2007 May 17

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Bentley Systems, Incorporated

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Editor's Introduction

I have been in Italy for the past two weeks, visiting family and friends, so I took the opportunity to catch up with GIS developments here. In this week's issue, I bring you a wide-ranging discussion with a faculty member at the Politecnico di Milano, Milan's prestigious science and technology university. Plus, the usual round-up of press releases.

As always, I encourage your feedback.


Matteo Luccio

GIS in Italy


While GPS-based car navigation systems are ever more popular in Italy as they are throughout Europe, the country lags behind many countries on the continent in the development of GIS and GIS training. However, this is beginning to change due to several initiatives in Northern Italy and at the national level.

I discussed the development in Italy of GIS (also known here as "sistemi informativi territoriali," or SIT) with Professor Franco Guzzetti at the Department of Hydraulic, Environmental, Infrastructure, and Data Collection Engineering (Dipartimento di Ingegneria Idraulica, Ambientale, Infrastrutture Varie, Rilevamento —D.I.I.A.R.) of the Architecture Faculty of the Politecnico di Milano, Milan's famous engineering school. Everything that follows is based on what he told me—and any errors are most likely due to my transcription, translation, and editing of the interview.

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The Public & Private Sectors

The most important current GIS development in Italy is an agreement between the national, regional, and local governments ("Intesa Stato-Regioni-Enti Locali per la realizzazzione dei sistemi informativi geografici" or "Intesa GIS" for short), which has been developing technical specifications—including some aimed at the unification of cartographic production and opening GIS toward various methods of data capture. This work, in which Guzzetti has been heavily involved, led to the issuing, a couple of years ago, of national directives, which regional governments are now beginning to implement.

Lombardia and Trentino Alto Adige, two northern regions in which Guzzetti does a lot of work, are a little ahead of other regions. Two years ago, Lombardia enacted a new regional law that mandates that local governments use GIS to exchange land use data. In particular, they must develop their "cartographic support" using the national standards developed by Intesa GIS, transitioning from the old cartography to topographic databases that are suitable for GIS. They must also use GIS for all urban planning to, among other things, convey information between local governments and the regional government.

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The Role of the Cadastre

Italy is now just beginning to think in terms of lots and streets as the basic geographic units. However, in Italy, the cadastre is not responsible for maintaining legally binding boundaries. Cadastral maps here have never been surveys and don't contain measurements; rather, they only serve to identify the owner of each lot. What is legally binding is the description of the lot, and of any buildings on it, contained in the ownership title. The cadastre office keeps these title documents on file, but does not independently verify them, let alone certify them. In this sense, the Italian cadastre is anomalous; keep in mind, though, that it is one of the oldest in the world.

In 1988, however, the cadastre office was the first Italian agency to begin to think about the constant and progressive updating of its data. Cartography was updated via aerial photogrammetry every several years (for example, in 1988, 1996, and 2004), without the possibility of continuous updates, and parallel databases were, therefore, disconnected from geographic bases and often in conflict. The cadastre set up a process so that the owner of each parcel, whenever data changes, must follow a procedure, which serves to update and quantify the cadastre's database.

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Education & Training

Recent national and regional laws mandating the use of GIS have greatly increased the demand for GIS training and led Guzzetti and another faculty member at the Politecnico, Pier Luigi Paolillo, to begin teaching a course on GIS and land use management. A few other Italian universities, among them the one in Venice, offer courses in GIS; however, they have focused mostly on the theory of information systems—not basic training. There is no school in Italy that teaches architects, surveyors, and engineers how to exchange, verify, and query geographic information via GIS so as to make it a key element in planning.

Nationwide, many of Guzzetti's colleagues in topography and cartography work with GIS, but their work is not very institutionalized. The Politecnico has several courses with "GIS" in the name; its sister institution in Turin has a well-known geomatics laboratory; and Professor Galetto has for many years included a section on GIS in his topography and photogrammetry courses at the University of Pavia. The problem, however, is that these classes are taught only in the context of programs for engineers or architects and are often optional. Unlike other European countries, such as Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, Italy has no complete GIS program anywhere.

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News Briefs

Please note: I have neither edited nor verified the content of these press releases.


    1. MDA Announces Acquisition of Vexcel Canada from Microsoft Corporation

    2. GeoDecisions Awarded Contract by the City of New York

    3. Bentley Acquires TDV GmbH, Leader in Analysis and Design Software for Bridges

    4. DMTI Spatial Launches National Data Sharing Program


    1. More Accurate and Efficient Routing in Latest Release of ArcIMS Route Server

    2. Autodesk Insight Powers New Service Launched by Vodafone Spain

    3. BAE Systems Introduces Automation Technology For Map Creation

    4. Newly Released 2007 Block Level Estimates


    1. GITA Announces Partnership with INTERGEO

    2. The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) Certifies More Than 1,500 Certified GIS Professionals (GISPs) and Welcomes Largest Monthly Cohort Ever.

    3. K-12 GIS Education Track to Debut at URISA's Annual Conference


    1. GIS Analyst Joins Firm

  5. OTHER

    1. CSI Wireless Shareholders Approve Name Change to "Hemisphere GPS"

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