Dis-location ... or why has the Digital Agenda so far failed to embrace "Digital Earth"
The Digital Agenda 2020 aims to be an open consultation on ways to deliver sustainable economic growth and development in Europe. Yet, despite the rapid developments that have taken place in geo-spatial industries the DA2020 work plan and policy proposals so far ignore the requirements of this important sector and the current and future roles it should play for European citizens.
Why has the European policy debate not yet addressed the "Digital Earth" needs of European society?
Readers please note, these industries are NOT concerned with outer space, rather they relate to the world we live in. They stress the importance of location-based information, and are extremely important in most things that are essential to us, like food and water supplies, energy, land use, transportation, telecommunications, health services, retail, pollution and environment, the Internet, social media ...... and so on. These industries produce highly innovative tools and technologies that are used by ALL leading companies and organisations in Europe. Even the Commission has its own geo-technology unit.
These highly innovative, rapidly expanding industries must have a well-trained workforce. However there are already severe workforce shortages across Europe (and worldwide) in these areas. Research undertaken by the digital-earth.eu Comenius Network Project (http://www. digital-earth.eu) has indicated that so far there have been no European initiatives to deal with this matter. A few 'enlightened' European countries have started to set up special task forces to consider ways of tackling this issue.
Why have European politicians and policy makers so far largely ignored the potential these technologies offer?
"Digital Earth" technologies are used to plan, develop, invest and make sound decisions based on vast amounts of economic, social, physical and environmental information gathered across Europe. In an increasingly open information society, all European citizens therefore need to be aware of, understand and relate to the outputs that are produced as a result of Digital Earth. Therefore, we should develop an education programme that will assist citizens to engage in their European society using geo-spatial technologies.
I believe an Education for Spatial Citizenship** is now called for. The digital-earth.eu network suggests that this should be concerned with the inclusion of fundamental "Digital Earth" competences, for example in "reading, interpreting and navigating the world around us with the help of geoinformation and geographic media", in the learning programmes of all sectors of education and training.
Education for Digital Earth is related closely to a number of other major EC policies, like the INSPIRE Directive and CORINE initiative. It offers a humane response to the information society, one which also encourages us to care for our planet. I thus argue that politicians and decision makers really should take the time to understand what "Digital Earth" is all about (in terms of 'Education and Training') and embrace it in relevant ways within Digital Agenda and Education and Training 2020 policy developments.
How can we afford not to include "Digital Earth" within the Digital Agenda?
There will be opportunities to discuss and debate these questions during the World Geospatial Forum in Amsterdam, 23-27 April 2012 (http://www.geospatialworldforum.org/), the EUROGEO Conference in Dublin (http://www.eurogeography.eu) and at the International Geographic Congress, Cologne, 26-30 August 2012 (https://igc2012.org/).
Karl Donert (President, EUROGEO)
Director European Centre of Excellence: digital-earth.eu
Z_GIS Salzburg University
** Spatial Citizenship (SPACIT) is now a new Comenius Multilateral Project coordinated by Z-GIS at the University of Salzburg.