23 October 2018
A GIS workshop organized for students. GIS allows users to connect with different data based on geographic location. Photo: Hong Kong Baptist University
A GIS workshop organized for students. GIS allows users to connect with different data based on geographic location. Photo: Hong Kong Baptist University

GIS shows immense potential

This is an unforgettable year. Twenty years ago, I was enlightened at the university and believed that knowledge of geographic information system (GIS) could benefit Hong Kong. I started my business then.

In fact, GIS is more than an electronic map. It is also a platform that allows us to connect with different data based on geographic location. It can cover data on mountains and rivers, roads and buildings, meteorological changes, demographic characteristics and even real-time traffic, real-time images uploaded by the public and Internet of things (loT), etc., together with graphical presentation and analysis, making it easier for us to understand the situation and facilitate decision making.

It has been 20 years since I started my business. Thanks to my colleagues’ hard work and the clients’ support, GIS is now widely used in government, private enterprises and non-governmental organizations. We also keep abreast of technology, with GIS evolving from desktop to tablet and mobile phone, and then cloud, so as to allow our clients to use GIS whenever and wherever they need it.

User exchange inspires new ideas

As Jack Dangermond, president and founder of Esri said, the application of GIS is “limited only by the imagination of those who use it”. In the Esri China (Hong Kong) User Conference to be held in late November, we will bring together hundreds of GIS professionals from Hong Kong to exchange experience, and more importantly, inspire new ideas.

We also honor outstanding organizations and works. This year, the Hong Kong Police Force is being awarded the Special Achievement in GIS Award 2017. The winner was selected from tens of thousands of nominations worldwide. The force is the only organization in Hong Kong and the only law enforcement organization in the Asia Pacific region to win the award. Kenneth Wong, a student from The University of Hong Kong, also accomplished a remarkable work in monitoring noise pollution of Western District, and won the champion of the Esri Young Scholar Award 2017.

Using big data

I believe that a major breakthrough in GIS is coming soon, mainly due to the increasing use of big data. Dr. Amen Ra Mashariki, a smart city data expert from the United States, will deliver a keynote speech at the user conference. He had acted as director of the Mayor’s Office Data Analytics in New York City, and has extensive experience in using data to enhance city operation effectiveness, increase transparency of government administration and to help enterprises, especially small companies.

In the chief executive’s recent policy address, Carrie Lam mentioned the need to open government’s big data. We are pleased that the government is taking such an important initiative, but what is the key to success for implementation? How do we overcome the challenges in promoting departmental collaboration? How do we maximize the effectiveness of collected data?

Big cities around the world also face similar problems when they promote data-sharing. Dr. Mashariki’s experience sharing is especially important at this moment when we are heading for open data.

What will happen in the next 20 years? With the opening and sharing of data, it will inject new impetus into the city and provide new opportunities for the creativity of society, especially the younger generation.

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The writer is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hong Kong. She is also one of the locally-bred IT entrepreneurs of Hong Kong.

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