Sunday, April 13, 2008

Measuring space is worth billions to Australia

Spatial Worlds website
Canberra, Australia: S: 35º 15' E: 149º 08'
Picture descriptions:
Left image: The Canberra Carillon, a gift from the British in 1970.
Right image: A calm day in Canberra, looking up to Parliament House.

Much is written and spoken of the Spatial Industry. As an industry it is very hard to delineate and much discussion is had regarding whom should we include in the industry. In short, due to the all-pervasive and ubiquitous nature of spatial technology today almost everyone has exposure to the industry. One group which is working on this clarification of the industry in terms of education is the Spatial Science Institutes (SSI) Spatial Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). Since 2004 I have been AGTA's delegate to SEAC and have attended meetings in Canberra to push forward the spatial education agenda, in particular in schools. SEAC is comprised of representatives from the Australian New Zealand Land Information Commission (ANZLIC), Commonwealth Government Departments such as GeoScience Australia, employer organisations such as ASIBA, the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRC SI), RCSI, GITA and the PSMA to name just a few. On April 10th, SEAC conducted a National Summit in Canberra of the key spatial education stakeholders in Australia to review and work on the recently released Workforce Development Plan for the advancement of employment access and opportunities in the Spatial Industry.
The workforce plan (can be downloaded from ) has been developed based on the knowledge that there is high demand for spatially trained personnel and surprisingly significant shortages in filling vacancies. It is forecast that there will be 700+ unfilled vacancies in the Spatial Industry over the next 5 years. Such a skills and supply gap is of enormous concern to this rapidly expanding industry. However such shortages in human resources for the industry is not isolated to Australia, with the US and European Spatial Industry being forced over recent years to be pro-active to meet the demand for workers. Naturally the industry turns to schools as the area to work in to increase the awareness of the industry and to develop industry relevant courses in the future. Hence the industries interest in the teaching of spatial technology in schools and particularly in geography and science.
If you need to be convinced on the strength of the industry the following quotes from the March ‘Position’ magazine should convince you. A report from the economic consultants, ACIL Tasman considers that:
** A lack of skilled manpower is the biggest threat to the future health of the Spatial Industry.
* The Spatial Information and technology Industry has increased Australia's GDP by somewhere between $6 and $12 Billion.
* The importance of the Spatial Information and technology Industry will grow as the mining boom expands and the importance of providing infrastructure in the resources sector increases.
* The movement of goods and services, transport systems management (safe and efficient air and sea travel) urban planning and community infrastructure all depends on the health of the Spatial Information and Technology Industry.
* The worth of the Industry in 2006-7 is between $6.43 billion and $12.57 billion.
* The impact of spatial information on trade has increased exports by $1.26 billion and imports by $1.18 billion.
The report concluded that "Australia's progress towards being a modern spatially enabled economy has been hampered by a coherent national focus and a lack of a process for developing and executing whole of government solutions" and that the success of the Spatial Information and technology Industry is likely to be critical to maintaining international competitiveness in most sectors."
The Position magazine is an excellent source of Industry applications and information. Go to for more information on the magazine. Article summaries are available to be downloaded from the site. For example the article above at

As part of the work of SEAC a report on The Spatial Information Industry in Australia: profile, education and training and skill demand was commissioned in 2006. You can view the report at It certainly gives an insight into the industry, its nature and potential and has provided the basis of the workforce plan discussed at this week’s summit in Canberra.
The following websites are also of use when looking at the global dimensions of the Spatial Industry and the jobs available:

The summit discussed the workforce report and developed some action plans to move forward the agenda. In particular those present considered that schools were critical to the future of the industry and time, funds and effort are required to raise the awareness of the industry amongst teachers and students. The Cooperative Research Centre for Information (CRC SI) website at will be used to enhance community and school awareness of the industry and job opportunities. More on the outcomes of the meeting later in the year.

Whilst on the matter of SEAC I was pleased that the concerns of SEAC were highlighted on page 42 of the Erebus International ’Teaching of Geography from Years 3-10’ report. The report can be downloaded from
In short, SEAC in the report stated that “the use of spatial technologies in geography teaching is underutilised in schools and does not reflect the pervasive and extensive use of technology in the community”. After reading the workforce demand report of SEAC and attending the summit it seems the challenge is ahead of us all to spread the word to the education community about the potential of the industry for young people in our schools.

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