The impact of CGD/VGI on the future of GEOINT

Blog Post created by fgil on Feb 5, 2015

Crowdsourced Geospatial Data (CGD), or volunteered geographic information (VGI) as coined by professor Michael F. Goodchild (1) could be seen as (...) a special case of the more general Web phenomenon of usergenerated content (...).


According to Coleman, advances in personal positioning, Web mapping, cellular communications and wiki technologies have surpassed the original visions of the architects of spatial data infrastructure programs around the world. Using GPS-based cellphones and personal navigations systems, people now view their own position (and those of others) in real time on a backdrop of georeferenced maps and/or imagery. Similarly, they can share location information describing points of interest, places visited, recent construction, and corrections to out-of-date feature attributes. This capability to "view and provide contributions in context" is fundamental to the vision of a spatially enabled society. (2) and (3)


Furthermore, within Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), Citizen Science stands out as a class of activities that require special attention and analysis. Citizen science is likely to be the longest running of VGI activities, with some projects showing continuous effort over a century. (4)


In summary, user-generated content (UGC) platforms on the Internet have experienced a steep increase in data contributions in recent years. The ubiquitous usage of location-enabled devices, such as smartphones, allows contributors to share their geographic information on a number of selected online portals (6).


Moreover, Goodchild, recalling the experience of Wikimapia, claims that the experience of Wikimapia seems to be that accurate, large-scale information resources can be created from volunteer action. Wikimapia's accuracy varies and is most problematic for the more obscure entries that are not accessed very often. Similarly, I think VGI will be most accurate when it concerns the largest, most prominent, and most important features on the earth's surface (7)


In the last cited work (7), Goodchild points out that volunteers with specialist knowledge to monitor information; a similar approach to geographic information that relied on local specialists could work very well to clean out errors.


Thus, according to (Tatem, 2014) (8), for example, in the event of a natural disaster, disease outbreak, terrorist attack or conflict, knowing where people are and how many may be affected is vital for planning a response. But these population distribution details are largely drawn from a census – typically undertaken only every ten years (the most recent in the UK was in 2011), which means that without other sources of information the details quickly become inaccurate or incomplete.


Concluding, CGD / VGI, or locational crowdsourcing - where citizen volunteers contribute data that's georeferenced, then disseminated - is particularly useful in emergency applications because the information's timeliness is especially valuable (5), thus having a huge impact in GEOINT's future role. But, we must keep in mind that "bad information can always be dressed up to look good" as Goodchild states in previous cited work (7), and of course, that's true for what ever source might the information came from.

1 - Goodchild, M. (2007). Citizens as Censors:  the World of Volunteered Geography. [online] Available at:
http://www.ncgia.ucsb.edu/projects/vgi/docs/position/Goodchild_VGI2007.pdf[Accessed 3 Feb. 2015]

2 - Coleman, David (2012). [online] Available at:
http://www.gsdi.org/gsdiconf/gsdi12/papers/905.pdf [Accessed 3 Feb. 2015]

3 - Coleman, David et all (2009).Ijsdir.jrc.ec.europa.eu

International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructures Research, 2009, Vol. 4, 332-358. [online] Available at: http://ijsdir.jrc.ec.europa.eu/index.php/ijsdir/article/viewFile/140/223 [Accessed 3 Feb. 2015]

4 - Haklay, M., 2013, Citizen Science and Volunteered Geographic Information – overview and typology of

participation in Sui, D.Z., Elwood, S. and M.F. Goodchild (eds.), 2013. Crowdsourcing Geographic

Knowledge: Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) in Theory and Practice . Berlin: Springer. pp

105-122 DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-4587-2_7 [online] Available at: https://povesham.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/haklaycrowdsourcinggeographicknowledge.pdf [Accessed 3 Feb. 2015]

5 - Esri ArcWatch March 2011 - Volunteered Geographic Information Plays Critical Role in Crises Esri.com, (2011). Esri ArcWatch March 2011 - Volunteered Geographic Information Plays Critical Role in Crises. [online] Available at: http://www.esri.com/news/arcwatch/0311/power-of-vgi.html [Accessed 3 Feb. 2015]

6 - Neis, Pascal; Zielstra, Dennis. 2014. "Recent Developments and Future Trends in Volunteered Geographic Information Research: The Case of OpenStreetMap." Future Internet 6, no. 1: 76-106.

7 - The Role of Volunteered Geographic Information in a Postmodern GIS World. Goodchild, M. (2010). [online] Available at: http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0410/vgi.html [Accessed 3 Feb. 2015]

8 - How mobiles could aid disaster response - Agenda - The World Economic Forum, Tatem, Andrew (2014). [online] Available at: https://agenda.weforum.org/2014/11/how-mobiles-could-aid-disaster-response/ [Accessed 3 Feb. 2015]