The United Nations aims to take a leadership role in international geodata co-operation and infrastructure.
Last month the United Nations published a report calling Internet access essential to the exercise of human rights like freedom of expression. This week the global organization has said that geospatial data is "as important for countries as the building of roads and telecommunications networks."
"Geospatial information has application in many fields," the organization said in a release issued last night, "including humanitarian, peace and security, environmental and development challenges facing the world, such as climate change, natural disasters, pandemics, famines, population displacement and food and economic crises."
In order to support the development of geospatial data systems throughout the world, the UN has voted to create a committee that will co-ordinate international collaboration and gather knowledge from geodata experts around the world, in order to "serve as the coordinating entity of the global geospatial information community."
The UN produces its own geodata as well, mapping resources, roads and crises in regions where it does humanitarian aid, for example.
Will the new committee reach beyond the ESRI-loving traditional geodata world? Will its experts include agile, web-savvy, API- and mashup-loving, mobile mapping, open standards geo 2.0 people? For the sake of that data providing maximum value over the long run, we can hope so.
As the UN rightly recognizes, geodata offers substantial value as a development platform.