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Geospatial backgrounder ​​​​ ​



Geospatial analysis involves the gathering, display, and manipulation of imagery, Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates, satellite photography and data (real-time or historical), making use of explicit geographic coordinates or identifiers used in geographic models.

Geospatial analysis has advanced considerably in terms of:

  1. Greater precision, accuracy and granularity;
  2. Easier and faster transmission, analysis and manipulation (e.g. the connectivity of mega-constellations of satellites);
  3. The number and type of devices equipped with geospatial and location identification (e.g. different types of devices include the Internet of Things, mobile phones, sensor networks, connected cars, etc.).

For example, fifth-generation mobile technology, IMT-2020 (or 5G), when implemented in the millimetre wave bands, would require very accurate geospatial data and denser telecom networks with significantly higher numbers of base stations than traditional mobile networks. Both accurate geographical data and advanced spatial analytics would be crucial to ensure that these radio networks are cost-effective and efficient. 5G base stations would need to be synchronized to within nanoseconds to improve the positioning accuracy for smart transportation and intelligent traffic management systems.[1]

Geospatial data and information are very valuable, from the global level right down to the local level and can be used for many different use cases, including to monitor, verify and/or confirm:

National governments and local authorities need information about a country, the environment, assets, people, and its physical and social infrastructure to inform robust evidence-based decision-making and to encourage economic development, entrepreneurial activity, transparency, or national security.


Different concepts, software and taxonomies can give different meanings or interpretations to the same data in creation or storage, creating a need for common standards or taxonomies to maximize the use, sharing and analysis of geospatial data in smart cities, and help scale smart city projects.

However, changing user requirements, industry changes, and an evolving regulatory and policy environment are all creating new challenges for international cooperation. Who has right to access geospatial data, and how can misuse be prevented?

Enabling effective collaboration between the stakeholders responsible for different aspects of geospatial analysis, global or local, is a challenge. Stakeholders may have different interests and incentives. In different domains with different stakeholders, even small differences can make data sharing or exchange difficult or even impossible or result in loss of information or changes to the structure or meaning of the data.​​

ITU’s contribution

ITU has worked with geospatial information for decades, since it first established the international numbering system for telephony and assigned international codes to countries and territories.

 ITU has brokered various ICT standards that include the use or transport of geospatial data:

ITU also provides information to its Member States using various maps:

ITU also collaborates with external stakeholders on various issues to do with geospatial data, including with the UN Geospatial Network, WGIC and OGC.

Further resources

“The Eye in the Sky: Space, AI & Satellite" available from:

ITU's geospatial activities relevant for the Sustainable Development Goals". UN Geospatial Network side event, UN GGIM 2019, New York, Mr. Andrea Manara, ITU,

How geospatial technology will boost 5G and shape smart cities and communities​", ITU News.

BR Handbooks on Space Observation for Scientific Purposes:


[2] ICT infrastructure for Financial inclusion is available at​


Last update: November ​2020  ​​