DGI 2021

01 - 03 February, 2021

Intercontinental London – The O2

44 (0) 207 368 9836

The United Nations Growing Global Geospatial Leadership: Implications for Defence and Security of the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development endeavours to eradicate poverty but recognises that ‘There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development’. Supporting the 2030 Agenda, World Leaders have called for global coordinated actions in new data acquisition and integration approaches to help solve environmental, social and economic challenges.

Fundamental geospatial information (GI) is the digital scaffolding for interoperability, location the integration glue, and applications and analysts provide collaborative answers to complex problems. This applies equally to Defence and Security as to sustainable development.

The United Nations (UN) recognises a growing global geospatial divide and has teamed up with the World Bank to help nations develop geospatial capabilities to meet Agenda 2030 goals through the IGIF. This does not replace spatial data infrastructures (SDI) but is a broader strategic framework from which an SDI might be one outcome.

Part One, the overarching strategic framework, has been published. Part Two, the Implementation Guide, is being released in April 2020. Part three are individual country specific national action plans, comprising geospatial roadmaps and business cases. These take account national priorities that very often include the environment, disaster response, revenue generation, industry diversification, national asset management and Defence/Security.

The Framework considers nine pathways, shown above. It opens doors to ‘non-traditional’ approaches, for example using geospatial technology services rather than managing everything ‘in-house’. But is the IGIF relevant to Defence?

Defence and Security are Cross Government

Consider the threat environment. Distance is no longer a barrier; the home front is as much part of battlespace as overseas campaigns. Multiple government departments are involved, increasing with Cyber-defence. Our opponents are using much the same data; advantage lies through better cross-agency sharing, integration and analytics. This applies to Defence and Security today. It will do more so tomorrow using emerging techniques, such as AI, to lead to better and faster decision making in the IoT era. The IGIF supports this approach by opening the case to Government leaders.

Developing Integrated Defence Capabilities

Defence capability planning and delivery has long recognised complexity, any system is far more than the ‘hardware’. So too does the IGIF. Indeed its nine integrated pathways could be likened to UK MoD ‘lines of development’ that ensure new capabilities consider all aspects of development.

The IGIF focuses on the very real needs of broad decision-maker and user communities but in a language understandable across Government and industry, helping to achieve a cross-government approach that takes account all aspects of ‘capability development’. For Defence and Security organisations the IGIF is to be welcomed and supported – enabling better data sharing and integration between all agencies involved in national security, opening doors to greater data access and equally breaking down perceptions of a Defence geospatial ‘silo’.

Alliances and Partnerships

At DGI, GI sharing is often considered a pressing issue. Defence, being multi-facetted, recognises better than most that the same fundamental GI has many uses. For example a common view on the location of assets such as gas pipelines is as important for security as it is for emergency response, infrastructure development or post-conflict reconstruction. The IGIF is a tool to help facilitate this understanding across Government.

The IGIF really focuses on ‘partnerships’, ‘engagement’, ‘participation’ and ‘collaboration’, including internationally. Rivers, terrorists and disasters don’t recognise international borders and so regional sharing of GI, as in Europe under INSPIRE, has a place.

So too, Defence and Security organisations work in partnerships internationally. Established alliances such as NATO have policies and systems to share geospatial data and services, but ad-hoc coalitions may not. The encouragement of ‘friendly’ nations to maintain and, critically, use GI helps improve integration of military and security coalition partners and helps improve security within those nations. There is an increasingly strong case that nations Official Development Assistance and Defence Engagement plans should consider such capacity building in this digital era, using the IGIF as a basis.


The IGIF carries UN authority and nations from Guyana to Ireland are taking advantage of it. Its strategic integrative approach provides an opening for Defence and Security organisations to collaborate to improve geospatial capabilities, and further for them to reach out across government with a common language. Defence geospatial industry should be aware that the IGIF is permeating into governments and understand how businesses might take advantage.

William Gibson said ‘The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed’. This could apply both to sustainable development and Defence and Security. It is certainly the case in the uptake of geospatial within nations and within their defence forces. Yes, the IGIF is optimised for nations on the wrong side of the geospatial divide, but equally it can be an effective cross-government audit, handrail or capability development tool for those already on the never-ending geospatial journey. It is relevant to Defence and Security.

John Kedar will be chairing at DGI 2020. Download the agenda for more details.