Thursday, 22 August 2013

AGI, organisational values and the changing industry

Today’s post is going to be a bit of a break from the recent announcements and practical organisational information, instead I am going to attempt to look at the AGI and how we are changing with the industry. Hopefully this will provide a bit of context to everything else I have been talking about on here.

The GI industry in the UK has changed massively in recent years with the profile of both producers and consumers of GI information broadening. Also alongside virtually every other sector of the UK and indeed global economy the GI industry has faced significant challenges during the financial crisis. As a result the industry looks very different to how it did five or six years ago and consequently so does the AGI.
Some of the major changes in the industry include the rise of open source, the resultant massive increase in the number of GI providers, increasing public sector take up of GI and the diversification of GI users.

The rise of open source has been significant over the last few years and whilst it in no way replaces traditional paid for GI services and data (in my humble opinion they provide different solutions to different problems) it has increased both the number of users and consumers of GI. Increased awareness of the benefits of using GI in a coherent and joined up way lead to the creation of the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) which has also lead to a significant increase in GI users. The result of all this is that what can be considered GI is becoming increasingly broad (particularly with the growth of BIM) with many more SMEs both producing and embracing GI and more users falling outside ‘traditional’ GIS professionals. With the widening demographic of the industry there has obviously been a widening of the AGI’s potential membership

Coping with it
The mission statement of the AGI reads ‘The Mission of the AGI is to maximise the use of geographic information (GI) for the benefit of the citizen, good governance and commerce.’ Whilst this is still true today the way we go about this has changed somewhat. As part of our mission to maximise the use of GI the AGI was heavily involved in advocacy work largely aimed at encouraging local and central government to recognise the need for GI. However as noted above with measure like the PSMA it is clear that government bodies have recognised the need for GI and therefore such advocacy work is no longer as relevant as it was. We do of course still engage with government and represent the industry particularly through our support of the INSPIRE initiative and through the work of the Standards SIG.

However in light of the changing face of GI we are also working to undertake other activities largely focused around creating a true community from the disparate elements of GI. These activities are focused around the SIG, the showcase events and membership changes at the AGI.

The SIGs role is that they provide a focus for each of the separate GI communities (BIM, Environment, Technology etc) which in turn makes it much easier or these communities to interact with each other and the AGI. The highly successful showcase events are helping to make the GI community more accessible to companies and individuals who may not perhaps have the resources to attend multi day conferences or spend significant time outside of their local area. Finally the reduced cost and ease of payment for individual members is designed to make the AGI more accessible to a greater range of GI users. For example an individual may be the sole GIS user in their organisation making a weaker business case for the organisation to join but they have the alternative of joining as an individual.
The benefits
As the industry continues to change and the AGI with it we believe that by broadening the membership of the AGI from the traditional GI core (whilst still continuing to serve their needs of course) will only strengthen the organisation. The bigger and broader the community the more different points of view, ideas and solutions there are not to mention the increased opportunity for networking and creating commercial relationships.



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