Vanessa Lawrence: In our crowded world, geography is a vital tool

From a speech by the chief executive of Ordnance Survey, at the International Geographical Congress in Glasgow
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The Independent Online

Geography has always fascinated me. The sheer variety of landscapes, climates and cultures across the globe is staggering. Good maps are fabulous vehicles for communicating information about places, but geography is not just for the classroom. It is vital in helping make good decisions, because in a crowded world the focus of geography has moved from finding more to managing better.

Geography has always fascinated me. The sheer variety of landscapes, climates and cultures across the globe is staggering. Good maps are fabulous vehicles for communicating information about places, but geography is not just for the classroom. It is vital in helping make good decisions, because in a crowded world the focus of geography has moved from finding more to managing better.

We live in an age of information, and the technology that processes it increasingly affects our lives. Satellites gather and transmit vast amounts of data about the planet, while the internet and mobile devices enable information to be instantly available virtually anywhere. However, information is of little use in isolation - it needs to be inter-connected. Most information has some kind of reference, such as an address or a grid reference, to a location. Exploiting this geographic reference to connect different types of information can be immensely powerful.

Technology is bringing maps to life. Governments and corporations are rapidly coming to appreciate that good decision-making is helped by geographic information. Modern mapping data is vital to respond to emergencies, manage resources and minimise risks. Additionally, we are beginning to see location used to filter the information sent to the mobile phone in our pocket.

Geography is coming of age. In business, location is now the fourth driver alongside revenue, time and cost. However, let its importance not detract from the pleasure of a good map or the joy of discovering new places.

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