What is Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure?

The world is on the brink of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) which is characterized by various new age technologies like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, advanced robotics, automation, smart technologies, and digital disruption. Numerous elements of the human, physical and digital environments have merged in the 4IR, leading to unparalleled societal changes, flooding the world with humongous data sets. In the past couple of years, 90 percent of the world’s data has been created from sources like transactions, social media, log records, etc. The presence of such a large amount of data has preceded the Data Economy which is thriving on analytics and value obtained from diverse data sources where the ‘location’ element has turned out to be one of the most critical requirements.

The digital ecosystem is advancing by assimilating a range of data sources including real-time data, enhanced analytical capabilities, and by moving from data to knowledge services to solve real-world problems. The changing digital ecosystem challenges the geospatial sector to cater to the needs of the next-generation geospatial infrastructure that embraces automation dynamicity and real-time delivery of knowledge.

Provided that 80% of all data has a location component, Geospatial data not just serves as an infrastructure but is also a source of knowledge for businesses and governments. A major component of the Data economy entails the Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure that adds ‘where’ aspect to any data.

In a path breaking initiative led by Geospatial World, several public and private sector enterprises from across the world have collaborated to develop the concept of Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI). The details of which are elucidated in a white paper titled, “Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure in world Economy and Society”. The paper defines GKI as “an infrastructure to integrate geospatial approaches, data and technologies into the wider digital ecosystem. In so doing it delivers the location-based knowledge, services and automation expected by economies, societies and citizens in the 4IR age.”

GKI Concept

Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure comprises 5 goals, 7 principles, and 6 elements.

Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure Goals

  • Geo-located data is the norm. Widespread geolocation grows the capital value of data, information and knowledge across governments, industry, and civil society.
  • Continuously updated, trusted and authoritative fundamental geospatial information is available at community, national and global levels — the digital scaffolding for wide-ranging initiatives from knowledge-on-demand to Digital Twins, Robotics and Automation.
  • The global digital infrastructure fully enables geospatially enabled knowledge, with industry and governments supporting this. In doing so, geospatial becomes part of the mainstream digital ecosystem.
  • An attitude of collaboration across data, analytics and technology communities to use location as a focus of Digital Twins, predictive analytics, modeling and autonomous operation.
  • Government digital policies and strategies are optimized to maximize the value of location to governments, institutions, businesses, and citizens, whilst protecting necessary security and privacy interests.
  • A full understanding of the contribution geospatial knowledge makes in a sustainable society, economy, and environment.

Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure Principles

  • Geospatial technology should integrate with established and emerging wider digital infrastructures to be a single digital ecosystem.
  • Knowledge is the focus. Humans and machines seek knowledge, not data, to make decisions.
  • Predictive. Be it in milliseconds or years, geospatial moves from insight to foresight.
  • Be led by users, based on the knowledge needed, not data and applications available.
  • Take achievable actions now and then scale; success cannot be achieved overnight.
  • Agility is inbuilt. Innovative, dynamic and agile solutions are far better able to respond to global challenges, technology change and people’s expectations in a rapidly developing world.
  • Decentralized. The web is naturally decentralized, with data and application value chains becoming more complex across wider ranges of partnerships.
  • Collaborative. To more quickly meet societies’ global sustainability challenges, including the digital divide.


Image Caption: Six elements of GKI (Image source: Geospatial World GKI White Paper)


GKI incorporates data, technology, policy, and people to ensure smooth provision and use of geospatial intelligence and knowledge to the broader ecosystem. It endeavors to ensure geospatial is everyone’s business by developing a next-generation interconnected platform wherein geospatial data from different disciplines formats and organizations are integrated in an organized and usable way, thus creating a geospatial supported decision-making system.

By leveraging many new opportunities enabled by 4IR GKI accelerates automation and knowledge-on-demand. It is not just relevant in the developed countries but also to the developing ones and supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals that is to be achieved by 2030.


The White Paper advocates that the United Nations Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (UN-IGIF) should be the framework of choice for nations to build the geospatial information essential to a digital ecosystem. However, GKI supports this in a much wider way and sees agility as a key principle. The report very clearly explains that GKI recognizes the importance of the UN IGIF as the basis for nations to create, share and use geospatial information. But, as described, this is one part of GKI, which moves beyond this objective to joining it with industry thinking at the far wider digital ecosystem. Just like UN IGIF, GKI also uses the same web infrastructure and concepts that are driving wider knowledge, societal changes, and economic growth. It also keeps the users at the centre and helps governments, industry, academia and citizens create a digital infrastructure that can embrace knowledge and automation.

Over the past 40 years, there has been a great leap in the geospatial ecosystem. The governments are now focusing on opening geospatial data that is accessible to everyone for its wider usefulness. Many countries have already established National Spatial Data Infrastructure that can deliver significant local, national, and regional value. The report suggests that “GKI develops from NSDI focus on ‘data provision’ to ‘knowledge creation’ and foresight. Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure notion takes that step by maximizing the power of location within the digital ecosystem, making use of the 4IR technologies and the growing digital infrastructure.”

Need for Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure

Location information holds immense capabilities that enable governments to take data driven decisions and define the best suited intercessions required to deliver citizen centric services. It helps businesses to make planned decisions and allocate resources and investment logically. Geospatial information has now touched the lives of hundreds and billions making the world more connected and comfortable with New Age technology influencing geospatial adoption across user segments.

When the entire world fights a common enemy in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, location information becomes a crucial element for governments and people all around the world. It helped governments to inform citizens about areas where the outbreak was severe; health organizations to analyze the spread; multilateral organizations to assist communities; and it helped the common man to locate nearby hospitals, grocery shops, and now vaccination centres.

Geospatial information provides the digital correlation between a place, its people, and their behaviors. It is also used to co-relate and depict the impact of the past, present and the probable future. This in turn extends the benefit of data to all stakeholders, including citizens, communities, businesses, and governments. Geospatial information has become a momentous factor for national infrastructure and a knowledge economy. It is the new digital vogue on which nations can take evidence-based decisions through a blueprint of what happens where in the country and thus giving answers on what means should be integrated that can contribute to economic growth, national security, sustainable social development, environmental sustainability, and national prosperity.

Governments, equally at the national and local levels, collect substantial amounts of geospatial data and location information. For example, databases of educational institutes and their performance, flood risk data, and mobile phone ownership data. Nevertheless, this information is commonly not up to date, or of appropriate value for effectual decision-making. Thus, it is essential for governments and national geospatial agencies to consider the country’s corresponding geospatial readiness that can further help build policies to move towards digital transformation. As increasing digital and geospatial divide adds challenges it is important for governments to invest in fostering a positive and collaborative methodology towards building geospatial infrastructure and policy outlines. It is crucial that countries create a collaboration and partnership paradigm to build together the geospatial knowledge platform, incorporating all stakeholders.

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