The announcement that the Geospatial Information Technology Association will now focus heavily on geospatial for infrastructure solutions with their annual conference renamed the Geospatial Infrastructure Solutions Conference coincided with our thoughts to launch Vector1 Media to focus on the infrastructure space.
As a longstanding conference organizer myself, I empathize with GITA’s difficulties in attracting large numbers to their annual event. In a maturing geospatial market with a consistently consolidating utility sector, the audience size was increasingly hard to maintain. The conference business is hugely tied to momentum from the previous event, and it was time for a dramatic change to shake things up and provide more vitality and an extended audience.
The conference industry as a whole faced very rough times after the travel restrictions imposed by 9/11. I had some success combating a shrinking audience with the Canadian GeoTec Event that I managed by taking a technology-centric approach rather than a discipline-centric approach. The idea was to take a leading-edge approach to conference content that focused on technology rather than discipline. Conference tracks evolved from such offerings as Natural Resources, Municipal Government and Utilities to 3D Visualization, Infrastructure and Interoperability and Enterprise Integration. The event succeeded in drawing those that had an interest in pushing the boundaries of possibility. Attendee numbers responded well to that approach, and the event continues on with some vigor without me.
The technology-centric approach falls short though when it comes to creating the deep connections that are possible when the audience shares the same practice and can relate quickly and readily based on the work that they do every day. In addition, the connection between infrastructure-oriented practitioners needs to strengthen in order to realize the promise of the tools and to see much-needed gains in efficiency.
I see that GITA plans symposiums on Green GIS as well as Geospatial Dimensions of Emergency Response. These timely topics along with a strong focus on fulfilling the promise of GIS for infrastracture make it a compelling event.
I commend GITA for making this bold move and look forward to witnessing the results in Seattle in March.