Interview: Dr Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse

By on 19 January, 2022

Dr Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse, Executive Director of Strategic Consulting & International Relations, Spatial Vision

In our Leaders Forum, we ask experts to look ahead into 2022. Today we talk about the future with Dr Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse, Executive Director at Spatial Vision.

Dr Mohamed-Ghouse has led several multi-million-dollar mapping projects for the federal and state governments, and is a key advisor to industry associations.

Which technologies will revolutionise the surveying, space or spatial sectors in 2022?

The Australian Government has invested over $10 billion into the space sector to fuel its growth. Beyond space infrastructure, spatial applications will contribute heavily to the sector’s growth, with Earth observation and positioning set to play a key role.

In a global context, Australia has taken its projects to new heights with Geoscience Australia’s Open Data Cube platform as part of its Digital Earth Australia initiative, harnessing decades of rich archives for improved land and water management. There’s a conversation happening around this digital twin being a disruptor in the third dimension, and so I see 3D and 4D shifting from its innovative status into the ‘new normal’.

Digital twins will provide a platform for innovations like AI and machine learning. I see Digital twins as infrastructure for spatial not only in the built environment, but also in rural, peri-urban and agricultural areas, with sensor networks, scenario modelling and the IoT having a huge impact.

How is Australasia placed in the global context? Are we racing ahead or falling behind?

The OECD suggests Australia has some catching up to do. While there is significant research and innovation happening across our academic sector, the challenge has always been in adapting the research and scaling it for commercial outcomes. I do see a shift with leaders in academia and industry working together more than ever. We are seeing a lot of research with greater industry involvement and funding, and I’m hopeful that we can minimise this divide even more with increased dialogue.

What’s on your wish list for 2022?

I think it is time for Australia to develop its own spatial commission, similar to that of the UK. This model offers an independent view of how the sector needs to grow. Currently, ANZLIC and ICSM play a vital role in the sector’s growth with a focus on standards and prototypes. In addition to this, a commission would help bring the private sector, academia, industry and its users together to act as an advisory voice. Government could use such a body as a sounding board. An Australian geospatial commission would help bring together diversity of thought on how we utilise geospatial information in a meaningful way.

Which challenges or opportunities should the industry be focused on?

Australia has often grappled with skill shortages, particularly given its aging workforce. At the same time, we’re seeing a shift in how spatial is represented in universities. We need to think about other approaches in addition to university teaching to facilitate capacity building and encourage greater understanding of skills and trends. I believe a dedicated centre of excellence for geospatial and surveying, under the arm of a geospatial commission, could help turn the tide with the introduction of a national geospatial labour policy to address workforce gaps.

Furthermore, our industry is working hard to promote diversity and inclusion, with many forums looking at gender balance, for example. But we need to look into diversity more broadly with other parameters. A geospatial commission structure could help us deliver stronger outcomes in this area.

What do you think your customers are looking for in 2022?

Our customers and clients are seeking expert advice and sound evidence to help them navigate the rapidly changing landscape. They are increasingly looking for access to business and government networks to assist in working through complex issues. They want confidence in their geospatial investments, and we’re able to offer that by drawing on successful approaches globally and connecting our clients with leaders from whom they can learn.

What are your organisation’s priorities for 2022?

Spatial Vision is very lucky to be in a privileged position coming out of the pandemic, having seen strong growth over the last 18 months. In 2022, we’re continuing to invest in new talent, skill development and capacity building to adapt to the ever-transforming digital landscape. The company is increasingly looking to partner and collaborate to serve our clients in a more integrated way, leveraging our multi-disciplinary approach.

This article was first published in issue 116 of Position magazine.

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