Building the road to AI – how cartography links data integration, meaning and geospatial knowledge transmission

Spatial information describes the geographical location of objects and features all around us. Knowing and understanding where these features are and how they relate to each other and different types of information, underpin national development, resilience and decision-making in an effort to achieve Sustainable Development and solve other challenges facing society. Decisions are often made based on knowledge, e.g. of the environment, provided by maps. The better the maps and their knowledge transmission, the better the decisions.

All countries need geospatial information to address their national strategic priorities. However, all countries have different levels of geospatial maturity, which means data available to make maps for informed locational decision making varies greatly. The United Nations Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (UN-IGIF) provides a basis and guide for developing, integrating and strengthening national arrangements in geospatial information management. The aim is for these data to be accessible to the public, and used in teaching and research to illuminate sustainable development challenges and solutions.

In this workshop, hosted by the ICA Commission on Integrated Geospatial Information for Cartography, Commission on Cartography for Sustainable Development and Commission on Topographic Mapping, you will learn more about the development and activities of the UN-GGIM and UN-IGIF, how countries across Europe can adopt and implement the framework, how data can be provided via national Geoportals and how cartography builds the road to AI. You will be challenged to access existing data to make maps. We then invite you to provide feedback about how usable data are for making maps. Your feedback will be valuable for the future of governmental spatial data infrastructures. 

Organisers: International Cartographic Association (ICA) Commission on Integrated Geospatial Information for Cartography, Commission on Topographic Mapping and Commission on Cartography and Sustainable Development
Date & Time: Sunday, September 8, 2024, 09:00 – 17:00
Venue: to be announced
Fee: no charges for this workshop
Registration Link or Contact
Registration Deadline: Thursday, May 30, 2024
Max. Number of Participants: 50
Contact for Further information: Anja Hopfstock, Kathryn Arnold Ricker,
David Forrest,  Markus Jobst, Lukasz Halik



Time Speaker
09:00 – 09:30
  • Welcome and short introduction to the workshop
ICA commissions
09:30 – 10:00
  • Informative overview of UN-GGIM, UN-GGIM:Europe and UN-IGIF
James Norris (UK)
  • Examples of UN-IGIF implementations, Development of Country Action Plans (CAP), Emergency Mapping
10:30 – 10:45
  • Wrap-up 
11:15 – 13:00

14:00 –15:45

  • Subsessions
    • Accessibility of National Topographic Maps
    • Create a local thematic map for an SDG indicator 
    • Emergency Mapping
    • Road to AI – unpaved?
16:00 – 16:30
  • Discussion of different perspectives on cartography for UN-IGIF
16:30 – 17:00
  • Wrap-up and Closing
ICA commissions

Abstracts of the subsessions

Accessibility of national Topographic maps

National topographic maps play a crucial role in various fields such as geography, environmental management, urban planning, and emergency response. However, the accessibility of these maps, particularly for individuals in different countries may warry. One of the access points to topographic data may be the national geoportal. It serve as a centralized platform for accessing and disseminating geospatial data, including topographic maps, to various stakeholders, ranging from government agencies and researchers to the general public. Ensuring the accessibility of topographic maps within these geoportals is paramount to promote inclusivity, democratize access to geographic information, and foster informed decision-making at local, national, and global levels. In this subsection we would like to discuss how different countries provide access to topographic maps via national geoportals.

Creating a local thematic map for reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 

Creating a map requires thoughtful consideration and effort to compile a successful, comprehensive, thematic-pointed, and communicative visualization. Map creation starts with a plan, identifying data, and converting them into useful information. In this workshop, you will learn the full process and important considerations at each step. Spatial data are special. For example, the selection of an appropriate cartographic projection or coordinate system for the location being featured on your map has a significant impact on the communication and accuracy of the map. The styling, and visual variables, such as size or color scheme and composition impact the feel and understanding of what is presented on the map. While the book published by the UN and the ICA, Mapping for a Sustainable World, focuses on cartographic principles for mapping the SDGs globally, most countries or communities need to map the SDG indicators at a more local level. Using examples from the book, the instructor (and co-author of this book) will show you how to adapt these instructions to map at the Second Administrative Level Boundary (SALB) or more locally. In this workshop, we will run through all steps of thematic map creation, and decision-making points, and give guidance for general cartographic considerations when mapping the UN-SDG indicators. Participants will be offered the opportunity to put these new cartography principles into practice using open-source (free!) geographic information system (GIS) software.  Skills learned in this workshop are transferable to other places, geographic scales, and data types. After this workshop, participants will have the ability to make their maps and understand the full life cycle of SDG indicator data.

