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Future Partnerships and the Evolution of NSDI Activities

The NSDI, and the partnership programs that have been an integral part of it, clearly need to move beyond the stage of evangelizing the concept of the NSDI, promoting its goals, and demonstrating its possibilities. Looking forward, both the NSDI and its partnership programs need to move rapidly on to new and enhanced efforts aimed at fulfilling the key objectives of the NSDI; specifically, to:

  1. Populate the Framework database in a truly sustainable production mode rather than as isolated experimental or prototype project;

  2. Develop and disseminate the procedures and technologies needed for effectively and efficiently building, maintaining, integrating, distributing, and using the data;

  3. Continue the process of establishing clearinghouses and promulgating the necessary standards to support the NSDI.

This chapter explores the further evolution of partnerships in fostering the adoption of the NSDI. The success of future partnerships should be assessed by determining, in a rigorous fashion, how these efforts (and therefore the NSDI itself) have reduced redundancy in geospatial data collection and maintenance; reduced overall costs in performing these tasks; improved access to geospatial data; and improved the accuracy of the data used. The attainment of these



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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus 3 Future Partnerships and the Evolution of NSDI Activities The NSDI, and the partnership programs that have been an integral part of it, clearly need to move beyond the stage of evangelizing the concept of the NSDI, promoting its goals, and demonstrating its possibilities. Looking forward, both the NSDI and its partnership programs need to move rapidly on to new and enhanced efforts aimed at fulfilling the key objectives of the NSDI; specifically, to: Populate the Framework database in a truly sustainable production mode rather than as isolated experimental or prototype project; Develop and disseminate the procedures and technologies needed for effectively and efficiently building, maintaining, integrating, distributing, and using the data; Continue the process of establishing clearinghouses and promulgating the necessary standards to support the NSDI. This chapter explores the further evolution of partnerships in fostering the adoption of the NSDI. The success of future partnerships should be assessed by determining, in a rigorous fashion, how these efforts (and therefore the NSDI itself) have reduced redundancy in geospatial data collection and maintenance; reduced overall costs in performing these tasks; improved access to geospatial data; and improved the accuracy of the data used. The attainment of these

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus tactical goals are very closely related to the Framework data efforts. These efforts support the other, less tangible but broader and strategic objectives such as increased citizen participation in decision making, and the provision of improved information to support decision making at all levels of government as well as in the private sector. The evolution of Framework-related NSDI activities and the supporting partnership program can be divided into two major categories of activities: Framework data production; and data access, use and other Framework issues. FRAMEWORK DATA PRODUCTION The challenge in this area is to make effective use of partnerships to stimulate, encourage, and enable the shift from small-scale, project-based data creation and maintenance efforts to large-scale, sustained, and efficient data creation, integration, and maintenance. Because Framework data are, by definition, fundamental to a broad range of geospatial information applications, it is a core goal of the NSDI to ensure that these data are being produced and maintained. Since the operating premise of the NSDI is that state, local, and tribal governments as well as private sector and NGO entities are each potential key contributors to the Framework, their successful participation in data production is a requirement for the success of the Framework and hence the NSDI itself. Therefore, because of budget constraints, partnership programs must take all possible steps to ensure that the Framework is, in fact, being populated and maintained. With the understanding that the federal government is not in a position actually to fund full-scale, ongoing Framework production efforts across the range of non-federal, data-producing organizations, how can the federal government use partnership programs to address the Framework data production goal most effectively? Increase the scale, scope, and accountability of partnership activities. This could be accomplished by selecting a small number of key non-federal entities that would be willing to participate in carefully monitored and documented data production and maintenance tasks for specific Framework layers. The objective use

