FIG Working Week 2005 and GSDI-8 in Cairo, Egypt
April 16-21, 2005

From Pharaohs to Geoinformatics - Shaping the Change

The FIG Working Week 2005 was organised in Cairo, Egypt 16-21 April 2005. This was for the first time that the annual FIG Working Week was organised together with another international organisation. The FIG Council and the local organisers - the Egyptian Committee for Surveying and Mapping (ECSM) and the Egyptian Survey Authority (ESA) - decided to organise the conference jointly with the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI). So the joint conference "From Pharaohs to Geoinformatics" combined elements both from the FIG Working Week and the GSDI conference (this time GSDI-8). The reactions from the participants and conference statistics show that the concept was a success story in many ways. Whether FIG will organise joint conferences in the future will be decided after the Council has carefully evaluated the results from Cairo.

The joint FIG/GSDI conference turned to be the biggest ever FIG annual conference outside congresses, which are held every four years. The conference attracted more than 900 participants from more than 80 countries. The attendees got an excellent opportunity to get familiar with the history of surveying and  even more important on the trends in surveying and SDIs for the future.

The technical programme was almost overloaded - during the three and half day technical programme there were 51 technical sessions, several round table discussions (e.g. on the education in Africa, FIG future governance, standards etc.) and working group meetings. When totally seven pre-conference workshops (each lasting for a half or for a full day) are added there was professional programme for almost one week. In the technical programme more than 400 papers, presentations and posters were made. Unfortunately there were some last minute drop outs in the technical sessions due to different reasons (e.g. travel and visa problems). For the future events the FIG Council and commissions will consider all reasons and decide how to improve the situation at the next events. This evaluation will also include the role and format of the poster presentations.

At the opening ceremony the keynote address from the Government of Egypt was made by HE Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation. The conference was held under the patronise of the Government of Egypt and Prime Minister, Dr. Ahmed Nazif, who unfortunately was unable to attend because of the NEPAD meeting in Egypt at the same time. The greeting from the Prime Minister was gioven by Dr. Abu Zeid. The greeting from Dr. Tarek Kamel, Minister of Communication and Information Technology was presented by Dr. Hora Baraka. The welcome address from the organising committee was given by Dr. Eng. Ahmed Fouad El-Sheikh, Chair of the Organising Committee and President of the Egyptian Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ECSM). The GSDI presentation was given by Dr. Mukund Rao, President of GSDI. The keynote opening address was about the conference title "From Pharaohs to Geoinformatics - Shaping the Change" presented by Prof. Holger Magel, President of FIG, who also formally opened the conference. The entertainment at the opening ceremony was taken care by the Egyptian military band. After the opening ceremony the full hall - more than 600 people - joined the opening welcome reception at the pool area of the conference venue, Semiramis Intercontinental in Cairo.

The professional quality of the plenary sessions got this year many positive comments. Especially the first plenary session, in which the presentations were made by Dr. Ismail Serageldin, CEO of the Alexandria Library and Mr. Jack Dangermond, President and Founder of ESRI and Mrs. Preetha Pulusani, President of Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions was highly praised. At the other two plenary sessions the topics were Land Management and SDIs (with Dr. Paul Munro-Faure (FAO), Dr. Clarissa Augustinus (UN-Habitat), Ms. Dorine A. J. Burmanje, Chair of the Board of Dutch Cadastre and Eng. Mohamed Mosaad Ibrahim, Ex-Chairman, The Egyptian Survey Authority, ESA as speakers) and on the Future of the SDI / Surveying Communities (with Prof. Ian Dowman, President of ISPRS, Prof. Hans S√ľnkel, Rector of the University of Graz and Dr. Hisham El Sherif, Chairman of IT Investments Group, Egypt as speakers).

The technical programme was fully integrated so there were no separate programmes for GSDI or FIG delegates, neither separation in the registrations etc. This allowed interesting and broader discussions at the technical sessions than normally. This was the case especially in the joint programmes between FIG Commissions 3 and 7 and GSDI. It was also positive that SDIs were also discussed from the technical aspects, which brought new ideas both to FIG Commission 5 and to GSDI. The programme allowed all FIG Commissions to participate and have a full programme. In the presentations there were some characteristics: there were more presentations from the region (Arab countries) than normally, also participation from Africa was quite good (even though some last minute cancellations). Participation from USA, Canada and Australia was also bigger than normally. There were also more individual delegates from distant countries like e.g. from South America and Far East.

The joint conference encouraged also co-operation with other international organisations. In the technical programme there were presentations from the United Nations (FAO and UN-Habitat) and also good support and participation from the UN Economic Commission for Africa that also supported some participants to attend. Even a representative of WHO attended.

