If geographic technology is not part of your solution, think again

geographic-information

What will the 2011 Census tell us? Not much without geographic information technology! Demographic information guides the planning for all sectors. Whether for the provision of public services, the supply of power and water, or the marketing and selling of products and services, the where factor will be critical!

On March 27th everyone in England and Wales will be expected to complete the 2011 Census form. We lose an hour during the night before and hopefully that will not cause late submissions. This is the first census that can be completed on line. One hopes that this will not adversely affect an accurate information collection—the last census had an alleged 25% undercounting.

Reading an article in the local Compass Wessex magazine started a train of thoughts of what this new information can mean to public and private sector organisations.

The focus on socio and economic trends opens the usefulness of this information to countless opportunities. Is there anything that is not affected in some way? It is vital to understand where—the location—to which the statistics relate.

Comparison with the first census in 1801 reveals great change and we all know that the speed of change is increasing. In 1801, the 2 million households averaged 5.6 people compared with 2001 where an average of 2.4 people were recorded in 26 million households. The escalation curve would be very interesting to understand how the rate of change has increased. The geographic illustration of where these changes take place will provide invaluable guidance to so many facets of planning and provision.

New questions about residents include passports held, nationality, year of entry to UK and intended length of stay for recent arrivals, main language and second residence. These statistics would reveal interesting trends, showing where employment is impacted, where transitional populations reside, where different languages should be accommodated, and where homes are not permanently occupied.

Frighteningly, apparently, 1 in 6 homes in the UK fall within a flood plain and the Environment Agency’s flood testing centre at HR Wallingford in Oxfordshire is investing in experiments to withstand these wet onslaughts. The 2011 Census will reveal how many people are impacted. That could be a very pessimistic picture? Insurance risk cannot be managed without evaluating where and to what extent the risk exists. This is impossible without geographic technology.

The increasing population densities are essential for network planning organisations—water, gas & electricity, telecommunications. Without geographic visualisation, they will not know where the change in demand is taking place.

The first summary results are expected in September 2012 with more details emerging in 2013 and 2014. That does seem like a while to wait, but maybe we should already be putting on our thinking hats and start planning how to use this information.

If geographic technology is not part of your solution, think again. Without knowing where change is taking place, the statistics are meaningless.

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Natalie Newman is Associate Analyst at Bloor Research. Natalie has been involved in GI all her working life, from South Africa's Surveys and Mapping (Trig-Survey) in Cape Town to BT Global Services in the UK. In between she implemented GIS in two South African local authorities, consulted in the various industries, served as an Officer of the South African National Defence Force, and managed GI in the marketing division of Telkom SA. In the UK, Natalie was the Global Co-ordinator at Hutchison3G for Locations Based Products and then joined BT Global Services. She established the BT GIS Focus Group and worked on various projects mostly in Local Government. Since leaving BT, she has worked as a Spatial Consultant for Netezza.