Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Potential Participants of the 3rd International Symposium on Digital Earth, Dear Friends,

Our Symposium takes place at very important time, between World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and World Summit on the Information Society which will be held on 10-12 December 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland.

As a cartographer with a geographic education and knowledge, I believe that our world needs global spatial data, information and knowledge support for solution of global problems. Several global spatial data oriented initiatives were started after the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The Global Map project supported by the Japanese Government was the first. The Global Spatial Data Infrastructure the second one, and Digital Earth initiative the third. These initiatives are complementary. In several regions the spatial data infrastructures are working well when integrated with information infrastructures and other Information Society development.
One of the main tasks of the coming 3rd Symposium on Digital Earth is to strenghten the link between development of geographic (spatial) information that is specific, full of knowledge and wisdom, and other aspects of the emerging Information Society.
The first Digital Earth symposium was held in Beijing, P.R. of China at the end of 1999. The Beijing resolution was created as an attempt to pull together different ideas about realization of the Digital Earth. At that time it was evident that in order to fully realize the idea of an Information Society it would be necessary to be very sensitive to existing new technologies, which often serve he as the engines of global oriented initiatives but also to go beyond them. Many speakers also highlighted the idea of sustainable development. Similar trends were visible also in the 2nd Symposium on Digital Earth in Fredericton, Canada. Again, we focused on efforts to define the consequences and new dimensions of the relationship between technology and sustainable development. The question how to bridge the gap between an Information Society and basic human needs was one of the topics of the Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany. It was the first Expo in the history where problems of sustainable development in an Information Society were scrutinized. As a response, the Global Society Dialogue initiatives were created on the platform of the Information Society Forumofthe European Union. Just before the WSSD in Johannesburg, a new initiative GISD - geographic information for sustainable development - was started (on the basis of the Open GIS initiative). This is further evidence of the fact that the main streams of the development of Digital Earth are merging.

Almost five years have passed since Al Gore defined the idea of a Digital Earth. It emerged from the successful realization of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the United Kingdom: initiated by specialists in digital cartography, GIS and remote sensing. Geographic information elaborated and processed by various methods and in different ways has been the principle ingredient designing the step-by-step realization of the SDI's, NSDI's and Digital Earth ideas.
However, Al Gore's proposal went beyond technology deployment. Today we have many technological tools but only a small proportion of the world’s population is able to use them in their everyday lives. There are still barriers for many people without special education, training and knowledge to use modern technologies. But is our World only about technologies? No, it is not. We have many other problems, dreams, and ambitions. We also have ideas on how to solve many of the situations of the contemporary World. Support of such ideas was one of the aims of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. One of the examples of the real situation are the ideas of Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), presented in his speech at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 2 September 2002:
"I am pleased to announce that FAO will facilitate a civil-society led, government-supported, initiative to support the transition to people-centered sustainable agriculture and rural development - the SARD Initiative. Its goal is to improve environmental, economic and social well-being while meeting the world's food needs. We will do this by building the capacity of rural communities, disadvantaged groups and other stakeholders to improve access to land, water, genetic, technological and other resources, promoting good practices, and fostering fairer conditions of employment in agriculture."
Sustainable Development is no longer limited to economy and ecology and their relations but it also includes cultural heritage, education, technology, and the social and ethical aspects of societies. Only a combination of all the above mentioned aspects can lead to solutions acceptable by most of humankind.
We need to communicate, we need to exchange our opinions, knowledge and best practices. Because our symposium will be held in Europe, let me give you an example from this region. In 1996, the European Commission established the Information Society Forum. The Forum’s final report was published in 2000: The European Way Towards Information Society. Its purpose was not to give direction to people in other regions but to share European knowledge and offer possible solutions coming from the multicultural, multilingual and multieconomical space of Europe's emerging Information Society.
Other activities are going on in the developing countries. For example in China they are dynamically realizing the idea of Digital Cities, in India several progressive events in Geographic Information like the Digital Map symposia are being organized. In Malaysia an excellent National Spatial Data Infrastructure NALIS, is being realized, and in Africa and Latin and South America there are new strong efforts to create continental spatial data infrastructures.
The Brno event has the ambition to reinforce these trends and to embed them in the wide range of Information Society development processes. The 3rd International Symposium on Digital Earth wants to continue in this direction. Relations between problems of sustainable development and information society are not observed and investigated enough. The solutions are still not sufficiently visible in everyday lives of people. For us in Europe, Digital Earth is closely associeted with the "eEurope" initiative of the European Union. There are new problems coming from the complicated political situation in the World. There are fundamental problems with the use of data, information and knowledge from the legislative, security and technical points of view. We need to break down the "digital divide" not only in the developing but very often also in the "developed countries". We need a theory and a philosophy of the contemporary World so much influenced by information technologies to get better quality of life of people and at the same time to establish a sustainable environment.

The 3rd International Symposium on Digital Earth is organized by Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic in close co-operation with the newly established International Society on Digital Earth. The program consists of several segments. The core is traditionally GI oriented. Among conference topics you will find problems of the Earth observation and processing technologies for Digital Earth, the meaning of sustainability and policy of its formulation, delivery, monitoring and evaluation. Other important parts of the symposium are the Global Society Dialogue as well as e-government, e-governance and e-parliament as accompanying factors of a networked knowledge society. Topics about global sustainability versus homeland security should also be very interesting. Finally, there are topics linked with delivery of services to citizens and digital cities, communities and localities. The program topics which have been approved by the International Steering Committee of the Digital Earth and members of the International Program Committee, are not closed. It depends on you, our honorable participants, which topics will be added. Please feel free to contact me or somebody from the ISDE or Program Committee with new innovative ideas.

Several international organizations serve as patrons for the symposium, such as the International Cartographic Association, ISO, and the Open GIS Consortium. In addition, several ministries of the Czech government are included in the organization of the symposium. U.N. organizations such as FAO, UNEP, and UNESCO have been invited and all activities of the U.N. connected with sustainable development, Information Society and global spatial data projects (GM, GSDI, GISD) are included. At the European level several Directoriate Generale such as Information Society, Environment, Agriculture, Regio, Enlargement and Research have been asked to be part of the preparation process of the symposium and its program. A discussion about necessary conditions, processes and barriers of creation of the Global Sustainable Information Society is planned at the symposium. Would you like to help to find solutions? You are warmly welcome.

President of Organizing Committee of the 3rd International Symposium on Digital Earth;
Vice-President and candidate for President of the International Cartographic Association,
The Society for Cartography and Geographical Science;
Member of the Steering Committee and Plenary of the Information Society Forum EC
and Global Society Dialogue of the EC;

Academician of the International European-Asian Academy