GIS Thoughts

AGI Thoughts

Amazing how tired you can get after just three days… maybe it was the party that did it !

So the end of this years conference got be thinking about how the nature of the annual GI industry conference has changed over the years. This year was I think a little bigger than last year with maybe 300-400 delegates, and a small but busy exhibition of nearly 50 stands.

Once upon a time, in the early 1990’s, when I started attending this conference there were perhaps three times as many attendees and there were two major GIS exhibitions with thousands of visitors.

So what has happened ?

Well the industry as such has matured and I guess those people who need GIS now have adopted the technology and established relationships with data providers, software companies etc. Now of course if your want to find out about new products and services you go online rather than waiting to talk to sales staff at a conference. An often heard quote is that there is “nobody new” at these conferences – well yes that’s true !!

Those people who are adopting GIS for the first time go to vertical shows in retail, health , defence and intelligence etc. – Does this mean that there is no need for a GIS show, in the same way there is no need for a spreadsheet show – No, because GI is still a lot more complex a discipline, with many issues still to resolve.

The AGI conference over the years has shrunk down to a level where now it meets the needs of the industry perfectly, as a forum for the industry to meet with itself, to network and discuss issues of interest to the specialist. The quality of papers this year I thought were exceptional, with excellent discussions taking place in the Q&A sessions I attended.

So long live the AGI conference, it may never need to hire the ExCel conference centre, but it’s not going to end up in a phonebox either.

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

One reply on “AGI Thoughts”

There are actually two separate issues – one is outsourcing of government work involving contractors and the other is commercialization. Both have been going on the the U.S. Federal government for many years under the rubric of ‘cost savings’ but now seems to be accelerating (even the military is being outsourced …). The use of contracted employees usually still permits the Federal government to retain control over operations and any resulting data/information compared to buying commercial data/services.

The number of U.S. Federal government employees has been shrinking over the years and the number of contractors skyrocketing. Many government employees now simply manage the work done by the contractors – for example, at the NASA EROS Data Center probably fewer than 20% of the staff are actual government employees. Nearly all of 2010 Census data management and processing has been outsourced.

Advances in technology have apparently finally also caught up with the peretually underfunded U.S. Geological Survey. All such Federal agencies continue to face budget cuts (even the Weather Service is just scrimping by – it cannot afford to replace all of its weather buoys and field offices lost in the recent hurricanes). The USGS has been considering consolidation to save money and has been similarly reviewing its operations for cost savings. When this occurs there is a government directive requiring ‘competitive sourcing’ which means both federal employees and private companies bid for the work ( There certainly won’t be any additional funding for out-sourcing.

Yet another way to save money is to share the cost of data with State and Local governments which the USGS is actively pursuing. I would not be surprised to see the mapping operations of the USGS being phased out in the not too distant future.

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