Geo Data for Underserved Rural Communities

The world’s population is moving to urban areas at an ever-increasing rate, but there are significant numbers of people still living in rural communities throughout the world (see World Bank Rural Population Map). Because of their low density and the expense to map it, national governments are often the primary source of geospatial data for rural areas. The natural resources and agricultural activity within these regions are very important for the economic development and land management of a country.

In some rural areas, there may be professionally created maps from the World Bank (Data Catalog) to support development programs or crowd-sourced maps created by NGOs such as OpenStreetMap Foundation to support humanitarian activities (Missing Maps and HOT). It’s encouraging to see both private and public sector resources are being devoted to help the hinterlands get mapped. But in reality, getting good geo-data in rural areas can be hard or requires self-funding, which is expensive.

Source: United State Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Reconnect Land & Grant Program – Project Map.

In the developed world, there are more choices, but rural areas in these markets also suffer from underdevelopment, economic decline, and less data to help local governments manage limited resources. In the US about 19 per cent and in Europe 24 per cent of the population live in rural communities.  That’s over 170 million people, too big an electorate to ignore. There are several major government programs to assist in cultural preservation, infrastructure modernization, and overall economic development of areas outside of cities, including bringing high-speed internet (rural broadband) to the countryside.

HxGN Content Program offers some unique advantages that serves rural communities well.  Both continental Europe and the United States are covered by 30cm aerial imagery that is map-accurate and kept up-to-date. This means rural governments and utilities can use this imagery as a much-needed base map. For example, Pitkin County Colorado, where the City of Aspen is based, found the quality and affordability of HxGN Imagery Program the best choice for their County GIS program.

Source: Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure – Mid-American Energy Company service area conflation project.

And in Iowa, Mid-American Energy Company needed to reposition their electric distribution network with other GIS layers, including government parcel boundaries and city street maps using Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure’s G/Tech solution. They found the currency, accuracy and resolution of Hexagon aerial imagery creates the best base map to register or conflate these various vector layers to one, trusted source, matching ground control points with visually recognizable features within Hexagon aerial photos.

HxGN Content Program is moving to higher resolution in 2020 and beyond. The goal is to bring higher resolution imagery to wide areas of the US and Europe. With a 30cm base map already available and higher quality geo data coming, 170 million people living in rural areas of the US and Europe stand to benefit greatly.

We often focus on the large cities and metropolitan areas needing the best, highest quality geo data. But our rural communities that are transitioning to new, digital economies also need high-quality maps to build the infrastructure for their future.

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