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus would be to rigorously evaluate specific approaches to data capture and data update. These experiments could be based on the use of new technology or an evaluation of protocols and procedures. The selected partners would be evaluated on their willingness to establish the capabilities to measure cost savings, data access improvements, and data accuracy increases, etc. The goal of these activities would be to take the technological and organizational steps required to put in place a complete Framework data production system, and then to run this system for sufficient time to obtain measurable and statistically significant assessment results. If the data production activity is determined to be a success, based on the criteria listed above, the goal would be to then clone the system nationwide, to the degree appropriate. Each of the partnership projects would be evaluated against the four key criteria: reduced redundancy, reduced costs, improved access, and improved accuracy. Not only should partnership programs explicitly require the capture of these factors on a before-and-after basis, but also steps need to be taken to assist non-federal organizations to take advantage of proven methods to achieve these goals. Once the assessment results indicate that these goals have been achieved, the technological and organizational or other aspects of a production system would be disseminated to the community. This process would significantly enhance the ability of non-federal organizations to produce and maintain Framework data in a manner that has been shown to be effective and efficient (e.g., soil data in Minnesota; see Box 4 below). The FGDC could also identify additional successful case studies where federal funding has resulted in partnerships that have benefited both the federal and non-federal organization. These case studies could be compiled into a “cookbook” that would provide guidance to others. A good example of such a resource is the recently completed NSDI Communications Toolkit. These communication tools were developed through a cooperative partnership between the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) and the FGDC (available at: http://www.fgdc.gov/nsdi/docs/communications/index.html). Of equal importance is the development of software tools that facilitate the integration of data from a variety of sources. In fact, the vendor community has made remarkable progress in this area. Efforts such as Microsoft’s Terraserver clearly demonstrate that users can

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus use their Web Browsers to easily access a huge quantity of image and other spatial data sources. The efforts of the Open GIS consortium’s Web Mapping Test Bed demonstrate that similar tools can be used to combine data housed on several different FGDC clearinghouse nodes. Such nodes now number more than 240 located in 26 different nations. There has also been considerable technological advancement integrating desktop GIS software with industry standard database management systems and common office products. Better support for the development and use of metadata has facilitated easier exchange of spatial data among formats, map projections, and datums. In fact, map projections can be converted “on the fly” and several databases can be integrated into a single project. Software wizards and improved on-line help systems have led to significant improvements in the usability of sophisticated spatial analytical tools. Partnership programs designed to support this kind of complete production system and evaluation effort will necessarily require a higher level of per-project funding than has been available in previous partnership programs. Clearly, the more of these efforts that can be funded, the more rapidly the successful population of the Framework database will occur. Identify whether critical components of the Framework database are being adequately addressed, either by the federal agencies or by non-federal organizations, and take action to address any gaps that are identified. Such gaps may be geographic in nature, thematic, scale-specific, etc. A strategy for addressing such gaps may include providing incentives to an organization to perform the data production, even though the organization would not normally produce such data. In the extreme, it may be determined that it is in the broad public interest to ensure that these data exist and are maintained, and therefore that subsidies or outright funding of the activity might be appropriate. Based on the specific Framework layer(s) involved, one or more federal agencies may have a particular interest in ensuring that the data are collected and maintained and therefore may support the activity financially, or alternatively may collect the data itself. Offer creative incentives for non-federal organizations to carry out their Framework data production and maintenance missions. These incentives could include cash awards based on completion and continuing maintenance of Framework data. Such incentives could be

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus BOX 4 Soil Data in Minnesota-a Partnership Success Story A 1994 survey of the Minnesota GIS community identified soil data at the top of the list of needs for new and improved data. The need was especially high for county governments and natural resource agencies. At the time, only one of Minnesota’s 87 counties had a spatially correct digital soil map and the rate of production for such products by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS-then called the Soil Conservation Service) was one county per year. Something needed to be done to provide the required geospatial soil data. NRCS recognized a need to accelerate soil mapping nationwide and joined with USGS and other federal agencies to create a National Digital Orthophoto Program, with the expectation that the resulting orthophotos would provide a solid base for creating new soil maps. The Minnesota legislature provided matching funds, which accelerated completion of orthophotos across the state. As a consequence of the availability of these orthophotos, NRCS scientists focused new mapping activities on Minnesota. The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Geographic Information created a soil committee, which studied the situation and determined that the biggest problem for many counties was spatial distortion in many of their soil maps, caused by lack of an orthoimagery base when the maps were compiled. Most Minnesota counties are in areas of low to moderate relief, and there was hope that these existing soil maps could be adjusted to the spatially correct orthophotos using elevation data collected as part of the National Digital Orthophoto Program. The Minnesota Legislature, using special funds set aside for investing in natural resources, funded research by Professor Jay Bell at the University of Minnesota to see if such adjustments could be made without distorting other parts of the map. The project was successful and his approach is now being considered for approval by NRCS for use in other states. The approach has also helped focus fieldwork in counties updating obsolete soil maps. As of late 2000, fourteen Minnesota counties have spatially-correct, modern digital soil maps and ten more are in progress. This progress would have been impossible without the contributions of the NRCS, USGS, the state policy council, the state legislature, individual counties, and the University of Minnesota.

