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The International Cartographic Association and Educational Outreach.


The cartographic profession has changed to one that is supported by contemporary digital production, storage and distribution devices and communication resources. What has also changed are the organisations that conduct mapping programmes and 'build' repositories of geographical knowledge, digital and material. Long gone are the days of large governmental mapping agencies that had their 'tried and true' methods of data capture, processing and dissemination. Today is the workplace of small government agency; contractors (large and small); regional, national and global publishing collaborations; and map producer/user. This, in turn, has led to changes in cartographic education courses, from what could be described as focused courses to more generalist courses. Gone are the days when a graduate could accommodate the in-house practices and procedures on day one of a job. Everything has changed, but the underlying need for useful (and usable), accurate and timely geospatial products remains as the essential underpinnings for what we do.

In order for students to have access to relevant courses and for industry to keep abrest with developments in technology and contemporary cartography and GI Science thinking it is important for relevant educational courses to be offered. This can be done through face-to-face courses or via on-line delivery. The International Cartographic Association (ICA) is committed to supporting existing educational courses and providing specialist courses wherre needed. This paper provides an overview of the I ICA's strategies towards the provision of education, internationally. It also gives examples about how educational courses have been presented by the ICA'S international cartography and GI Science community.

Key words: Education, Outreach, International organizations.


La profesion cartografica ha evolucionado apoyada por las tecnicas de produccion, almacenamiento, distribucion y los recursos de comunicacion digitales. Lo que tambien ha cambiado son las organizaciones que ejecutan programas de produccion cartografica y que "construyen" repositorios de conocimiento geografico, digital y fisico. Atras quedaron los dias de las grandes agencias cartograficas estatales que tenian sus metodos "probados y confiables" de captura, procesamiento y diseminacion de datos. Hoy es el lugar de la pequena agencia estatal, de los contratistas (grandes y pequenos), de las cooperaciones a nivel regional, nacional y global para publicar, y del productor/usuario de mapas. Esto a su vez ha llevado a cambios en las asignaturas de educacion cartografica; desde cursos que podrian ser descritos como focalizados, hacia cursos mas generalistas. Atras quedaron los dias cuando un graduado podia.adaptarse y absorber las practicas y procedimientos internos de la organizacion en el primer dia de trabajo. Todo ha cambiado, sin embargo subsiste la necesidad de productos geoespaciales utiles (y utilizables) exactos y oportunos, como lo es el fundamento esencial de nuestro quehacer.

Para que los alumnos tengan acceso a cursos relevantes y para que la industria se mantenga al dia con el desarrollo tecnologico, la cartografia contemporanea y la ciencia de la informacion geografica, es conveniente ofrecer cursos educacionales significativos. Esto puede ser realizado a traves de cursos presenciales o bien por via on-line. La Asociacion Cartografica Internacional (ICA) esta comprometida con el apoyo a los cursos existentes y ofrece cursos especializados donde estos sean necesarios. Este articulo proporciona una vision general de las estrategias internacionales de la ICA en cuanto a la direccion de la transferencia de educacion. Ademas, incluye ejemplos de la forma en la cual se han presentado cursos educacionales por la comunidad internacional de la ICA para la cartografia y la ciencia de la informacion geografica.

Palabras clave: Educacion, organizaciones internacionales.


The International Cartographic Association is the world authoritative body for cartography, the discipline dealing with the conception, production, dissemination and study of maps. The ICA was founded on June 9, 1959, in Bem, Switzerland. The first General Assembly was held in Paris in 1961. The mission of the International Cartographic Association is to promote the discipline and profession of Cartography and GIScience in an international context.

The activities of the ICA are important for promoting and advancing the theory and praxis of cartography. Throughout its 50-year history, ICA has brought together researchers, government mapping agencies, commercial cartographic publishers, software developers, educators, earth and environmental scientists, and those with a passion for maps.

The International Cartographic Association exists:

* to contribute to the understanding and solution of world-wide problems through the use of cartography in decision-making processes

* to foster the international dissemination of environmental, economic, social and spatial information through mapping

* to provide a global forum for discussion of the role and status of cartography

* to facilitate the transfer of new cartographic technology and knowledge between nations, especially to the developing nations

* to carry out or to promote multi-national cartographic research in order to solve scientific and applied problems

* to enhance cartographic education in the broadest sense through publications, seminars and conferences

* to promote the use of professional and technical standards in cartography.

The Association works with national and international governmental and commercial bodies and with other international scientific societies to achieve these aims (Adopted by the 10th General Assembly of the International Cartographic Association, Barcelona, Spain, 3 September 1995).

An important contribution that ICA makes through its international community is outreach and technology transfer. This is supported through direct ICA initiatives, the activities of Commissions and Working Groups and programmes conducted with ICA Affiliates.

The ICA Strategic Plan

The ICA Strategic Plan (ICA, 2010) provides a number of guidelines for implementing an Education plan. It covers both Education and Professional Practice.

