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March 21st, 2013
Sharing GIS is the Next Step in Building National Security

John Day, the Director of Defence at global geospatial giant Esri, said GIS technology was now a ‘must have’ asset for any modern national security strategy to optimise partnerships across emergency services, law enforcement and defence agencies.

Mr Day is visiting Australia from Esri’s US headquarters this week to advise leading Australian defence and intelligence personnel on how GIS technology has evolved to become a critical national security weapon.

Mr Day said while Australia boasts highly sophisticated and professional agencies that keep the country safe and secure from many different threats, finding ways to improve collaboration and shared intelligence must be an ongoing task.

“Like the United States, Australia has a complex, interrelated security environment, where national intelligence, emergency management, law enforcement, defence, public health and government agencies must work together to effectively operate,” Mr Day said.

“The vast majority of these agencies already use GIS technology in their day-to-day operations, but they need a cross-department, cross-border approach that holistically combines technology, process and policy using a single geographic view of situations.

“This should lead to the creation of one national security enterprise of integrated capabilities which allow personnel to plan, prepare and respond to incidents at a moment’s notice – a crucial capability given the unpredictability of many major events.

“Only with this approach can there be shared situational awareness between Australia’s national security and intelligence agencies – and a true unity of action.”

Mr Day said securing the G20 in November next year was a great example of the need for a common thread that connects intelligence from local, regional, national and even international agencies.

“During the G20, you have multiple agencies at different levels looking to ensure the event is held with little or no threat to public safety,” he said.

“GIS technology could store and manage data from police, defence and councils –including weather updates, CCTV feeds and sensor networks – to provide a real-time map of what’s happening on the ground.

“This heightened level of collaboration and communication allows authorities to rapidly assess risks or vulnerabilities and deploy resources more efficiently and strategically.

“For example, if a security breach occurs – such as a suspicious vehicle being spotted – all agencies have access to the same up-to-date intelligence and can determine how best to respond.”

Mr Day’s visit follows Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s outline of the National Security Strategy earlier this year, which named terrorism and cyber security as key risks.

Mr Day said the improved use of crowdsourced data from sources such as Facebook or Twitter could become another major component in national security strategies – by serving as new intelligent information sources that connects agencies to the communities they are tasked with protecting.

“With the growth of social media, GIS technology also serves as a platform for the effective gathering and analysing of data from all types of mobile devices, which enables authorities to validate and record information in real-time,” he said.

“The community can often serve as another set of eyes and ears for authorities, and GIS technology serves as a way to harness and geographically verify crowdsourced updates and commentary.”

In a career that has included 30 years as an officer in the British Army, and now a US citizen working in Washington DC – Mr Day has been involved in numerous geospatial projects, including counter-terrorism activities in Northern Ireland, warfare readiness in the former West Germany, and peace support with NATO.