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus contingent upon demonstrating achievement of the four assessment criteria and continued improvement over time. Other incentives could include access to NSDI software tools, applications software, training materials, etc. DATA ACCESS, USE, AND OTHER FRAMEWORK ISSUES In addition to the core goal of populating the Framework, several other critical issues must be addressed in order for the NSDI to be a success, especially in regard to the broader objectives of improving decision making through increasing the effective use of geospatial data at all levels of government, by citizens, and in the private sector. As with Framework data production, partnership programs are needed to address these issues effectively, since both the definition of potential solutions and the implementation of the solutions need to occur in the geospatial community at large. • Data integration (vertical and horizontal). If the enormous potential benefits of the NSDI are to be realized, datasets produced by different organizations, covering different themes and geographic areas, and at different scales, must be used in conjunction with each other, as well as with non-Framework datasets. While the focus on transfer standards and metadata standards has been a necessary step in realizing true integration, it is now necessary to use the standards to actually achieve integration. Vertical integration ensures that data elements from disparate themes over the same geographic area demonstrate logical and geometric consistency. This is difficult enough to achieve when integrating data of the same structural type (e.g., vector hydrographic data and vector transportation data), but becomes even more problematic when integrating disparate types (e.g., raster orthoimagery, matrix-based terrain elevation data, and vector data). Nevertheless, even though these themes may be produced by different organizations, they must be technically compatible in order for the full benefits to be realized. A critical component of this type of integration will be the acceptance of standards that are being developed by the FGDC subcommittees. For example, the Ground Transportation Subcommittee’s proposed standard on transportation features provides a model for different

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus organizations to refer to the same road segment and assign attributes that meet their specific needs. Vertical integration issues can be addressed through several approaches. First, at the time of collection or production, steps can be taken to help maximize consistency across themes. Given the “ground truth” of orthophotography (assuming accurate positional control, sufficient resolution, etc.), production systems that incorporate this imagery into the process (e.g., as a backdrop if not for actual extraction of features) may ensure a level of consistency and accuracy across themes. Similarly, the collection of elevation models utilizing hydrographic information not only improves the accuracy of the terrain data but also helps ensure consistency between these two layers. Thus, data production methodologies can help mitigate the vertical integration problem. Once data have been collected, tools, both automated and interactive, can be used for after-the-fact data accuracy and consistency checking and clean-up. Again, the development and application of these tools can improve integration. Finally, at the user end of the spectrum, that is, in applications, analytical procedures, visualization tools, etc., smart software can deal with potential integration problems and still allow for appropriate use of the various data themes together. For example, inconsistencies or other problems may dictate that it would not be appropriate to combine two themes in an analytical overlay fashion (e.g., point-in-polygon or polygon overlay calculation), even though visual integration at a particular scale is perfectly legitimate. The Web Mapping Testbed of the Open GIS Consortium (OGC, 2001) addresses this issue directly, and has already demonstrated substantial success. Horizontal integration refers to the simultaneous use of datasets across collection or jurisdictional boundaries. This is key, for example, in dealing with issues on a regional (e.g., river basin or watershed) basis. The logical subdivisions fall into three administrative levels: regional, state, and national. The level of responsibility and authority that resides at the state level varies considerably from state to state. For example, the Texas Natural Resources Information System provides public domain statewide coverage of a number of the framework datasets at a scale of 1:24,000 and quarter quad digital orthophotographs. Other states, such as

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus Tennessee, have made a major commitment to providing high resolution (1:48,000 and 1:1200) framework data and tax parcels on a statewide basis. The Tennessee state government is providing 75 percent of the $30 million for the project (ESRI, 2001b). Clearly, such a state level commitment will greatly facilitate horizontal integration. As with vertical integration, the problem can be addressed at each stage of the geospatial data collection, production, and use spectrum. To the extent that national-level base data, even at smaller scales than optimal, can be used to identify tie points at the boundaries between data coverage areas, some inconsistency can be avoided. Following data collection, software for checking the consistency of data across collection boundaries can be used to detect inconsistencies and either resolve them in some automated fashion or flag them for manual clean-up. Finally, at the data use or application stage, appropriate use of data across collection boundaries can be accomplished, even in the presence of anomalies such as gaps, attribute changes, and other inconsistencies. Thus, to deal with the integration problem, the NSDI and future partnerships should address the issue by encouraging integrative actions at each stage in the geospatial data process. This may include the development of procedures, processes, software tools, standards, guides, and other aids. • Data use and applications. Clearly, the true payoff of the NSDI will be closely tied to those geospatial data-based applications that make use of Framework and other data to address specific problems or issues facing governments, companies, and NGOs. In the next stage of the NSDI partnership program, the development and diffusion of geospatial applications will be critical to the perceived success of the entire effort. Applications of geospatial data in a particular domain involve the integration of domain-specific data with Framework data, mapping, and visualization of the data, geometric processing, spatial search and retrieval, tabulations of summary data, and incorporation of the data into analytical or predictive models. The ultimate objective of the utilization of geospatial data and technologies is to promote and enhance information-based decision making. There is widespread recognition that spatial data are the core of a new level of services to the citizens. Taxpayers have similar expectations from their local governments as

