> Geneva’s Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) sponsored two printings and internatioal distribution of the ANZ-edited D_City report on its Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) project. Co-edited by Davina Jackson and Richard Simpson, Australasian leaders of the digital cities working party of the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE), the report promotes ‘Virtual Nations and Networks’ and ‘Data Cities’ as key subset goals of GEOSS. Virtual ANZ is the world’s first officially launched Virtual Nations project.

> Australia’s Department for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy began promoting the advantages of teleworking, especially in remote communities – to be increasingly enabled by the National Broadband Network. People in remote communities are being recognised as ‘citizen reporters, researchers and scientists’ contributing to environmental forecasting and emergency management aspects of the Virtual Australia vision.

> Australia’s Department of Finance and Deregulation launched strategy papers to guide future management of Big Data across the whole of government.

> The first public conference promoting the Virtual Australia and New Zealand initiative was held in Sydney in May. VANZ is the world’s first official Virtual Nations project – conceptually the UN-related subset of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems.

> ANZLIC, the spatial information governance agency (especially for land information), announced that governments in both countries would collect a series of 10 Foundation Datasets to underpin their national spatial data infrastructure (SDI) projects.


> The National Library of New Zealand opened Big Data: Changing Place, a key exhibition on applying geospatial technologies to historic and new challenges of land planning and management. It was curated by an Auckland-based leader of the Digital Earth movement, Richard Simpson.

> The New Zealand Government, led by Prime Minister John Key, hosted the 4th Digital Earth Summit in Wellington (the second ISDE summit to be held in New Zealand).

> VANZI Ltd, sponsored by Regional Development Australia, hosted a stakeholder workshop in Sydney to discuss development of the Virtual Australia and New Zealand vision for modelling property-related activities.

> Plans by a Sydney events organiser to establish a new annual Spatial Data Cities conference to educate urban development professionals about the implications of geospatial technologies were abandoned after strongly negative reactions from key stakeholders. VANZI Ltd since has claimed cross-government support for an April 2013 conference promoting its property-related agendas.

> ANZ journalist Davina Jackson and architect-scientist Richard Simpson co-edited the ‘world’s first manifesto for the post-Google Earth movement’. Titled D_City: Digital Earth | Virtual Nations | Data Cities, it has been approved by leaders of most relevant global peak organisations for distribution as a textbook for relevant professional disciplines and industries.

> The Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) finished its technical specifications for infrastructure to support the proposed national urban modelling research network and launched the alpha version of a portal for members to deliver relevant datasets.

> Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, announced a new Australian Urban Policy Forum ‘to provide stakeholder advice on cities’. Members include leaders of major urban development and transport interest groups and city councils; chaired by Mike Mrdak, Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

> Australia’s Office of Space Policy, led by Drew Clarke, declined suggestions that it should register the trademark ‘Virtual Australia’ – and the Commonwealth government trademark registration agency, IP Australia, indicated that it viewed the term as being ‘free for all’.


> Western Australia’s land information agencies hosted in Perth the 7th conference of the International Society for Digital Earth (a global organisation of space scientists, surveyors and geographers concerned with satellite and remote sensing contributions to computer-modelling the planet).

> Canberra remote sensing scientist John Richards (a professor emeritus at the Australian National University) was announced president of the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE), following the retirement of Beijing-based Professor Lu Yongxiang (then president also of the Chinese Academy of Sciences). ISDE is one of a number of internaational science bodies encouraging ‘Virtual Nations’ concepts.


> The Australian Government allocated $20m (four years) to the University of Melbourne, to set up the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN)  for ‘the establishment of facilities to enhance the understanding of urban resource use and management’. The AURIN Investment Plan noted a ‘priority need for datasets that are consistent, manipulable and as fine-scaled as possible’ and that future models or frameworks would ‘rely entirely’ on the quality of the data. AURIN’s plan was approved as part of the Commonwealth’s Super Science Initiative, with finance from the Education Investment Fund.

> In one of his first actions as president of the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Association, Professor Abbas Rajabifard of the University of Melbourne, co-edited Spatially Enabling Society, a GSDI handbook explaining research, emerging trends and critical assessment procedures for developing an international network of spatial data infrastructure (management) systems.


> The Australian Government finished a two year process of winding up three overlapping Co-operative Research Centres on building and city modelling themes (all based at the Queensland University of Technology), and began scaling down the number of CRCs it had been funding (from over 60 to over 30).

> Melbourne logistics specialist Michael Haines registered VANZI Ltd (a not-for profit public company) to broker advances in the Virtual Australia and New Zealand concept, including on its Board three senior executives at NICTA and the Co-operative Research Centre for Spatial Information.

> The Australian Government’s Office of Spatial Data Management (now the Office of Space Policy) launched the first annual spatial@gov conference to promote applications of geospatial technologies to challenges of social and environmental management.


> The Australian Government released a second Strategic Roadmap for its National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), identifying ‘Built Environment’ as a new priority area for research infrastructure funding.

> The City of Sydney’s Customs House hosted two key multi-screen exhibitions promoting environmental simulations: Virtual Warrane I (Aboriginal modelling of pre-colonial Sydney Cove) and d_city (new international modelling technologies for cities).

> NICTA and three NSW government departments launched proposals and a website by its d_city@NICTA team for a ‘national and global digital cities research network’, during the Metropolis World Association of Major Cities conference. After the appointment next day of current NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane, NICTA and the NSW Government abandoned the d_city@NICTA project.

> The University of Melbourne’s Centre for Land Infomatics and Land Administration, with the Centre for Geoinformation at Waginen University in the Netherlands, published a collection of essays on ways to assess emerging international spatial data infrastructure systems, called A Multi-View Framework to Assess SDIs (Crompvoets, Rajabifard, van Loenen, Delgado Fernández).


> Leaders of the University of Melbourne’s then Department of Geomatics, led by Professors Ian Williamson and Abbas Rajabifard,  began publishing compilations of international academic essays towards developing spatial data infrastructure systems at national and global scales. In some of the Australian essays, the Virtual Australia vision was promoted. The first book (2007) was Towards A Specially Enabled Society, edited by Abbas Rajabifard as a pre-retirement tribute to his mentor Williamson.


> The New Zealand Government, led by then-Prime Minister Helen Clark, hosted the first Digital Earth Summit in Auckland (following earlier Symposia organised by the Beijing-headquartered International Society for Digital Earth).

> The Australian Government called for public comment on its National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. NCRIS Roadmap 1 proposed to spend large budgets on 16 significant industry areas needing new technology platforms for research. Included were substantial sums for geospatial modelling of Australia’s natural environmental systems – via the AUScope and  Terrestial Environmental Research Network (TERN) projects. Missing was recognition of the need for new geospatial infrastructure to support post-PDF research on ‘sustainable built environments’.

> Bruce Thompson, then Director of Spatial Information Infrastructure at the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, presented a lecture (in May) to NICTA’s Victorian Research Laboratory on strategies to develop Virtual Australia: Pervasive networks that know, think, communicate. The presentation is archived at NICTA’s Big Picture seminar series here .


> Google Earth was launched globally: triggering worldwide popularity for Al Gore’s vision of a ‘Digital Earth’. He had introduced this term in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance.

> Six professors from digital architecture and media backgrounds agreed to form a steering committee to promote development of a ‘national and global digital cities research network’. The initial committee comprised Professors John Frazer (then QUT), Mark Burry (RMIT), Tom Kvan (then University of Sydney now University of Melbourne), Bharat Dave (University of Melbourne), Robin Drogemuller (then CSIRO now QUT), and Davina Jackson (then UNSW, later NICTA).

Early 2000s

> The term Virtual Australia was discussed among supporters of a proposed Co-operative Research Centre for Spatial Information. The CRC-SI won a substantial tranche of Australian government funding, led by academics at the University of Melbourne, supported by the Victorian government, and backed by a squad of small-medium spatial information companies aligned with the Australian Spatial Information Business Association (ASIBA, now SIBA).

> The Australian Government launched an Industry Action Agenda process to debate development of a new ‘spatial information’ industry to exploit emerging digital geography technologies for land surveying and GIS mapping. The Agenda report helped launch the Australian Spatial Industries Business Association (ASIBA, now SIBA), the Spatial Surveying and Sciences Institute (SSSI), to represent the interests of companies and surveying professionals, respectively, and PSMA Australia, a government company to publish reliable digital maps. The government champion was the then MP for Eden-Monaro, Gary Nairn, who has been prominent in the spatial industry’s main initiatives since.