October 26-29, 2015

Yucatan, Mexico


Conference news

Em. Prof. Gottfried Konecny: My Latin American Experience. 10.07.2015

Em. Prof. Gottfried Konecny: My Latin American Experience.


Conference “From imagery to map: digital photogrammetric technologies” has been held for more than 10 years, and every year its geography covers new countries. The organizing committee chose Mexico as the venue this year. That shows great interest in this region and its perspectives in the development of geoinformation technologies.

Em. Prof. Dr.mult. Gottfried Konecny from Leibniz University Hannover is a permanent participant of the conference. This year Dr. Gottfried Konecny will introduce results of the UNGGIM-ISPRS Study on the Status of Mapping in the World. The organizing committee asked Dr. Konecny about his Latin American Experience.

Versión en español

“My Latin American Experience

From 1959 to 1971 I was employed by the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Canada, where we started the first English language Geomatics program in Canada. As part of my University activities I participated in a Canadian Research Council led activity of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History (PAIGH) to introduce cadastral land registration in Latin American countries. At PAIGH we had annual meetings in Mexico City between 1968 and 1970. At UNB we had a guest professor in geodesy from 1967 to 1970 from Tucuman in Argentina. After my move from Canada to Hannover in 1971 my Argentine friend had become Dean at his University in Argentina, and he invited me to hold a short course in analytical photogrammetry to the Argentine photogrammetric community in 1971, which up till then had an analog orientation. At that time the group of about 30 participants founded the Argentine Society for Photogrammetry. The course was repeated in 1973.

During my activities in Hannover I continued my interest in establishing cadastral land registration systems in the developing countries of the globe. We founded a group of German academic, commercial and governmental representatives, the BEV, of which I became chair in 1975. We held workshops supported by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation on surveying and mapping in 1975 in Berlin and later in Hannover and Hamburg. We cooperated with the UN Secretariat in New York and with the German national technical cooperation agency GTZ (now GIZ).

This brought me as a member of the German delegation to the UN Cartographic Conferences for the Americas to Panama in 1976, to Mexico in 1979 and since 1983 to the UN Headquarters to New York where we had interchanges with the Latin American countries in geodesy, land surveying. the cadastre, photogrammetric mapping and remote sensing.

In this context I became involved in the educational effort for surveying and mapping at the University of Heredia in Costa Rica in 1976, at the University of Los Andes in Merida, Venezuela in 1982 and at the University of Zulia in Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1983. I gave a short in analytical photogrammetry in Spanish at the Universidad Nacional de Mexico in the same year and I gave lectures at the University of Curitiba in Brazil in 1984.

In the 1990´s I was involved in a technical cooperation project at the Instituto Geografico Nacional in Guatemala.

Challenges for geodata providers and software developers in Latin America

Latin America has traditionally very close relations to the U.S. This was facilitated by the Interamerican Geodetic Survey organized by the American Military. Accordingly access to hardware and software is traditional from the US except for Cuba, which had relations with the Sovjet Union. It is only handicapped by cost. But even German technical cooperation agencies have included American software into their projects because of service considerations. However, European hardware suppliers, like formerly Wild, Zeiss and Kern traditionally had a high esteem, even though only Hexagon is on the global market from Europe. Brazi´s activities of their space agency INPE by providing imagery and software for image processing free of charge or at low cost have enhanced uses of geospatial products.

Inspiration for a Latin American Geoinformatics Future

In the geoinformatics field Latin America has a very unique position. The Latin American countries gained independence in the early 19th century, when mapping was globally not yet well developed. In Asia and Africa mapping was introduced in the late 19th century and in the early 20th century by the colonial powers. In the early 20th century the Sovjet Union introduced mapping as a national priority. So it happened in North America, Australia and Japan as well. In Latin America Mexico followed the developments in the USA, while in most Latin American Countries in the South mapping was mostly a military activity. The UN Secretariat studies of 1960 to 1986 show, that the areas mapped at large and medium scales in Latin America had a much lower percentage than areas mapped in Africa and Asia, and this is still so. Brazil has only a complete coverage at the scale 1:250 000. This means, that the demand for large scale mapping is immense, considering the existing low map coverage and considering at the same time the rapid increase in population in the Latin American urban centers. This demand cannot be satisfied by government alone. This is a great challenge for the private sector, particularly when it can cooperate with the government.

