Governance modelling of geospatial information management

This joint PhD project will be based at KU Leuven with a minimum 12 month stay at The University of Melbourne.

Project title: Governance modelling for sustainable geospatial information management using emerging technologies

Project description
The need for governing the management of geospatial information (in terms of roles, responsibilities, structures) is widely recognised as problematic at different administrative levels around the world. Therefore, the main objective of this doctorate research project is to develop and test operational models for governing the management of geospatial information in different countries, regions and areas. Those models can support multiple decision makers and policy makers for setting up sustainable governance structures (with allocated roles and responsibilities) and management activities. This socio-economically driven project does not start from scratch as sound work has already been done directly for the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management. However, the result of that work was a generic governance approach. In this project, operational models for governing specific geospatial information management initiatives – based on a set of key governance instruments – will be constructed, refined and tested for a series of cases around the world. Moreover, the models will be technically extended with issues related to data and IT-Governance. The strong KU Leuven and the University of Melbourne collaboration with their wide networks allows that the resulting models can be easily developed, tested and widely valorised.

While governance has always been a key component of geospatial information management, in recent years the need for effective governance models became even more urgent because of several political, technological, and societal developments. An important change in the context of geospatial information management in Europe happened with the adoption of the European Union (EU) Directive of 14 March 2007 establishing an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE). At the global level, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in 2015 by Member States (MS) of the United Nations (UN), and included 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets, emphasized the essential role of geospatial information in the development of the targets and indicators.

In addition to these political/policy demands for effective governance of geospatial information management, also various technological and societal developments led to an increased need for governance. A number of important technology-driven trends have a major impact on the management of geospatial information, creating previously unimaginable amounts of geospatial information and questioning our very understanding of what constitutes geospatial information. Examples of these trends refer to: Smart Cities, Digital twins, Big Data, Internet of Things, Cloud computing, Blockchain and Linked Open Data. These technological developments offer significant opportunities but also present challenges, also with regard to governance. The same applies to a number of important societal developments, such as the increased use of geospatial information by non-expert users, the collection of citizen-generation geospatial information and the increased demand for openness and transparency, which also demand new or adapted governance structures, especially to manage relationships with non-governmental actors.

While the current framework already provides a good overview of different instruments that can be used for governing geospatial information management, three main improvements are required in order to turn this framework into a set of more operational governance models:

  1. Better understanding of the different contextual variables that influence or determine the applicability and impact of a particular governance model;
  2. Further refinement of some of the currently included instruments into more clear and operational instruments and better insight into the connections between different instruments;
  3. Extension of technologically oriented governance mechanisms dealing with IT-Governance (see the enablers of COBIT – Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (ISACA, 2019).

Therefore, the main objective of this doctorate research project with KU Leuven is to develop operational models for governing geospatial information management that can be used by decision makers and policy makers for setting up sustainable relevant governance structures and management approaches (in terms of roles, responsibilities and resources) tailored for different contexts (see countries, sub-national regions, policy areas). In this context, a governance model should be seen as a conceptualization and specification of different governance instruments and the links between these instruments in a way that can be easily and effectively be implemented and used in different environments.

The project will be complemented by the project Turning the smart city vision into a reality using Digital Twin and Geospatial modelling: dissecting UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 and the collaboration will ensure a successful completion of the project.


Supervision team:

Principal Investigators (PIs)

Professor dr ir Joep Crompvoets (KU Leuven)
Professor Abbas Rajabifard (The University of Melbourne)

Co-Principal Investigators (co-PIs)

Professor dr Steven Van de Walle (KU Leuven)
Professor dr Trui Steen (KU Leuven)
Dr Jagannath Aryal (The University of Melbourne)