Our Mission

To benefit society by promoting the development and realization of Digital Earth

The concept of Digital Earth was developed in a speech written for delivery by Gore at the opening of the California Science Center in 1998. What has always fascinated me about this speech is the ability to foresee what would have happened only many years later even considering that the technologies available at that time were not at all adequate to implement the vision of "Digital Earth as a multi-resolution, three -dimensional representation of the planet into which we can embed vast quantities of geo-referenced data" easily accessible.

 

What I also find surprising is the following sentence "..no one organization in government, industry or academia could undertake such a project .." and the ability to anticipate today effects of digital transformation ".. although some of the data for Digital Earth would be in the public domain it might also become a digital marketplace for companies selling a vast array of commercial imagery and value-added information services.".  In fact we are now in the era of the "digital economy" dominated by commercial platforms and am increasing number of "data" companies making business by providing big data analytics services. For people of my age most of the statements in that speech seemed like science fiction when they were formulated.

 

Al Gore also made a list of the relevant technologies for Digital Earth implementation (e.g. computational science, mass storage, broadband networks, ..). It is easy to recognise that all these technologies made significant progresses so contributing to the successful implementation of first generation Digital Earth.

 

I became aware about Digital Earth in 2003 when I attended the International Symposium on Digital Earth dedicated to Sustainable Development in Brno. The keynote speakers made clear to me that the development of Digital Earth is highly beneficial for disaster management, environmental planning, protection of biodiversity, .. more in general, for any action aiming to study and preserve our planet.

 

I so decided to offer my help becoming a founder member of the International Society for Digital Earth in 2006. Since then I contribute with my job aiming to support the creation of the European Spatial Data Infrastructure and I engaged in developing the vision for the next generation Digital Earth.

 

In addition, since 2016 I am studying the impact of Digital Transformation on the economy and the society. In this way I became aware about opportunities and a challenges of the digital marketplace mentioned in Al Gore speech. Meanwhile together with my team we continue analysing the impact of novel technologies relevant for Digital Earth (including Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Block chain, API,…).

 

This forces me to reflect even more about the validity of the original concept Digital Earth and the need or not to review it. I personally believe that the principles and vision proposed in 1999 not only are still valid but are becoming more relevant in a period of increasing fragility and vulnerability of our planet.

 

Any technological progress will certainly help in realising the full potential of Digital Earth but as well will create new challenges not envisaged in the original vision (e.g. ethic and privacy of personal data, access to business data for public good, dual use of infrastructures, hyper connectivity, data governance of billions of sensors providing real time information, energy consumption by intensive computing, …).

 

As elected President of ISDE it is my intention to continue raising awareness and further promote the implementation on next generation Digital Earth.

 

 

Alessandro ANNONI

President, International Society for Digital Earth

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