Geography and its new technologies are emerging as critical components in the global infrastructure, in universities and in society. The integrative capabilities of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Science are increasingly helping to shape a new landscape of science – one that has 'space' as its defining framework.
GIS has extended the frontiers of many disciplines and emerged as a discipline in its own right. For example, it has been used in epidemiology to asses and model disease distributions; in transport planning to optimise ambulance response times; in hurricane prediction to manage disaster response and mitigation; and in retail to examine customer behaviour and service planning.
GIS is the common ground, or 'glue', that underpins data sharing across disciplines, embeding geography and GIS in research and applications far beyond geography itself. So many projects, businesses, industries, governments and organisations now depend on the integrative and analytical power of new geotechnologies to deal with information that is inherently spatial. This has led to a huge demand for people with sound theoretical insights into the science of handling geographical Information along with the technological expertise of using GI Systems.
New geotechnologies have far-reaching impacts in society. There is a widespread and continued development of real-time interactive geographical management systems as core daily operations management networks within most business and governmental organisations.
This might be fleet management or vehicle tracking or the management of workforces across space such as those of utility companies, military operations, emergency response agencies, national parks agencies, logistics companies and international humanitarian response operations. A GIS expert has the ability to handle complex space and time modelling to analyse wireless communications, environmental or econometric modelling or patterns of health and disease.
Geotechnology has recently been hailed as one of the three most important emerging and evolving fields, along with nanotechnology and biotechnology. Employment opportunities and professional training needs are growing worldwide as geotechnologies become pervasive in the wider economy. The increase in mobile devices, satellite navigation and online mapping services is immersing people into a geography that defines their everyday lives.
Geographical information is becoming more omnipresent, accurate and locationally specific and consumers are becoming better informed. There are an estimated four million people currently working in GIS at some two million different sites globally. There are currently too few qualified workers to support the industry's growth; a serious shortfall of professionals and trained specialists who can utilise GIS in their jobs. GIS-related occupations are currently cited as one of the 12 'high-growth' industries.
Nigel Walford has been awarded a prestigious research fellowship from the British Academy/ Leverhulme Trust to explore London's population geography. Read more