Professional Practice

It notes that "Amateur and professional practice within the Geospatial sciences will change in nature, increasing the necessity for Continuing Professional Development".


The Strategy Plan proposes that the ICA should:

* Investigate ways to strengthen and monitor education programmes in Cartography, GIScience and related subjects at all levels: university; high school; elementary; and life-long learning

* Providing fora for discussions of education programs and curricula in Cartography and GIScience

* Develop information networks and virtual universities on Cartography and GIScience

* Organise educational courses on Cartography and GIScience in developing countries and for regional purposes

* Offer 'master classes' in GISystems/mapping to guide managers in spatial decision-making

* Investigate methods (and funding sources) to encourage the participation of students and other young members in ICA work.

It proposed the following actions:

* To analyse existing university curricula in Cartography and GI Science, and encourage promotion of the goals contained in the ICA mission

* To help widen the Cartographic/GIScience knowledge base and skills into new segments of Society

* To increase efforts directed to capacity-building, especially in developing countries, especially with reference to human resource development

* In co-operation with commercial suppliers, to develop virtual academy courses on Cartography and GIScience to support and complement what is currently available

* To provide geospatial data for educational use

* To establish a network of university/school teachers to provide a forum for discussion and the possibility for support

* To extend travel awards for young scientists; lower conference participation fees for students.

This paper reports on some of these actions being carried out by the ICA, its member nations, Commissions and Working Groups and affiliates.

The International Cartographic Association and education

The ICA'S Strategic Plan proposes a number of actions related to Ideas and Actions for the Organisation and in the Wider Operational Environments. Some of these actions that relate to education are:

* To help widen the Cartographic/GIScience knowledge base and skills into new segments of society

* To increase efforts directed to capacity-building, especially in developing countries, especially with reference to human resource development

* In co-operation with commercial suppliers, to develop virtual academy courses on Cartography and GIScience to support and complement what is on offer.

The ICA addresses these and other issues through direct ICA initiatives through its Executive and member organisations and with partners from ICA affiliates, sister societies and industry. The activities of Commissions and Working Groups and programmes provide the "powerhouse' that supports these endeavours.

Commissions and Working Groups outreach activities

To achieve its aims the ICA operates through a number of Commissions and Working Groups. Commissions and Working Groups carry out the general operations of the ICA. They address the full range of scientific, technical and social research that is the mark of ICA activity. They achieve the transfer of knowledge about Cartography and GIScience and GI Science by publishing books and special editions of journals and running workshops and educational courses. Colleagues from the ICA community conduct these workshops on a volunteer basis, generally with the support of the national member organisation of ICA or the national mapping body.

Courses and workshops by ICA Commissions and Working Groups

ICA Commissions and Working Groups have conducted many outreach courses. Here, examples of some of the courses are provided.

The ICA Commission on Education and Training, in collaboration with the National Cartographic Center of Iran, ran a workshop on Cartography in Tehran, Iran in May 2009. Figure 1 shows some of the thirty participants at the workshop.


This course followed a successful course run in 2008 --a hands-on webmapping technologies-- conducted by the ICA Commission on Maps and the Internet and organised by the National Cartographic Center of Iran. The workshop focused on the technological and methodological basics of delivering maps on the web, including such topics as basic tools, design questions, interactive functions and using map server technology. In July/August 2010 the iCA Commission on Education and Training will run training courses in in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and Jakarta, Indonesia.

The ICA Commission on Management and Economics of Map Production has regularly organised workshops in Urumchi and at the Intercarto-conference and an iCA-sponsored workshop in Gent in 2009.

Through their input in the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names, ICA cartographers have regularly participated in the toponymy course programme of UNGEGN. Courses have been held in Khartoum (2003), Bathurst (2004), Maputo (2004 and 2006), Malang (2005), Tunis (2007), Ouagadougou (2008), Vienna (2008), Timisoara (2008), and Nairobi (2009). The major item in these courses is the conveyance of the awareness of the importance of geographical names as part of a nation's spatial data infrastructure, and the need to collect these names correctly and efficiently for use on maps and in gazetteers.


The ICA Commission on Education and Training has developed a virtual course on Cartography and GIScience in collaboration with contributions from universities and individual academics. The courses have been provided by academics and practisioners from the international cartographic community. They can be accesed and used free of charge. The courses can be accessed via the Commission Web site at: The image in Figure 3 shows the interface to one of the courses-Map projections-that are offered on-line.


The ICA Working Group on Open Source Geospatial Technologies promotes multi-national holistic research in free and open source geospatial technologies in order to make accessible the latest developments in open source tools to the wider cartographic community. The WG attempts to enhance the usage of free and open source geospatial tools among the cartographic community worldwide, especially for education. The WG organises workshops with the aim to capacity building participants by providing hands on experience to develop skills in the application of open source geospatial software.

