by David Clendon
Last night I enjoyed attending the launch of the 4th Digital Earth Summit 2012, that Wellington City will be co-hosting (along with Land Information New Zealand) in September this year.
It is not the first time that Digital Earth has come to New Zealand – Auckland hosted it in 2006, thanks largely to the efforts of Richard Simpson, who was at that time a city councillor – but it is a real feather in Wellington’s cap to have won hosting rights for a much sought after event. Apparently there was even some outfit called NASA in the running to play host!
“With a vision to harness the world’s data and information resources through international cooperation, the ISDE [International Society for Digital Earth] aims to establish a digital replication of our planet which will allow us to monitor, measure, and forecast natural and human activity on the planet.”
We are constantly bombarded with information, and the generation of new knowledge (or at least new information) proceeds at an extraordinary rate. I have been excited about the potential of the Digital Earth project to utilise and make that knowledge more accessible, ever since the Auckland event that focused on issues of sustainability, defined at the time as ‘humankind’s collective survival goals’.
I am under no illusion that there is a technological silver bullet that will save us from ourselves in terms of challenges like climate change, resource depletion, peak oil, diversity loss. Some of the information management and spatial technologies do however provide us with some powerful modelling, representational and analytical tools to inform our decision making and advocacy for behavioural change.
There could be significant economic spinoffs from the Summit too, as it provides an opportunity for New Zealand companies with a stake in the technologies and their application to demonstrate what they can do. Companies like Right Hemisphere have proven that distance is not an insurmountable barrier to successful innovation in hi-tech , even in the highly competitive and demanding aviation industry. I’m confident that the tourism sector will also work hard to see that the 500-odd delegates in town get a good taste of what Wellington and New Zealand have to offer!