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MENA to gain by investing in geospatial mapping | Omar El-Huni

LONDON–MENA countries stand to gain billions of dollars by improving mapping services that provide crucial geospatial information, according to a February 21 report by Ordnance Survey (OS), the UK’s national mapping agency.

The OS’s “See your Nation’s Potential” stated that upgraded geospatial data is a useful tool for addressing global challenges and crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and population growth.

“Geospatial information helps us to tackle the biggest problems of our time- and capitalise on the greatest opportunities- by making it possible to monitor, measure, predict and adapt effectively,” said OS’s international managing director, Peter Hedlund. “Government spending on geospatial information is a high-impact investment in a nation’s long-term economic health, with benefits 3.2 times larger than the costs.”

Hedlund added that the global geospatial market was $439 billion in 2020.

Ordnance Survey was first founded to improve military strategy by mapping out the Scottish Highlands following the 1745 rebellion. The enterprise now produces map data, route planning and digital sharing services, in addition to paper maps for walkers. The largest and most accurate mapping database in the world, the OS-owned National Geographic Database, hosts more than 500 million geographic features and is updated with over 20,000 changes every day.

Geospatial data is information about events, objects and phenomena found on the earth’s surface. It combines local information, typically earth coordinates, attribute information, such as the study targets’ characteristics, and when available, temporal information, which is the life span or time when the target exists.

Access to better geospatial data would not only help MENA countries increase GDP and assist with fighting upcoming issues facing MENA countries, but can also lead to long-term water and food security, more available resources, increased productivity and better climate change prediction and mitigation. It can also unlock technological benefits, such as autonomous vehicles, 5G and help develop smart cities, such as Saudi Arabia’s Neom.

OS has already partnered with some MENA areas, helping improve Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Bahrain’s geospatial infrastructure and thus realise greater environmental, economical and social benefits.

Dubai’s use of OS’s “Geospatial Maturity Assessment” helped the municipality realise the government’s vision ofmaking “Dubai the happiest city on Earth,” according to Dubai municipality.

Hedlund said “Building national digital base maps is a core process in enabling your nation’s digital economy to flourish, but base maps are also a fundamental enabler in providing the most basic of government services, including establishing property ownership, allocating resources and planning infrastructure.”

People feed seagulls as they fly over the beach in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on February 16, 2021. (AFP)
People feed seagulls as they fly over the beach in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on February 16, 2021. (AFP)

Geospatial data is essential to preventing and responding to disease outbreaks as well, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital maps, contextualised data and other forms of technology can help predict human behaviour and guide needed policy in response to such crises.

In addition to its recent report, OS has launched a new tool that ranks countries’ “geospatial maturity,” which measures sophisticated geospatial technology and information use. The UAE registered 28th on its list, placing it first in the MENA region.

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