Spatially Enabled Society

Joint publication of FIG-Task Force on "Spatially Enabled Society"
in Cooperation with GSDI Association
and with the support of Working Group 3 of the PCGIAP

Edited by
Daniel Steudler and Abbas Rajabifard


This publication as a .pdf-file (72 pages - 3.03 MB)

The publication translated into German (60 pages - 2.7 MB)


This publication on “Spatially Enabled Society” is the culmination of a three-year effort by the Task Force that was established by the General Assembly of the Federation in May 2009. The Task Force included representations from the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association and Working Group 3 of the United Nations sponsored Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific. This is a collaborative effort led by the FIG Task Force and the publication has been compiled and edited by Dr. Daniel Steudler, Chair of the FIG Task Force on Spatially Enabled Society, and Prof. Dr.
Abbas Rajabifard, President of the GSDI Association.

The rapid development and increased demand for spatial information infrastructures in many jurisdictions these past many years have made spatial information an invaluable tool in policy formulation and evidence-based decision making. Spatial enablement, that is, the ability to add location to almost all existing information, unlocks the wealth of existing knowledge about social, economic and environmental matters, play a vital role in understanding and addressing the many challenges that we face in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. Spatial enablement requires information to be collected, updated, analysed, represented, and communicated, together
with information on land ownership and custodianship, in a consistent manner to underpin good governance of land and its natural resources, whole-of-government efficiency, public safety and security towards the well being of societies, the environment and economy.

The main issue societies have to focus on is probably less about spatial data, but much more about “managing all information spatially”. This is a new paradigm that still has to be explored, deliberated and understood in the context of a spatially enabled society. This collaboration between FIG and GSDI is within the aim of the MoU signed in 2010 between these two professional bodies. Together with PCGIAP WG3, this collaboration has allowed for the participation and contribution from contributors and authors with varied expertise, from differing backgrounds and in different regions of the world. We would like to congratulate the FIG Office, members of the Task Force, all contributors, all co-authors and the two editors for this superb effort. We extend the deep appreciation and gratitude of our Federation and Membership for their invaluable and unselfish contributions.

CheeHai Teo
April, 2012

Executive Summary

The needs of societies are increasingly of global scale and require spatial data and information about their land, water and other resources – on and under ground – in order to monitor, plan, and manage them in sustainable ways. Spatial data and information, land administration, land management, and land governance play crucial roles in this.

Spatial enablement is a concept that adds location to existing information, thereby unlocking the wealth of existing knowledge about land and water, its legal and economical situation, its resources, access, and potential use and hazards. Societies and their governments need to become spatially enabled in order to have the right tools and information at hand to take the right decisions. SES – including its government – is one that makes use and benefits from a wide array of spatial data, information, and services as a means to organize its land and water related activities.

This publication focuses essentially on six fundamental elements, which are required to realize the vision of a SES:

  1. a legal framework to provide the institutional structure for data sharing, discovery, and access;
  2. a sound data integration concept to ensure multi-sourced data integration and interoperability;
  3. a positioning infrastructure to enable and benefit from precise positioning possibilities;
  4. a spatial data infrastructure to facilitate data sharing, to reduce duplication and to link data producers, providers and value adders to data users based on a common goal of data sharing;
  5. land ownership information, as the dominant issue in the interactions between government, businesses and citizens relating to land and water resources;
  6. data and information to respect certain basic principles and to increase the availability and interoperability of free to re-use spatial data from different actors and sectors.

Land and spatial information professionals play a primary role in translating raw data into useable spatial knowledge resources. These professions should ensure that both the social and technical systems in which spatial enablement will operate within are well understood. Spatial enablement can only be effective when it is designed with the specific needs of the jurisdiction in mind.

The concept of SES is offering new opportunities for government and the wider society, but it needs to move beyond the current tendency for the responsibility to achieve SES to lie solely with governments. SES will be more readily achieved by increasing involvement from the private sector, and in the same vein, if the surveying and spatial industries start to look toward other industries for best practices in service delivery.

Future activities need to take into account emerging trends in spatial information and the new opportunities they present for the application of spatial technologies and geographic information. These trends include among others:

  • location as the fourth element of decision-making;
  • differentiating between authoritative and volunteered information, yet recognizing
    the importance and value of both types of information towards spatial
    enablement and the enrichment of societies;
  • growing awareness for openness of data e.g. licensing, and resultant improvements
    in data quality;
  • move towards service provision.

Copyright © International Federation of Surveyors and the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association (GSDI),
April 2012.
All rights reserved

International Federation of Surveyors (FIG)
Kalvebod Brygge 31–33
DK-1780 Copenhagen V
Tel. + 45 38 86 10 81

Published in English
Copenhagen, Denmark
ISBN 978-87-90907-97-6

Published by
International Federation of Surveyors (FIG)
Front cover: Amman, Jordan. Photograph by Robin McLaren,
with cadastral map overlay from Switzerland.
Design: International Federation of Surveyors, FIG


Spatially Enabled Society

Joint publication of FIG-Task Force on "Spatially Enabled Society"
in Cooperation with GSDI Association
and with the support of Working Group 3 of the PCGIAP

Edited by
Daniel Steudler and Abbas Rajabifard

Published in English
Translated into German

Published by The International Federation of Surveyors (FIG), April 2012
Copenhagen, Denmark
ISBN: 978-87-90907-97-6

Printed copies can be ordered from:
FIG Office, Kalvebod Brygge 31-33, DK-1780 Copenhagen V, DENMARK,
Tel: + 45 38 86 10 81, E-mail: