Cartographers, Cape Town Is Calling

The International Cartographic Association (ICA) is on the move again. After holding the 2021 International Cartographic Conference (ICC) in Florence, Italy, the ICC will lure cartographers and geographic information science (GIScience) professionals to Cape Town, South Africa, August 13–18, 2023. (The conference will then head to Vancouver, Canada, in 2025.) The executive committee of the ICA encourages a global footprint for these important conclaves.

This year, the Cape Town event will be special. It has been 20 years since the ICC has been held in Africa. In 2003, it took place in Durban, South Africa, and the theme was Cartographic Renaissance. Cape Town seeks to go beyond this year’s theme, Smart Cartography for Sustainable Development, by making an effort to have as many representatives from African countries as possible attend the event to make the most of the conference’s diverse programming and networking opportunities. Cartographers and GIScience specialists from all over the world will share their knowledge, expertise, and experiences and bring what they learn back to their home organizations.

Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront with Table Mountain in the background
The 31st International Cartographic Conference (ICC) is being held in Cape Town, South Africa, this August.

Other meetings will be held in alignment with the conference as well. The Africa division of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) will assemble. And the SDG Data Alliance will meet to continue its work in assisting several countries in Africa and other regions in using geospatial information to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG Data Alliance is dedicated to helping countries share their important geospatial information via SDG Data Hubs, which are built using Esri technology including the Sustainable Development Goals solution and ArcGIS Hub.

Who should make plans to travel to Cape Town in August? Anyone who is interested in the three open and interconnected events—the 31st ICC, the UN-GGIM: Africa meetings, and the SDG Data Alliance program.

For cartographers and GIScience professionals, the ICC will present opportunities to learn from fellow practitioners and researchers about current trends in cartography, see creative cartographic products and diverse visualizations, and participate in many of the interesting presentations being given under the 47 different conference topics. Government leaders, policy makers, business executives, and other specialists who attend the UN-GGIM: Africa meetings will be able to engage with country representatives and learn about the geospatial plans and accomplishments of African countries and other nations in the region. Finally, anyone who participates in the SDG Data Alliance gathering will discover how the organization’s methodology—which is based on the UN’s model of fostering a country-led approach for managing and sharing geospatial information in support of achieving the SDGs—is bringing together stakeholders, partners, technology, and data to help advance progress on sustainability.

The venue for the conference is the world-class Cape Town International Convention Centre, located along the waterfront and within walking distance of several hotels. More details about the venue, the program, and the International Map Exhibition being presented at the ICC—along with travel information, accommodation recommendations, and general tourist information for Cape Town and other destinations in South Africa—are available on the conference website.

One of the hallmarks of the current ICA Executive Committee is its commitment to offering scholarships. Financial support is available to early career scientists and professionals in cartography and GIScience to participate in official ICA events, such as the ICC in Cape Town. Find out more details about the scholarships, including guidelines and the criteria for applying.

While it is most beneficial to experience the ICC and the beauty of Cape Town in person, the ICA has made accommodations, based on the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic, for those who cannot travel to South Africa. There will be opportunities for people to participate virtually in the scientific program of the conference, though not all events will offer virtual attendance options.

The International Map Exhibition being presented at this year’s ICC promises conferencegoers a unique experience. For the first time, most of the cartographic products that will be on display in common areas of the conference center will also be exhibited in various virtual ways. Some will be presented via digital technology on shelves or tables set up throughout the conference center, while others will be exhibited at kiosks. Many will also be available to see on the ICC website, including some maps and charts, ArcGIS StoryMaps narratives, and other digital cartographic products and services that will be shown there exclusively. Atlases and educational cartographic products will be viewable in hard copy or as virtual productions at the conference center. Physical cartographic products, such as globes, tactile maps, and relief maps, will only be available in the conference center for exhibition participants.

Each ICC also features the Barbara Petchenik Children’s Map Competition, which invites children in various age groups to submit their best maps for display and judging. The theme for the 2023 competition is A Map of My Future World. Get information on how representatives from ICA member nations and affiliates can organize the competition and encourage children to enter.

The ICC offers an excellent opportunity for commercial enterprises to learn about current trends and developments in the geospatial and cartography realms. Attendees get to engage with professionals and presenters and even potentially influence future cartographic and geospatial research. Commercial companies can display their products and services in the Commercial and Technical Exhibition. And there are openings to sponsor various aspects of the ICC experience. A detailed sponsorship and exhibitor prospectus is available on the conference website.

Another highlight of the conference is the conferring of special awards on distinguished cartographers and geographic information scientists. It is important and exciting to recognize individuals for their exemplary contributions to their profession and the ICA.

There is much to see and do in and around Cape Town as well. Tours of nature reserves, botanical gardens, and other sites will be available to give attendees and their families amazing, customized experiences. The expansive V&A Waterfront, located near the convention center, is filled with restaurants and shops, and visitors can get a view of the port or Table Mountain from their hotel rooms. Additionally, ICC attendees are encouraged to visit nearby South African wineries and historical sites during their extended stays in Cape Town. The local organizing committee has also arranged for local vendors to make cuisine reflecting the cultures in and around Cape Town available inside the convention center.

The host of the event, the South African National Committee for the ICA, is thrilled to welcome professionals, experts, scholars, and map enthusiasts from around the world to participate in this exceptional opportunity to convene, learn, teach, and grow. On behalf of the ICA Executive Committee, we can’t wait to meet you in South Africa.

About the author

Tim Trainor is a part-time consultant to the United Nations (UN) and is the former chief geospatial scientist for the US Census Bureau. He currently serves as president of the International Cartographic Association. Trainor has extensive experience in cartographic and geospatial topics that include exploring methodological, technical, and substantive issues relating to cartography and the collection, management, and integration of geospatial information. He served as cochair for the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management and as head of the US delegation to that committee. He was the senior agency official for geospatial information for the US Department of Commerce and was an executive member of the US Federal Geographic Data Committee. He is involved with several professional associations, including the Cartography and Geographic Information Society. Trainor holds a postgraduate diploma in cartography from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, within the Faculty of Science; a master’s certificate in project management from the George Washington University School of Business and Public Management; and a bachelor of arts degree from Rutgers University.