Courses in collaboration with industry

In collaboration with ESRI, Inc., a major sponsor of ICC2009 in Santiago-Chile, the Cartography with ArcGIS course was taught after the ICC2009 in November 2009. Mr. Makram Murad-al-shaikh, a Senior Instructor in GIS and Cartography at ESRI's Educational Services Department, taught the course. The course was offered free to ali candidates attending the ICC2009 conference and later was opened to lead Chilean cartographic organisations. Nineteen attendees were trained for three days on both basic cartographic design principles together with hands-on training on ESRI's ArcGIS software tools for mapping design and production. All of the cartographic tools available in ArcGIS were explored with best practices taught on how to use them in hands-on exercises.



Seminars for students

In November 2009, in collaboration with SNIT (Sistema Nacional de Coordinacion de Informacion Territorial), Chile, members of the ICA Commission on Geospatial Data Standards presented a seminar for Cartography and GIScience students and staff at Universidad Tecnologica Metropolitana del Estado de Chile (UXEM) in Santiago, Chile. Presentations covered the areas of 'INSPIRE', quality standards for the spatial data modeling, SNIT national spatial data infrastructure of Chile and standards for geographical information. Participants at the seminar are shown in Figure 6.

Graduate students ' seminars

At the first ICA Symposium on Cartography for Central and Eastern Europe, in Vienna, Austria, in February 2009 included a special session where junior scientists presented their research work in a dedicated PhD/Master Forum. PhD students presented the results of their research and a panel of experienced researchers provided feedback to student presenters.



Education for children

The Barbara Petchenik Children's World Map Competition is organised every second year to coincide with biennial International Conference of the Association. This is a map design competition for children ages 15 years and younger. It is held to honor of the late Dr. Barbara Bartz Petchenik, a past Vice President of the ICA who was extremely interested in maps for children and children as cartographers. The competition is organised by the lea Commission on Children in Cartography.

This competition has been taken-up by teachers around the world to involve their students in the world of mapping. One example of the local support to children to enter the competition in South Africa, where staff members from the Department of Geography of UNISA (University of South Africa) in Pretoria visited schools throughout the country to liaise with teachers and children and explain the competition theme--"Living in a globalized world". The photograph in Figure 8 shows Professor Elri Liebenberg, Chair of the ICA Commission on the History of Cartography, and former ICA Vice-President, in one of these classes conducted by UNISA.


The ICA Commission on Children in Cartography has worked with ESRI Press to publish books containing winning entries from the competition. In November 2009 a second book - Children Map the World (Figure 9) was published. It features 100 selected drawings from the 2005 and 2007 Barbara Petchenik Children's World Map Competition.



The activities of the ICA are important for promoting and advancing the theory and praxis of cartography. Throughout its 50-year history, ICA has brought together researchers, government mapping agencies, commercial cartographic publishers, software developers, educators, earth and environmental scientists, and those with a passion for maps. The Cartography and GIScience world has changed significantly since 1959--the role and impact of ICA has been steadfast. Its mission is to support and promote Cartography and GIScience--globally. Its outreach programmes, in many instances conducted with national member organisations, affiliates and industry, are conducted to contribute to the transfer of knowledge and to foster the advancement of the discipline.


This paper was prepared with inputs from colleagues from the ICA international community. Thanks to Dr. Suchith Anand (Chair, ICA Open Source Geospatial Technologies Working Group), Dr. Antony Cooper (Chair, lea Geospatial Data Standards Commission), Professor Dr. Philippe de Maeyer (Chair, ICA Management and Economics of Map Production Commission), Dr. David Fairbairn (ICA Secretary-General/Treasurer), Assoc. Professor Dr. David Fraser (Chair, ICA Education and Training Commission), Professor Dr. Georg Gartner (Vice-President ICA), Professor Elri Liebenberg (Chair, ICA History of Cartography Commission and former Vice-President of ICA), Makram Murad-al-shaikh (ESRI, Inc.), Professor Dr. Ferjan Ormeling (Former Secretary-General/Treasurer ICA, Vice-Chairman of the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEN) and Convenor of the UNGEGN Working Group for Training Courses in Toponymy) and Professor Dr. Michael Peterson (Chair, ICA maps and the Internet Commission).

On the author

Professor Dr. William Cartwright is President of the International Cartographic Association. He is Professor of Cartography and Geographical Visualization in the School of Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences at RMIT University, Australia. He joined the University after spending a number of years in both the government and private sectors of the mapping industry. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Fellow of the British Cartographic Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Mapping Sciences Institute Australia and an Honorary Fellow of the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Melbourne and a Doctor of Education from RMIT University. He has six other university qualifications--in the fields of cartography, applied science, education, media studies, information and communication technology and graphic design. He is the author of over 300 academic papers. His major research interest is the application of integrated media to cartography and the exploration of different metaphorical approaches to the depiction of geographical information.


ICA (2003). "Strategic Plan", ICA_Strategic_Plan_2003-08-16.pd

William Cartwright, President of the International Cartographic Association.
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Author:Cartwright, William
Publication:Revista Cartografica
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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