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus they do for other information-based services provided by their banks, travel agencies, bookstores etc. These E-government solutions require considerable innovation to bring a high level of web-based services to a relatively unsophisticated user community. The University Consortium for Geographic Information Sciences (UCGIS) presented a good overview of critical application domains (UCGIS, 2000b). The domain areas include: crime analysis, emergency preparedness and response, transportation planning and monitoring, public health and human services, urban and regional planning, water resources, and involving the public. This list could easily be expanded to include important issues such as environmental protection, equitable tax assessment, school zoning, bus routing, hazards and risk assessment, and growth management. One of the great benefits of sharing spatial data occurs when multiple uses are realized that extend beyond the original need. The Census TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system) line files are the primary example of this. The MSC has argued that by “throwing the goodies over the fence,” the Census Bureau essentially created new markets and expanded the application domains for GIS practitioners. An important consideration is whether greater cooperation could result in better data with additional attributes or improved spatial resolution for essentially the same cost. The NSDI and associated partnerships should develop application guides based on successful projects that have used geospatial data and tools to address these issues. Ultimately, these guides would be complete “how-to” cookbooks that would identify the Framework data, non-Framework and domain-specific data, and the application software tools that are available, where to get them, and how to use them. To the extent that commercial or public-domain software or data exist to address these domains, the guides would point to those resources. In the case where the needed resources do

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus not exist, a partnership program may develop new software or, preferably, modify or customize existing software. Assuming that these application guides would be available from the clearinghouses through the web (virtual town halls), and could include the needed tools or information on how to get them as well as the ancillary domain-specific datasets needed for application, there should be rapid diffusion of geospatial data use. Partnership programs can be designed to implement this scheme, for example, through the funding of application-specific Community-Federal Information Partnerships grants. These grants could stimulate the creation of application guides as well as the development of needed tools, software customizations, and domain-specific datasets. THE TIME DIMENSION: DATA UPDATE, ARCHIVING, AND CHANGE DETECTION For the NSDI to fulfil its mission, the currency of the data (particularly those themes of the Framework database that exhibit significant change yearly or more frequently, e.g., transportation and orthophotos) must be addressed to assure users that information is accurate as of a specified date, and that the information is not so outdated as to make its use in specific applications problematic. Contributors of Framework data, particularly the changeable themes, should be encouraged and assisted to maintain the data in a structured ongoing process so that some degree of predictability and confidence in terms of the utility and timeliness of key data elements will be assured. Future partnership programs should therefore provide incentives to organizations to establish systems for regular updates and maintenance of Framework data based on transactions. These transactions should include changes to the built environment, such as new roads and subdivisions. Such continuous update activities would provide critical information for emergency 911 systems, and would also significantly reduce the start-up cost for the decennial census. Update guidelines, by theme and perhaps by scale, should be developed to encourage partner organizations to adopt and commit to a regular schedule of updates, with specific definitions of a minimally acceptable update for any particular theme. For example, for the

