Geomatics Community in Canada.

Contributing to “Spatially enabling Canada” has been a strategic priority for Natural Resources Canada and its predecessor departments since the confederation. In the past, roles were more clear: explore, locate, map and survey, and provide the essential geo-foundation for a young nation. Canada established institutions to support governance systems and collect the natural resource and geographic data required to build a strong economy and sustainable communities. This model served our country well for over a hundred years. Things have changed dramatically, particularly over the last 15 to 20 years. Our institutions, governance structures, and educational infrastructure have certainly evolved; but are they evolving quickly enough and in such a way that will ensure that Canada remains spatially enabled in a highly competitive world?

Are we introducing enough awareness about location technologies, geography and land management early enough and in enough detail into Canada’s education system? It is suggested that elementary school curricula needs to be enhanced by better integrating location components in conventional early core learning such as mathematics, science, social studies to provide a more comprehensive approach to Geomatics education from “K to Grey”.

Are Canadian post-secondary institutions producing an optimum number of appropriately trained graduates to meet the evolving and emerging needs of a spatially dependent society. And we are spatially dependent! Location is increasingly permeating every aspect of Canadian society. The needs and expectations of users also continue to grow at an exponential rate. The sharing of information is expanding as people explore opportunities for learning through social networking and on-line training opportunities. Can we better leverage emerging and innovative communication channels to cascade geo-education through the Canadian population?

Are our professional institutions and associations responding and providing the leadership required to position the Geomatics Sector and Canada for the future? It is clear that Canada’s geographic enormity and complex federation and society present challenges that are quite different than many other countries. Further, entrenched traditional practices and structures can be difficult to change. It is clear however that fundamental change will be required for Canada to be a true global geo-leader. Our community will need to come together in true Canadian form and collectively create Canadian made solutions to these challenges. The role of the Roundtable is to provide the forum to bring our diverse leadership together.

Colleagues on the Roundtable have described the need for a Geomatics “Moonshot” (James Boxall) and a new “Leadership Paradigm” (Ann Martin) based on leveraging relationships between communities of practice. To meet these challenges, we need your participation, your ideas and creativity. I encourage you to engage in this critical conversation, help develop responses to key questions and build on the momentum and energy that the Roundtable has brought to the Sector.

Peter Sullivan, Surveyor General of Canada Lands


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