Emergency Mapping

Emergency mapping is a very specific way of map production. In most cases there is almost no time for the creation process, the most actual data sources are needed and data wrangling in order to make these sources usable and relevant, has to be done in near real-time. 

In this workshop two exemplary examples of emergency mapping will be evaluated and the possibility to actively participate in Emergency Mapping highlighted. 

First, by example of the “Copernicus EMS On Demand Mapping” ( we will explore the data sources, the procedures and the end product of this worldwide mapping service. It provides on-demand detailed information for selected emergency situations that arise from natural or man-made disasters anywhere in the world.

Second, by exploring the “Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team” ( we will identify a quality assured mapping procedure, the power of a huge number of collaborating individuals in open mapping and the impact of the resulting emergency maps by examples (e.g. Earthquake in Turkey:

..and possibly taking action for an actual mapping project. 

How to build the road to AI?

Geospatial information is the essential foundation for many sectors. It is the basis for decision makers to face challenges of climate change and to foster the sustainable development of economy and society. The demand for geospatial is thus increasing and an ever-increasing amount of geospatial data produced.

On the hand hand side the technical development supports us to produce and collect wonderful accurate and real-time data, but at the same time, we struggle with the quantity of data.

We need to focus on efficient ways to balance the speed of data collection and processing for the right purpose, always keeping in mind trustworthiness and data privacy.

In this session we want to discuss the potential of cartography building the road to AI as well as any technical and organisational issues and barriers.

Advances in Topographic Mapping – Conference 27-28 October 2022

The ongoing development of technologies and datasets present new challenges and opportunities for producers and users of topographic mapping. In particular, AI and machine learning present new methods for facilitating the design and production of topographic maps, while AR/VR offer new possibilities for users to engage with topographic data. This virtual conference aims to provide a forum for national mapping organisations and academic researchers to discuss the strategic implementation of these technologies and to explore their potential. This includes the  use of open-source data for national mapping and the creation of new topographic products, such as immersive virtual geographic environments. The conference offers a forum for national mapping organisations and academic researchers to address key issues in the utilisation of new technologies and to explore opportunities for collaboration, particularly for establishing best practice and a relevant research agenda.

The conference is organised jointly by the ICA Commission on Topographic Mapping, the ICA Working Group on Digital Transformation of National Mapping Agencies and the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.

Conference Topics

  • Topographic Mapping and Immersive Virtual Environments (IVE)
  • Utilising Open-Source Data in Topographic Mapping
  • Developments in Topographic Map Production
  • Enhancing user experience of, and trust in, topographic maps


Explore the full conference programme here.


The registration fee for the conference is 50 EUR (25 EUR for Students). Please click here to register online. Deadline for registration: 21 October 2022.

Keynote speaker

Mark Cygan – Esri’s Director of National Mapping Solutions. Mark is actively participating in the; United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), UN-GGIM Geospatial Societies Board Member (and past Chair), User Community of Geospatial Authorities Executive Secretary and on the International Map Industry Association (IMIA) Board of Directors and chair of their Programs Committee (Events, Affiliation Partnerships and Awards)


If you have any questions regarding the conference, please get in touch with the local organiser, Dr Łukasz Halik (Vice-Chair of the ICA Commission on Topographic Mapping) via email: topovicechair(at)

Pre-ICC Workshop on Cartography as a Cultural Encounter: How East and West have Mapped and Influenced Each Other

The ICA Commission on the History of Cartography and ICA Commission on Topographic Mapping take pleasure in inviting you to their jointly organised workshop held before the 29th International Cartographic Conference on 15 July 2019.

Location: National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), Room Uranus

Final Programme

Please check the workshop website for updates.