How are international partnerships and events able to help in establishing contacts for large scale mapping in Latin America?

International events and conferences, such as the Racurs Conference, are opportunities for network creation. Organizers of such conferences have it in their hand to invite papers of persons, who are responsible for soliciting, financing and conducting large scale mapping projects:

1) national mapping agencies, such as INEGI in Aguascalientes in Mexico, which plans and finances national activities at medium scales. The same is the case in Guatemala by the Instituto Geografico Nacional. The Municipalities in Mexico and Guatemala may have their own budgets for large scale mapping, but their activities are coordinated by the national apping agencies.

2) some of the poorer states in Central America rely on donors, such as the World Bank, Latin American Division in Washington D.C. or the Interamerican Bank to finance urban, land management and cadastral projects, which need large scale mapping. The World Bank and the Interamerican Bank provides loans to governments. Other bilateral arrangements for smaller projects are usually made by national donors, such as the Canadian International Development Agency CIDA in Ottawa, USAID in Washington, D.C., the German Technical Cooperation Agency in Eschborn near Frankfurt, and other agencies funded by their national governments, such as Dutch Cadastre, Swedesurvey, Norwegian Development Agency NORAD, the Danish Agency DANIDA or IGN France. JICA Japan has not been very active in Latin America, as well as China.

3) all such agencies generally outsource their projects by international or national tender to a mapping company. In Mexico GeoAir with Wolfgang Kost as CEO, who also works by tenders in Central America and even South American countries should have an excellent knowledge about the national and international competitors in the region.

4) all Latin American mapping agencies are networked in two organizations:

a) the Pan American Institute of Geography and History PAIGH, established in Mexico in 1928, with is present General Secretary Santiago Borrero from Colombia. PAIGH meets annually and has many working group activities with members of all Americas.

b) out of the former United Nations Cartographic Conferences for the Americas established in 1976 a regional group was created by the name PC-IDEA in the 1990´s. Santiago Borrero was the first President of PC-IDEA. In 2009 UN ECOSOC has established UNGGIM in New York, which meets globally every year. The next global conference is scheduled from August 3 to 7, 2015 at UN Headquarters in New York. Current Vice Chair of UNGGIM is INEGI, Mexico President Eduardo Sojo Caza-Adape.

However, UNGGIM has created regional chapters for the establishment of regional activities by working groups. UNGGIM-Americas has become the successor of PC-IDEA.
President of UNGGIM-Americas is currently Rolando Ocampo Alcantanar, Vice President of INEGI, Mexico.

PAIGH and UNGGIM-Americas also discuss mapping activities.

5) As noted, the next UNGGIM global conference UNGGIM5 is scheduled from August 3 to 7, 2015 at UN Headquarters in New York. The government of Russia has received an invitation from the UN Secretary General to nominate a delegation from the country to UNGGM5. The German government has nominated me as member of the German delegation. Our delegation consists of BKG President Kutterer from Frankfurt, the representative of the Cadastral administrations of Germany Mr. Wandinger, the President of the German Survey Society, Karl Friedrich Thöne, who organizes Intergeo and myself.
The Russian Federation delegation has in the past varied from 1 (one representative from the UN mission to the UN) to more including representatives of Rosreestr and Roskartografia. But this as an internal matter for the Russian External Affairs Office to nominate the composition of the delegation. In any event the meeting would offer an intensive networking possibility for Russian industry alongside of the meetings with representatives of Latin American countries with interest in mapping.

The organizing committee is thankful to Professor Gottfried Konecny for the interview!

The cut-version of the interview was published in GeoInformatics magazine, July/August 2015.

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