An idea that started off in 1995 and which required a mentality shift to ensure readiness in data and information sharing, the abolition of data hoarding and the creation of collaborative protocols that ensure a gather-one/use-many scenario within a spatial construct, is coming to fruition.
A €7 million ERDF project has been announced as conceptualised and driven by Professor Saviour Formosa (Faculty for Social Wellbeing) who initiated a process whereby data is built around a spatial-core and which resultant information could be used by both policy makers and academics to create knowledge and in turn action. Interestingly, this project was not simply based on a dream but on years of hard-work, entailing a process took 22-years to achieve fruition, Such was required due to the need to ensure the elimination of barriers created through lack of access to data, the transposition of the INSPIRE Directive and a collaborative approach across all government entities. The process was aided through the successful conclusion of a Professor Formosa’s previous €5 million ERDF project that enabled the creation and dissemination of environmental and 3D terrestrial and bathymetric data.
The SIntegraM (Spatial Data Integration for the Maltese Islands Spatial Data Integration for the Maltese Islands: Developing Integrated National Spatial Information Capacity) project, is being part-financed by the European Regional and Development Fund and will be led by the Planning Authority with full partnership from all Ministries and their relative entities. Professor Formosa was instrumental in conceptualising and now driving the project, which was given a boost through the championing of Perit Vincent Cassar (PA Board Chairperson) and Mr Johann Buttigieg (PA Executive Chairperson) as well as the designated project leader Ms Ashley Hili.
The project will benefit the University of Malta due to its cross-thematic approach that spans all Faculties and Institutes both through access to data, access to data capture and analytical technologies as well as access to expertise. The project will deliver a strategic approach to spatial data, integration of vital base datasets, new legislation as well as training, The main concept built around the creation of data creation protocols, information exchange, access to data, and inherently data protection and privacy, In terms of infrastructure, the project will acquire systems, equipment, data capture devices using aerial, terrestrial and marine technologies, in addition to analytical and dissemination tools that will ensure inter-governmental data dissemination, and national preparedness.
Examples of integrated research that span disciplines could include the analysis of air pollution as carried by air currents as affecting the health of children who live close to an amenity site or the investigation of potential development as it affects landscapes and skylines through a euclidean or viewshed approach, in turn resulting in the calculation of flooding that in turn alerts the Civil Protection and Transport entities to close off areas at risk. There are 22 years’ worth of ideas in the pipeline.
The project is set to change the way information is viewed, accessed and given academic value - added in turn enhancing the University's role in bringing about social change.