  • 10:00–10:15 Walk in with coffee/tea
  • 10:15–10:30 Opening address by the organizers 

Session I – Eastern Cartographic Practices and their Echo in the West

  • 10:30–11:05 World image of early modern Japan, Professor Hirotada Kawamura
  • 11:05–11:40 Early modern maps of Japan as sources of Western cartography of East Asia during the 18th and 19th century, Professor Shigeru Kobayashi
  • 11:40–12:15 Early Chinese Bronze Ritual Vessel Cartography: How Trees, Mounds, Spirals, and Ponds Were Used to Document Early China’s Landscape, Bruce Jones

12:15–13:30 Lunch break (on your own)

Session II – From Tradition to Modernity: Diverse Cartographic Cultures in India

  • 13:30–14:05 Cartographic history of India: Mapping India from the early modern ages till 20th century, Ankita Medhi
  • 14:05–14:40 The role of cartography in tiger conservation of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, India, Bhanwar Vishvendra Raj Singh

14:40–15:00 Coffee break

Session III – Between the Old and The New World: A Cartographic Encounter

  • 15:00–15:35 How East and West Cartographic Studies Influenced the Most Important 16th Century Ottoman Cartographer of Piri Reis and His World Maps, Aytaç Yürükçü
  • 15:35–16.05 Jesuit View of Americas: A Cultural Encounter in the New World, Mirela Altić
  • 16:05–16:15 Closing remarks

Map Exhibitions

Two exhibitions concerned with the history of cartography are being held during the ICC in Tokyo. The first is an exhibit at the National Diet Library (NDL) located in the central part of Tokyo. On display are seven sets of maps which were selected from the collection of NDL as notable examples of Japanese early modern maps. Second is a special exhibition of maps of Japan by Sekisui Nagakubo (1717-1801) focusing on the role of his maps in the transition of the Western geographical image of Japan when they were brought to Europe. The exhibit is being held at the Koga Historical Museum, Koga City, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Both exhibitions are announced on the ICC homepage as Technical Visits on Wednesday 17 July as T-Course B. For more information on the exhibitions see

Please find more information on the workshop website:

Mapping Empires – Thank you for an interesting symposium!

The ICA Commission on Topographic Mapping joined forces with the ICA Commission on the History of Cartography to organise Mapping Empires: Colonial Cartographies of Land and Sea in Oxford from 13th to 15th September 2018. Over 60 delegates from around the world took part in this very special event, which was hosted by the city’s Bodleian Libraries. A wide range of superb presentations gave new insights on topographic mapping initiatives and colonial cartography and brought new perspectives on their legacy. The proceedings will be published next year in a special volume by Springer. Such was the success of the partnership that the Commissions are already planning a pre-conference workshop for Tokyo in 2019. Updates will be available soon.

Special Issue of The Cartographic Journal – Call for Papers

The Commission invites papers for a Special Issue of The Cartographic Journal that is planned for November 2018 entitled “Topographic Mapping: Past, Present and Future”. Contributions may involve research on any aspect of topographic mapping and are especially encouraged from providers, from national and multi-national mapping organisations to community mapping groups. In particular, we welcome submissions relating to the following topics:

  • Advances in production techniques
  • Initiatives for topographic data interoperability and harmonisation
  • History of topographic mapping
  • Relevance and use of topographic maps
  • National styles of cartography
  • New methods of portrayal, especially involving non-representational approaches

A title and abstract of no more than 200 words should be sent to Dr Alex Kent or Dr Anja Hopstock by 1st March 2018 (deadline extended!). Full papers will be from 4000-8000 words and notification of acceptance will be made to all authors by 30th April 2018.


Mapping Empires – Call for Papers

Dear Commission Members and Map Friends,

Please find attached the Call for Papers for the international symposium ‘Mapping Empires: Colonial Cartographies of Land and Sea’, which will be held from 13 to 15 September 2018 in Oxford (UK) and is jointly organised by the Commission on the History of Cartography together with the ICA Commission on Topographic Mapping and the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford.

Call for Papers – Mapping Empires

For more information you can also visit the symposium website at


Activities at ICC2017

Dear all,

ICC 2017 is approaching. In 3 weeks from now cartographers from around the world are gathering in Washington to discuss history, present and future of cartography.

There are several activities dedicated to Topographic Mapping:

  • The pre-conference workshop “Maps & Emotions” has been jointly organized by 3 commissions and is exploring further the relationships between maps, emotions and places.
  • Please reserve Wed July 5th as the Topographic Mapping day. The following sessions might be of interest to you!
    • 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM Location: Maryland C
      Latest developments in National Mapping
    • 12:30 PM – 1:20 PM Location: Virginia A
      We invite all interested colleagues to join us for the business meeting of our commission to learn how to get involved in the activities and for making new plans.
    • 1:30 PM – 1:50 PM Location: Virginia A  Research in Topographic Mapping
    • 2:50 PM – 3:10 PM Location: Virginia A New initiatives in Topographic Mapping
    • 3:50 PM – 6:50 PM Poster session F

Looking forward seeing you there,

Alex and Anja