There was a high-level participation from professional partners. Presidents of following associations attended the conference: ISPRS (Prof, Ian Dowman), IAG (Prof. Gerhard Beutler), ICA (Prof. Milan Konecny), IHO (Vice Admiral Alexandros Marathos) and ISM (Prof. Yu Changxing, immediate past President). In addition International Federation of Hydrographic Societies was presented by John McCarthy with whom FIG signed an Memorandum of Understanding in Cairo. The International Steering Committee for Global Mapping (ISCGM) had their annual meeting in Cairo and had in addition two sessions in the technical programme, chaired by Prof. Fraser Taylor, President of ISCGM. Other partners that had their meetings during the week were e.g. AFREF. One of the pre-conference workshops was organised in co-operation with ISO TC 211. It was a positive surprise that this workshop attracted over 100 participants to each of its sessions during the day.

One of the success stories of the conference was the meeting of the Steering Committee of Geospatial Information Societies (JB GIS). At this meeting it was decided to have a bit more formal structure for the Joint Board, which is becoming a common voice for all geospatial associations especially in relation to the United Nations. The decisions included to have a permanent address for the JB GIS at the FIG office and that the Chair of the Joint Board will be elected for two years (two meetings). The next chair is Prof. Holger Magel, FIG President for meetings to be held in 2006-2007. Even more important is that the work of the Joint Board started on professional projects, when two ad hoc committees were established: one on Capacity Building in Africa (Prof. Ian Dowman, ISPRS in chair) and the second one on Risk and Disaster Management (Prof. Bengt Rystedt, ICA in chair).

The technical exhibition was bigger than has been the case during the last years at the FIG events. More than 40 booths were booked and the list of exhibitors included a good selection of international, regional and local exhibitors. In addition to the exhibition good co-operation was made with several partners and sponsors. These arrangements included sponsorship to the Egyptian Evening and  Gala Dinner as well as support to delegates from developing countries to attend the conference. The two gold sponsors of the conference were ESRI and Intergraph Mapping and Geospatial Solutions that both also had their workshop before the conference started.

To many participants highlights of the conference were visits to the traditional sites in the home country of surveying. These included the pyramids in Giza and the famous Egyptian museum as well as visits to the historical Cairo. Technical tours offered an opportunity to visit the Smart Village - part of the modern Egypt - and surveying and GIS authorities in Cairo. The social events like the Egyptian Evening, which at the same time was the FIG Foundation Dinner, at the Al Ezba Restaurant offered both Egyptian culture and food. The gala dinner at the Mohamed Aly Restaurant gave entertainment and time to discuss of the results of the conference.

At the FIG General Assembly main decisions included the acceptance of new members. This time five new member associations were adopted, these come from Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Kosovo UNMIK, Mexico and United Arab Emirates. In addition one new affiliate member was endorsed from Peru. The General Assembly endorsed also five new corporate members including TOPCON Corp at the platinum level. Further nine academic members have joined during the year.

Perhaps the most exciting decision at the General Assembly was election of the venue of the FIG Congress 2010 between Sydney, Vienna, Austria and Edmonton, Canada. The result was clear after the first vote when Sydney got the absolute majority of the votes. So the FIG Congress 2010 will be held in Sydney and for the second time in Australia (the previous congress was in Melbourne in 1994).

The General Assembly further decided to appoint Mr. Jerome C. Ives from USA as an Honorary member. Jerry has been involved in FIG for a long time, among other as a member of the previous US Council and chair of the PC meeting in New Orleans in 1993. The General Assembly also elected two Commission Chairs Elect (2005-2006) who will automatically become Commission chairs (2006-2010). The were Mr. Andrew Leyzack (Canada)  to Commission 4 (Hydrography) and Mr. Simon Adcock (Australia) to Commission 8 (Spatial Planning and Development). Among other issues also the Marrakech Declaration and Aguascalientes Statement were endorsed as policy declarations.

Thanks to the successful conference belong to the local organising committee and the organising team. The organising committee was chaired by Dr. Eng. Ahmed Fouad El-Sheikh, President of the ECSM with Eng. M. Hisham Nasr, Chairman of ESA as the Vice Chair, Eng. Mohamed Mosaad Ibrahim, Secretary General of the Conference and Vice Chair of ECSM and Dr. Dalal Alnaggar as the Conference Coordinator and the conference office provided by the ESA.

The next FIG meetings will be the 4th Regional Conference in Havana, Cuba 26-29 September, 2005 and the 5th FIG Regional Conference in Accra, Ghana 8-11 March 2006. The highlight of the four-year term of office of the current Council will be the FIG Congress 2006 to take place in Munich, Germany 8-13 October 2006 - it will be linked to INTERGEO, the biggest trade show in surveying business.

Links to other material from Cairo