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.