The g7+, comprised of 18 fragile and conflict affected countries, met last month with spatial data experts and global policy makers to discuss the effective use of spatial data infrastructure at a conference organised by The Centre for International Earth Science Information Network and The Earth Institute at Columbia University, held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Center at Lake Como, Bellagio, Italy. The current data revolution is generating big dividends for governance around the world, however, fragile states do not appear to be benefitting from this evolution despite multiple donor investments in spatial data. Donors typically invest in multiple silo data systems rather than national scale data infrastructures and also do not usually implement with government cooperation nor open platforms for multi-stakeholder access. Together, this leaves Fragile States with an inefficient environment for coordination and decision making.
The gathering of 22 conference participant entities, including the g7+ secretariat, and technical experts from the Earth Institute, United Nations Environment Programme, World Resource Institute, Google, ESRI, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the GPC Group among others, aimed to define the long-term spatial data needs of fragile states, whilst articulating the case for significantly coordinated investments at the national scale. As part of the process of breaking out of fragility to achieve sustainable peace and development, participants agreed that fragile states must enhance their spatial data capabilities to maximise whole-of-government effectiveness. Mark Sorensen, President of the GPC Group and participant said “we are now at an ideal crossroad to draw on new and innovative information and communication technologies, and apply to new approaches of national resilience planning to bring fragile states on par with other modern governance structures”.
In order to secure the data revolution dividend in fragile states, the participants agreed on a strategy to provide collective expertise via the g7+ institutional framework; via an independent international advisory group and a technical support unit. In the first instance, an action plan for implementing the ingrained use of spatial data infrastructure would be consolidated, starting with designing systematic assessments of current spatial data capacities (as part of the current g7+ fragility assessments) and identifying core gaps and needs.
The main objective of the g7+ is to share experiences and learn from one another, and to advocate for reforms in ways the international community engages in conflict-affected states. One third of the world’s poor and 17% of the world’s seven billion live in fragile states. The 18 members of the g7+ include: Afghanistan, Burundi, CAR, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Togo.