development (Brooner, 2002). Society can benefit from the capabilities of geographic and other information sources and systems.4 The NEPAD recognizes the value of these data and technologies: “[Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)] can be helpful tools for a wide range of applications, such as remote sensing and environmental, agricultural, and infrastructural planning. In conflict management and control of pandemic diseases, ICTs will help towards the organization of efficient early warning mechanisms by providing tools for constant monitoring of tension spots (NEPAD, 2001).” In addition, the United Nations (2002a) notes the value of satellite remote-sensing systems as data sources for supporting sustainable development (Box 2-3).

Geographic data and information have the potential to play a role in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of many of Agenda 21’s 38 action items (Table 1-1). In the committee’s opinion these data and information are directly applicable to at least 20 of these action items (Table 2-5). These geographic data are often grouped into framework foundation data, framework thematic data, and other thematic data. Framework foundation data, such as geographic position and elevation, are central to most applications, whereas framework thematic data and other thematic data have specific applications, such as determining land ownership, possession, or use (Chapters 4, 5, and 6).

TABLE 2-5 Selected Agenda 21 Action Items (numbered by chapter from Agenda 21) and the Geographic Data to Address Them


Framework Foundation Data (Fundamental layers of data used in many basic operations [Chapters 4 and 5])

Agenda 21 Action Items

Position (Geodetic Controla)

Aerial Image (Orthoimageryb)

Digital Elevation (Topography)


Combating poverty


Changing consumption patterns


Demographic dynamics and sustainability


Protecting and promoting human health


Sustainable human settlement development


Integrating environment and development in decision-making


Protecting the atmosphere




Integrated planning and management of land resources


Combating deforestation


Managing fragile ecosystems: combating desertification and drought


Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development


Promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development


Conservation of biological diversity


Environmentally sound management of biotechnology (DNA)



Protecting oceans, seas, coastal areas, and rational use and development of living resources




Protecting the quality and supply of freshwater resources


Environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals


Environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes


Environmentally sound management of solid waste and sewage-related issues


Environmentally sound management of radioactive wastes

aGeodetic control is the common reference system for establishing the coordinate position (e.g., latitude, longitude, and elevation) of geographic data.

bAn ortho-image is a specially processed image prepared from an aerial photograph or remotely sensed image that has the metric qualities of a traditional line map with the rich detail of an aerial image.

Temp = temperature; atmo = data on atmospheric conditions; precip = precipitation.


Geographic information technologies (e.g., geographic information systems, global positioning systems, and cartographic, surveying, and remote-sensing technologies) are part of the broader spectrum of information and communications technologies that includes telephones, radios, and the Internet.

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