Why we support International Map Year

Mar 10, 2015

We love maps, and if you’re reading this, chances are you probably do too. And if you’re reading this, you probably recognize the importance of geo data and technology to our society. You’re probably the type of person who gets upset about the profusion of bad maps on the internet, or who tries to talk about that incredible new open dataset at parties.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in Canada loved maps as much as you?

Celebrating maps and their many roles in our lives is what International Map Year (IMY) is all about, and it isn’t just happening in Canada.  It’s the brainchild of the International Cartographic Association and has been endorsed by the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management. International Map Year events will be happening worldwide, kicking off at the ICA conference in August 2015 and running until December 2016.


Here in Canada, we’ve long recognized the need for increased collaboration and cooperation within our sector. We’ve worked together over the past several years to define the Team Canada vision for the future, and we produced the Pan-Canadian Geomatics Strategy and Action and Implementation Plan to show us how to get there. We know we need a stronger, more united voice if we’re going to get the message out to the general public about the value of what we do. If GeoAlliance Canada is our national voice, International Map Year should be our megaphone. In fact, the goals of IMY and the goals we laid out as a community in the Pan-Canadian Geomatics Strategy are remarkably similar.

In the Strategy, we call for a Canadian Geomatics sector with a strong, visible presence, delivering significant and well-acknowledged benefits to Canada’s society and economy. We ask for effective collaboration between the key players in the sector (including representatives from business, non-profits, education, and government), so we can deliver a common vision with a common voice and message.  International Map Year, which is itself an interdisciplinary undertaking, asks us to “make maps more visible” to citizens and school children, and to show our country how maps and atlases can be used every day. IMY wants to draw attention to the importance of maps and geographic information in today’s world. By delivering on the goals of IMY, we will be increasing the profile of our sector on the national stage.

IMY has established a goal to increase the recruitment of students to cartography and related disciplines; in the Strategy, we have identified a need for Geomatics to be broadly recognized as a career option of choice. Again, by working with the international community and positioning Canada as an educational leader through IMY activities, we will advance the goals of the Canadian geospatial community.

International Map Year asks us to demonstrate the necessity of the sustainable development of geographic information infrastructures. In the Strategy, we call for a national network of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs), making better use of crowd-sourcing and volunteered geographic information. By getting Canadian citizens involved and engaged in what we do through IMY events like map-making competitions, this need that has been acknowledged internally may become more evident to the general public and decision-makers as well.

In the Strategy and Action Plan, we set out a path toward a spatially-enabled Canadian society – one that recognizes that “place matters”, and uses geospatial information more effectively. As part of IMY, we have an opportunity to show Canadians how to access geographic information and how to produce their own maps. By providing a highly visible international campaign, IMY pushes us to take a step along the path we have already laid out, to a future with more data-literate, geographically aware citizens of all ages. This is an incredibly worthwhile goal for a host of reasons. Among them, we know that the more recognition and demand we can create for high quality geospatial products, services, applications and expertise, the stronger our sector’s profile will become, both at home and abroad.

The goals of IMY are aligned with the goals of the Canadian geospatial community on several fronts. This international initiative represents a wonderful opportunity for us to get moving immediately on the national priorities we have identified and agreed upon. It gives us a way to begin communicating with Canadians about the importance of maps and geographic information in today’s world. It gives us a vehicle to reach children, professionals, decision-makers and the general public, and present them with a simple, straightforward message: We love maps, and you should too!

Whether you think mapmaking is primarily an art, a science or a technology, by working together and branding all our upcoming “geo” events and activities as part of International Map Year, we will all benefit. Allow your work to be part of a much bigger picture – join us in celebrating International Map Year!



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