2014 Digital Earth Summit

The 5th Digital Earth Summit was successfully held in Nagoya, Japan from 9th to 11th November, 2014. The Summit was hosted by the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE), and organized by the Chubu University, Japan. More than 100 participants from 22 countries attended the Summit.

This Submit focused on the theme of Digital Earth for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), and organized eight parallel sessions. The topics of sessions include Education for Sustainable Development, Digital Earth and Environment, Digital Earth and Disaster, Digital Earth and Agriculture, Digital Earth Infrastructure, City Planning, Geodesign and Digital City, Citizen Science and VGI, Visualization and Science Communication. In addition, two special sessions were held, covering Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Latest Satellite, JAXA.

At the opening ceremony in the morning of 9th, Prof. Atsuo Iiyoshi, the chancellor of Chubu University and Ms. Michiko Ueno, the former vice minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan addressed keynote speeches. Prof. John Richards, the President of the International Society for Digital Earth addressed on behalf of the host of the Summit. Prof. Hiromichi Fukui, the Chair of Local Organizing Committee of the Summit, the Director of IDEAS of Chubu University introduced the preparation work of the Summit and briefed its aim and meaning. He pointed out that “Digital Earth technology is one of the key technologies to support ESD by visualizing complicated earth system, social system, not only for current situation but from past to future”. He hoped that this Summit could contribute to the advance of Digital Earth science and technology. 

Following that, Prof. Huadong Guo chaired the invited keynote speeches. Prof. Tetsuzo Yasunari from the Research Institute for Human and Nature presented a keynote speech, entitled “Future Earth and Its Implication in Asia and Pacific”. He introduced the main task and aim of Future Earth and its achievement on the promotion of global cooperation on global environmental changes and sustainable development. He emphasized that Digital Earth science and technology played an important role in resolving global issues that humans were facing with. Prof. Daniel SUI from the Ohio State University gave a report on “Transforming Society by Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI)”. He pointed out that during the past ten years crowdsourcing in general and volunteered geographic information (VGI) deeply transformed the society in many ways. He described the impacts of VGI on Society and new challenges for GIScience, and argued that VGI merging with big data had turned our attention from digital earth to global brain. After that, Dr. Jonathan Trent from NASA reported on “OMEGA: A Systems Approach to Sustainable Development” by introducing the system of offshore membranes for growing algae (OMEGA). He emphasized that the function and meaning of this system could be verified in the global environmental sustainable development. At last, Dr. Micheal Gould from Esri (Japan) gave a presentation on “GIS as a Platform for Problem-based Learning and Innovation”. He talked about the GIS platform-based program, which would facilitate the building up of the capability of students’ learning and innovation.

the Chairs of the keynote speech session

From the afternoon of 9th to the morning of 11th, 37 presentations were given in the parallel sessions and special sessions, covering 10 topics. In the morning of 11th, Prof. John Richards chaired the panel discussion on “Digital Earth for ESD”. Attendees discussed the outcomes of this Summit and the role of Digital Earth in the education for sustainable development. At the closing ceremony, Prof. Huadong Guo awarded Prof. Hiromichi Fukui a medal for his contribution on organizing the Summit, and announced that it had been approved in principal that the next Digital Earth Summit would be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016.

During the summit, a commercial exhibition was included. 12 organizations and companies in the digital earth field exhibited their research results and products. ISDE set up an exhibition booth, communicating with other attendees to the Summit.

Prior to the Summit, the Council meeting of ISDE was successfully held on 8th. Council members listened to the introduction to the preparation work of the 5th Digital Earth Summit and the 9th International Symposium on Digital Earth in 2015, and the bidding reports on the Digital Earth Summit in 2016 and the International Symposium on Digital Earth in 2017. And then, matters arising from the Executive Committee meetings of March and September 2014, the composition of Council and ExCom, and the cooperation between ISDE and other international organizations were fully discussed. At last, Council members listened to the report on the International Journal of Digital Earth (IJDE) and the writing issues of the Manual of Digital Earth.

This Summit was a side-event of the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). On 12th, the Local Organizing Committee of the Summit reported to the UNESCO World Conference of the organizing situation of the Summit and was recognized with affirmation and praise.  

Digital Earth Summit is the series summits held by the International Society for Digital Earth. It has been successfully convened every two years since 2006 in New Zealand (Auckland), Germany (Potsdam), Bulgaria (Baltimore) and New Zealand (Wellington), respectively.


the ISDE exhibition booth



The address by Prof. John Richards, President ISDE, at the opening of the 5th Digital Earth Summit

" Ms. Michiko Ueno, Liberal Democratic Party Upper House member, former vice minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

Professor Atsuo Liyoshi, the Chairman of the Board and Chancellor of Chubu University, Honorary Chair of LOC for DE Summit at Nagoya.

