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FAO Statement Opening Ceremony
Jelle U. Hielkema
Senior Remote Sensing Officer (Environmental Monitoring)
Environment and Natural Resources Service
Sustainable Development Department
Mr. Chairman, Ecellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be here  on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on the occasion of the opening of this third Symposium on Digital Earth.

During the past few decades mankind’s capabilities for observing the Earth in digital and spatially continuous form have seen a tremendous expansion with the launch of numerous environmental and earth resources satellites. Also, though considerably less uniform on a global scale, groundbased capacities for systematic collection of data to support environmental management and decision-making for scientific and development purposes have been expanded. More recently, and the programme of this symposium clearly bears witness to that, significant progress is being made in turning spatial data into useful information through much improved capacities for the handling, management, storage and exchange of digital information about the natural and socio-economic resources of this planet.

From FAO’s perspective, the theme of this symposium is important given the challenges the Organization and its partners face in reducing the still increasing digital divide between North and South to ensure that sustainable development decisions in agriculture, forestry and fisheries in developing countries are made on the basis of the most comprehensive and up to date information available. The information management and communication technologies currently available, including the resources of the internet, are substantial and continue to develop rapidly although access to these technologies in most developing countries still leave much to be desired. In this context FAO participated at high level in the recent Earth Observation Summit, convened by the United States Government in late July, during which it emphasized developing country needs and user applications as key priorities.

A major challenge which is currently receiving considerable attention from a wide variety of players in this field is to bring  spatial information from complementary sources, biophysical and socio-economic, together and offer such information to users in appropriate and easy to use formats. This requires dedicated and widely applicable standardization efforts, both for metadata as well as for actual spatial data in order to allow for effective exchange of data and information between organizations and institutions with complementary mandates and interests to support a better management of our global village with increasingly obvious  finite and, from a climatic point of view, somewhat unstable  resources. The efforts todate in this respect by the International Standards Organization and the OpenGIS Consortium, among others,  are to be commended and have established firm standardization platforms on which can be build further.

Since a number of years, in addition to its many mandate activities which use remote sensing  and GIS technologies since the mid-1970’s , FAO, in the context of its Strategic Framework 2000-15, is paying substantial attention to improving its spatial information infrastructure as well as its information outreach activities. The Organization is improving access to and integrated use of its vast spatial data and information holdings through a standardized, open source based spatial information management capacity, called GeoNetwork, to support decision making in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food security and to  promote multidisciplinary approaches to sustainable development. In this context, FAO is also playing a key role in the activities of the UN Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG).

Through its World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) the Organization is making a wide variety of digital information on mandate activities and their outputs available to member countries and other stakeholders through the internet as well as a variety of other media and supports capacity building in developing countries through local activities as well as distance learning programmes.

Mr. Chairman, I wish to compliment the organization of this symposium for having brought together such a wide variety of experts for this important meeting here in Brno and we will be looking forward to seeing the outcome of its deliberations.
Thank you.

Abstract: 25th June, 2003
Letters of Acceptance: 15th July, 2003
Full Papers: 31st July, 2003




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TITLE OF PAPER (capitals, center, 14pt, bold),
full name of author(s) (center,10pt, bold),
affiliation (including name of organization, postal address, telephone and fax), e-mail address (center, 10pt)
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The full paper has to contain the following information:
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Full name of autor(s) (center, 10pt)
Affiliation (including name of organisation, postal address, telephone and fax), e-mail address (center, 10pt)
Abstract (as a new paragraph, center, 10pt, between 1,25 and 11,25 cm)
Heading 1 (left adjusted, 12pt, bold)
Heading 2 (left adjusted, 10pt, bold)
Text (left adjusted, 10 pt)
References (left adjusted, 10pt) - Author, 19xx. Title of publication etc

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Please send your paper by E-mail. It is essential to perform payment before July 31, 2003. If payment will not be made to this date, we will be, unfortunately, force to revoke acceptance of your paper. Thank you for your comprehension.


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