The past year has been an exceptional year for all of us – a time that we will certainly remember for our lifetimes. None of us could foresee what was coming when we shared our holiday wishes a year ago. The COVID-19 pandemic threatened our lives while also destroying many exciting plans for a normal year of activities, both professionally and personally. The pandemic imposed unprecedented challenges to our lives. For the ICA, it disrupted and affected professional collaboration around the world.
Like many international organizations, the ICA community had to adjust to the circumstances. This was not our norm. Many long-planned conferences and meetings had to be cancelled or postponed by their organizers. We could not stand by and let the pandemic rule every aspect of our existence. In response, meetings of the new ICA Executive Committee, the ICA Commissions and new ICA Working Groups shifted to virtual-only environments. We all had to get used to a “new normal” where technology empowered us to keep in touch. One positive outcome of distance meetings, workshops, and conferences was that many more people were able to participate that would not have been able to travel. In a virtual setting, numbers of participants were much higher than expected. While the technology allowed us to continue our programs, we all sorely miss person-to-person meetings with our friends and colleagues…with you.
With all the downsides of 2020 and the personal suffering and daily disruptions caused by the pandemic, we have also seen rays of hope pointing the way to what we expect will be a better new year in 2021. Since the beginning of the crisis, the need for information has increased tremendously worldwide. This need for data also affects us and our discipline as maps provide an essential information medium for our society and for science. We have all seen many vivid examples in recent months – showing the distribution and spread of the virus as well as geovisualizations on how to fight it. The world of cartography and geoinformation has come to the forefront in various ways that helped in addressing the pandemic.
We must admit that these pressing circumstances have initiated a wave of digital transformation in our lives that we would not likely have experienced so quickly in a more normal year. We all discovered new efficient virtual ways of working together across long distances while having a sense that our colleagues were in the room next to us. These previously little used techniques allowed us to be successful in not only maintaining the ICA’s mission, but expanding the activities of our Association by organizing new conferences, establishing new ICA Working Groups and even finding new members! We should and will use this motivation for the coming years, learn from it and continue our progress. The ICA Executive Committee and Commission Chairs have drawn various positive conclusions from this year’s experiences that are guiding us in planning for future activities and events that can be incorporated into those plans.
I am very hopeful that we will return to a more normal time where we will have the opportunity to meet in person again – while continuing to build on our new experiences from the society’s digital transformation. One special event is our next ICC in Florence, Italy which is now planned for December 2021. The conference is a beaming ray of hope where we can experience a second renaissance of humanity – getting together to advance cartography and GIScience. Please register and submit your contributions to this important event.
We wish you and your family, colleagues and friends peaceful holidays and all the best for 2021! We very much look forward to our continuing collaboration with you in the coming year.
– Tim Trainor
President of the International Cartographic Association