Creating a community information utility
Phil Schnetzer, left, of Landmark Geographic Solutions, demonstrates a detailed interactive map to NSCC Annapolis principal Jim Stanley, West Nova MP Greg Kerr and Bob Maher, who heads the Applied Geomatics Research Group. L.Powell
BY LAWRENCE POWELL
ANNAPOLIS COUNTY SPECTATOR
Southwest Nova Scotia? There’s an app for that.
At least, there could be soon if a study concludes a web-based community information utility (CIU) for Southwest Nova Scotia is feasible. Information as a product - like water or electricity - could become an important economic generator, say proponents.
March 17 at NSCC, Middleton, West Nova MP Greg Kerr announced $38,000 from the federal government to back the study that could lead to a database for the region, providing subscribers with information on local geography, agriculture, property boundaries, climate, health statistics and more. It would be only the second community information utility in Canada, the first in a rural area.
Bob Maher, who heads the Applied Geomatics Research Group at NSCC, said, if the study supports the CIU concept for Southwest Nova Scotia, going down that path won’t be for the faint of heart. It involves community, business and government partnerships - and there won’t be any room for the silo research mentality.
“We’re working on a global level,” he said. “If we don’t co-operate, we won’t exist.”
To make it work, researchers must share secrets and keep scaling it up, starting locally and going to the world.
As for the mobile app? Maher said the CIU would be web-based, but was confident it would not be long before mobile apps would be available to allow cell phone and other platform users to download Southwest Nova Scotia into their portable devices.
The CIU will provide digital geographic information for the five counties in South West Nova Scotia, a rural region with a low and dispersed population. The only other CIU in Canada is in Sault St. Marie, which cost $5 million to develop.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to use the expertise of NSCC’s applied research team to participate in a study that may lead to economic benefits in our region,” said Jim Stanley, principal of NSCC’s Annapolis Valley Campus. “It is our goal to develop a tool to help create innovative business and employment opportunities that will be of benefit to our students and our community.”
“We’re working on a global level. If we don’t co-operate, we won’t exist.” Bob Maher, Applied Geomatics Research Group, NSCC
He said the NSCC is a framework within which people prepare for the workforce through initiatives that are linked to the community.
“This new initiative is where geomatics is heading in the long term -- information as a utility that can be accessed by the community,” Stanley said.
Jobs, economic growth
“Protecting and creating jobs and ensuring economic growth in all regions remains our government's number one priority,” said Kerr. “A utility providing information on surveying and related scientific knowledge as well as global positioning and mapping could stimulate new business opportunities and provide employment in this region.”
Kerr said the CIU project is an outside-the-box initiative that isn’t about mimicking or copying, traditional or even normal.
“It’s not about propping up what’s here, it’s about building the future,” he said. “If there was ever a time in our rural history to work together and support each other, the time is now. We must pick our opportunities and go after them.”
The Annapolis Digby Economic Development Agency is adding $2,000, identifying the geomatics sector as having significant economic potential in the region, especially in the Lawrencetown and Middleton areas.
The CIU project was identified as a priority by Team Southwest Nova Scotia, a committee of community and government representatives launched in April 2010 that works with local businesses and communities to identify and develop strategic long-term solutions to help the economy of Southwest Nova Scotia.