Monday, October 17, 2011

Washington College GIS Program Helps The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Predict Future Problems in Peru

Being able to anticipate and mitigate future problems in developing countries is a core tenet of the U.S. Intelligence Community. For the first time ever, the premier intelligence agency for imagery and mapping, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), is tapping into the world of academia to help anticipate future problems in the developing nation of Peru.

Being led by Professors Stewart Bruce (GIS), Aaron Lampman (Anthropology) and Andrew Oros (Political Science and International Studies), this unprecedented program will involve using open source software to obtain information regarding demographics, water resources, health-related issues, energy and food resources so that future problems can be anticipated in both scope and location in Peru.

Three student teams are compiling this information and will be resending it to the NGA as a final report later this year. With so many hot spots throughout the world, intelligence agencies have had to focus the majority of their attention away from calmer areas, like Peru, that may experience difficulties in the future. Each team hopes to identify areas that deserve the NGA’s attention so potential issues can be avoided. This is especially important because of the possibility of security problems arising from the possible scarcity of necessary resources.

This project gives interdisciplinary Washington College students the ability to become more familiar with GIS projects as well as highlight their skills and gain knowledge in the intricacies of the work of the nation’s intelligence agencies.

What we’ve been doing:

We’re currently in the process of figuring out how to gain and, with more difficulty, process geotagged information on crime in Lima. Specifically, we are trying to figure out how to filter information through social media into a central database because most social media now comes with a latitude/longitude location when it is shared through a cellphone. This has been done before for crises in Iran, Syria and Egypt. Hopefully, by creating the necessary framework before a problem appears the NGA can be better prepared to sift through the millions of pieces of information they will receive. Open source geospatial programs exist for uploading information to a central database; we’re also trying to figure out how to incorporate those.

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