Other distinguished guests, friends and colleagues,

On behalf of my colleagues on the Council of the International Society for Digital Earth it is my very great privilege and honour to welcome you to this, our 5th International Summit.

We hold our Summits every two years; they are devoted to special topics that help us advance our understanding of digital earth and its applications.  In the years between Summits we run our more general Symposia, the next one of which will be held in October next year in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada.

On this occasion in Nagoya our Summit is focused on the important role of Digital Earth in promoting Education for Sustainable Development. 

Undoubtedly, many of us in this room will have spent our life as educators.  We have witnessed, particularly in recent years, major changes in the topics we teach, along with great leaps in teaching methods and technologies.  We are now attempting to understand how we can most appropriately and effectively adjust our teaching and learning methods to embrace the benefits brought by open access to the wealth of information delivered to our students over the internet, while at the same time not losing the value of human contact in instruction. 

We are critically aware that what and how we teach will impact on our students’ responses to the great problems facing society.  We will influence their thinking on environmental management, on protecting our cultural heritage, on responsibly exploiting the earth’s resources and on how we should respond to climate change drivers and to disaster situations.

The onus on educators is very heavy because education is fundamentally the most important gift that can be bestowed on anyone; but it brings with it the responsibility to use knowledge wisely.

In this Summit we are especially interested in how we educate for responsible development of our natural and built environments, making use of the tools of our Society – the digital earth paradigm. 

Never before have we had access to what are essentially virtual reality tools so well matched to the problem domain of sustainable development.  In our teaching in the spatial sciences we have always been able to use maps and images, and more recently geographic information systems, as resources.  But the development of the virtual globe that we call the digital earth, with its layers of information – physical, social and cultural – has given us an expanded representation of the world and its natural and built environments to use in education, one that blends teaching and practice, and reality and virtuality.

But digital earth is developing into more than that.  It is not just a simulation of reality.  The construct is now growing to the stage where we can use it as a true surrogate for reality on which we can experiment.  If we take the urban zone and the development of the digital city as an example, we are now witnessing highly accurate digital models of cities and their services that will soon be so precise that they can be used as the basis for transactions and legal negotiations that would otherwise involve the use of site visits, legal documents and surveying.

The great benefit of using a comprehensive digital model of our environment is that we can try a whole lot of “what if” scenarios to assess the impact of our decision-making.  This is particularly important when evaluating development projects: we can simulate very accurately what impacts specific project approaches might have on the environment without actually committing solutions to practice.  If the virtual model shows a proposal not to be socially and environmentally beneficial then it should not proceed.

It is sometimes difficult to appreciate what an enormously valuable asset we have in a precise digital earth model when we look to predicting future scenarios.  Engineers regularly run models and simulations as part of a design process, from the simplest to the most complicated of individual systems.  Their models are often the result of decades of refinement, and yet they are generally specific-to-task.  In contrast, in the case of digital earth we see evolving a highly sophisticated, accurate and widely-applicable digital representation of the world in which we live that can be applied to a myriad of geospatial and similar applications; one that can look back as well as look forward and that can be interfaced with more specific constructs such as building information management systems.  The student and practitioner alike can now learn from, and experiment with, the earth and its systems from their desktop, not as a cut-down version of something more sophisticated but with access to the world’s best practice.  Never before have education and educators had access to such a resource.

But what is our biggest challenge in teaching?  It arises from the fact that we cannot now foresee the types of problem that our students will have to deal with in the future, and for which they will be called upon by society to develop solutions that are workable and that are acceptable in a sustainable development sense; solutions that are socially and environmentally sensitive and yet practical, economically viable and effective.

The Bonn Declaration from the 2009 UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development expressed the challenge this way:

“ESD emphasizes creative and critical approaches, long-term thinking, innovation and empowerment for dealing with uncertainty, and for solving complex problems.”

How do we prepare our students for such a challenge?  Apart from giving them current domain knowledge, which ages rapidly, we must develop in them the self-confidence to know that they have been trained to tackle the unknown problems of the future.  To do that we must equip them with a means for thinking and reasoning that transcends the day-to-day knowledge of a given discipline, we must instill in them the ethical values of their profession, and the ability to balance economic, social and environmental outcomes in their professional decision making.  In a nutshell our task as teachers is to create professionals who have the self-confidence to know they will be able to tackle problems that we cannot now even contemplate and to do so in an environmentally sustainable manner.   That should guide our thinking in an ISDE Summit such as this.

I look forward to the presentations at this Summit, and particualry those that open up new vistas of research and knowledge for sustainable development.  We depend on you, as researchers and applications specialists, both young and old alike, to help solve the big, unfolding problems, including those to do with eduation.

I do wish you well in the Summit and trust that you leave with new ideas, and a network of new friends and colleagues, formed in this important city."