Most geospatial folks live in a world of technology. That means everything starts with the tech. As my friend Patrick puts it:
Geospatial technologies have largely been seen as being solutions looking for problems
Re-focusing has been a topic of much discussion. To start with the problem. In many cases that has proven easier said than done. Talking and thinking tech has become ingrained in our geo-thinking. But thinking about your why, may help you venture down a different path.
Safeguarding People & Places with Geospatial Technology
At the start of 2018, we asked ourselves (as a group): why are we in business? To make money somebody said. That, we agreed, is not our why. What are our values? How do we best define ourselves?
We had to dig deep inside of ourselves
Most of us are geographers. To us place is important. That we all agreed on. Next, we recognised all of us care about our neighbours; both near and far.
That gave us people and places
One person in the group used the word safeguard: protecting someone or something. Heads in the room began to nod. We had our why:
Safeguarding People & Places
Taking that line of thought further, and thinking about our other core elements. Our ‘how’ is geospatial technology. Our ‘what’ is builders web and mobile solutions.
What is our Story?
That felt good. Defining who and what we are as a company. Next came breaking that down. Defining our story. We recognised that there were 3 areas which needed focus to be successful in our mission:
1) Discover – Finding problems quickly
2) Take Action – Reacting fast to problems
3) Solve & Share – Finding a solution and sharing what was solved/discovered
This, we realised was our problem to solution story.
Everything happens somewhere. Geospatial technology is focused on the where and the what. It is technology which can guide and help solve problems affecting people and places …. anywhere. Often geospatial technology output is a map. The map is the glue. It provides a mechanism to move through each part of this problem to solution story:
- The where and the what of a problem
- The action mechanism for investigators and problem solves
- The source for collaboration around a solution and sharing results and findings
Let’s tell this story through a real example. Rivers are important in poor countries. They provide water for drinking, cooking and washing. But rivers are also used by factories for their water and for waste. When a river is polluted by a factory the affects can be devastating for those downstream. We’ve begun working with a number of organizations helping to safeguard rivers. Using geospatial technology we have built mobile and web applications which are focused on discovery, taking action and resolving/sharing. Step by step that is:
A mobile app running on a phone or tablet can allow anybody to report on the location and nature of a problem.
Discover a Problem
With the location and information on the problem, a work order or equivalent can be generated and shared with an investigator to take action and visit the site.
Take Action – Assign Work Order
When onsite, an investigator can confirm the problem, take additional photos and discover the source of the problem. This might lead directly to a solution or additional follow-up.
Share the Solution or Provide Additional Information
The process described above moves through each of the key steps to help resolve this water pollution problem. The map-centric web applications help provide a single picture through the entire workflow.
Knowing our why, how and what has given us focus. It helps us tell our story. Ultimately it allows us to connect with those who share our concerns and have our values. Those trying to make a difference in safeguarding people and places.