I bring you best greetings from the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, Björt Ólafsdóttir that unfortunately couldn’t be here with you today and asked me to address you on her behalf.
So – to her words –
We base our livelihood on natural resources. That´s one of the core reasons for why we need to manage their utilization in a sustainable way. We also want our resources to be maintained and kept in good condition for next generations. To do so we need to know as much as possible about for instance the location, size and condition of our natural resources.
Utilization management of land and its resources is one of the most important issues in current times. We are constantly trying to find the balance between nature protection and, sometimes irreversible, exploitation or even over- exploitation of natural resources.
Thanks to modern GIS technology and highly qualified experts in related disciplines we now have access to accurate and trustworthy spatial information concerning surface topography and can use them to analyze in detail for instance landscape structures, water catchment areas and watersheds, vegetation cover and vegetation types.
By adding various layers including basic information on for instance land use practices and property rights we can get a holistic overview of the condition of our natural resources and how they are utilized. High quality remote sensing data are the premises for sustainable decision making in natural resource management. This is especially true in Iceland where the nature is very sensitive and dynamic.
Even though we don‘t notices it in our every day, the topography of Iceland changes constantly due to crustal movements. We are also experiencing changes due to climate change. Our fast retreating glaciers are probably the most evident parameters for verifying that.
In addition, there are other various natural changes that can occur with a short notice – that is, natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods.
Thus, we need to monitor our nature carefully to build up a strong risk assessment plan and to capable of ensuring public safety and organize responses as well and quickly as possible when we face a catastrophic situation.
A big portion of new spatial data on Iceland is provided by satellites. The remote sense technology gets more advanced and more detailed by every year, providing better quality information at a spatial scale. There is also a rapid development in the fields of information technology and digital technology. That development already opened number of possibilities that were considered unthinkable only few years ago.
We are fortunate to have several key institutes that provide, process, and share data on Iceland‘s nature and natural resources. These are institutes such as the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, Icelandic Met Office, National Land Survey of Iceland, Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, the Icelandic Forest Service and the Environment Agency of Iceland.
Despite all the new technology, such as satellite images and GPS, it is ultimately the knowledge of the experts of these organizations and their partners that is most important when taking advantage of all the new opportunities the technology development brings. It is also important to emphasize that, in a small community like Iceland, a strong cooperation between the public institutes is the key to ensure viability and effective holistic database, accessible to the wider society.
In Iceland and most of its neighboring countries, public spatial data is available free of charge. The use of this data has grown immensely; for instance, in the field of innovation. I find this an excellent development. In Iceland, to take an example, spatial data from the National Land Survey of Iceland were made free of charge at the beginning of 2013. It gave very good results as it brought in many new users and in general, positive responses.
Another example comes from Denmark. There a recent report shows that the impact of making spatial data free of charge in Denmark are high and positive, both in terms of efficiency and increased use and innovation. The financial benefit of free spatial data in Denmark over the period of 2013-2016 is estimated to be around 3.5 billion Danish kroner and in the same period the number of users increased 75-fold and downloaded data quadrupled.
This shows very clearly that it gives great benefits to the society to offer spatial data free of charge and accessible to all potential users
I wish you a fruitful conference.