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus transportation theme, certain features and attributes viewed as essential to a large majority of applications would be required to be updated on an annual (or quarterly, etc.) basis, whereas other features and attributes could be updated less frequently. It should be noted that the proposed standard for transportation features accomplishes this by uniquely labeling the points and segments that comprise the road network. This enables one to unambiguously refer to a specific feature and locate it on the earth’s surface. This type of national registry of transportation features would allow for continuous updates and multiple representations. A concurrent effort by the FGDC cultural and demographic subcommittee has developed a proposed standard for assigning addresses to these road segments. It is important to note that in the 1993 report, Toward a Coordinated Spatial Data Infrastructure for the Nation (NRC, 1993), the MSC called for the development and maintenance of a national Street Centerline Spatial Database (SCSD). The SCSD was considered to be one of the cornerstones of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). In 2001, there is no clear program for a coordinated effort to maintain a SCSD. It is also not clear whether input for the continuous monitoring of its proprietary street centerline data should fall in the domain of the USGS, the Bureau of the Census, state highway departments, local governments, or private companies. Partnership programs should be established to develop and test technical and organizational systems for data update. These should contribute to the development of standard protocols and guidelines that would facilitate a high degree of uniformity nationwide. Since many public and private organizations would benefit from accurate and timely spatial data, it is important to consider innovative approaches to public-private funding, and to devise appropriate federal financial incentives that could facilitate the continuous maintenance of framework data. In addition to data update, earlier versions of data must be retained for change analysis and historical review, both of which the availability of datasets representing two or more time periods enables. For example, the Urban Dynamics Research Program (UDRP, 2001), a partnership of the USGS, NASA, and several universities, uses historical land-use data to model and predict urban growth in U.S. metropolitan regions. Other policy issues depend on a

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus consistent method for monitoring changes in land use and land cover. The detection of key changes in geospatial data, the description and measurement of change, and the analysis and modeling of change are required for many applications. For example, in order to meet programmatic goals—such as: “Analyze land use change in large metropolitan areas using USGS-derived temporal data” (UDRP, 2001)—it is essential to have the supporting spatial information. Partnership programs that utilize the NSDI Framework data for change detection or analysis for specific applications would be valuable as a means to ensure that the NSDI resources support this functionality adequately, and also to develop tools and methodologies for change detection and analysis in the NSDI context. This would make an important contribution toward the goal of increasing the use of geospatial data to address real-world decision-making needs. A data archiving function could become a standard task for the NSDI organization itself (i.e., centralized archiving) or it could fall within the responsibility of the contributing partner organization. From a future partnership perspective, this issue should be addressed in order to develop guidelines and assistance to partner agencies to help ensure that data are being appropriately archived. Again, since consistency is so important, guidelines by theme (and scale) will be required, as will technological tools that can assist data contributors in maintaining old versions of their NSDI-relevant data and making them available to users. All of these extended services rest on the same basic assertions: that through partnerships, the NSDI will reduce costs and duplication and improve accuracy and access. PRIVACY, THE PRIVATE SECTOR, AND PUBLIC ACCESS ISSUES Because the NSDI network of information assets, including Framework data, will not be comprised entirely of public-domain data, many of these information assets will be subject to concerns about privacy, private and public rights, and free use versus pay-for-use. To exclude these latter assets would result in a watered-down, more expensive (from a taxpayer’s if not a user’s perspective), less detailed, less accurate, and hence less useful NSDI. Therefore, these

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus issues must be addressed, and future partnership programs should be responsible for establishing the policies, tools, and systems needed for an NSDI that can adequately handle private-sector as well as public-sector data, confidential as well as non-confidential data, and free-use as well as restricted-use data. Partnership programs dealing with public-sector data which may have some associated privacy or confidentiality concerns (e.g., dealing with individual-level property information in a cadastral dataset) should identify or develop guidelines and tools for dealing with this issue in a way that prevents the unauthorized or inappropriate use of such data, yet still makes available as much of the information as possible without violating privacy or confidentiality guidelines. It must be noted that many of the challenges that face the development of the NSDI based on public private partnerships are being addressed by the private sector. One example is MicroSoft’s establishment of the Terraserver, which provided free access to federal data and images. Another example is Environmental Systems Research Institute’s Geography Network. The Geography Network is “a concept that promotes the sharing and distribution of geospatial information via the Web, allowing consumers to have access to information that will allow them to understand their geography and apply this to their everyday and business use” (ESRI, 2001a). Using the fundamental power of the Internet, contributors publish links to web servers that house their geographic data. In this manner the contributor remains the custodian of the data and is free to establish its own data maintenance program. In many ways the Geography Network represents an alternative to the FGDC data clearinghouses. However, according to ESRI (2001a): “The Geography Network complements and supports the FGDC’s efforts to create a National Spatial Data Infrastructure,…assists in building relationships among the organizations that are supporting the NSDI…[I]t provides the infrastructure to build and support the sharing of data across different industries, organizations and nations.” While still in its infancy, the Geography Network appears to have gained favor with a wide range of public and private data pro-

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus viders and represents an intriguing business model. The Texas Natural Resources Information System, the New Jersey Office of GIS, the Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access, and the USGS, for example, are all using the Geography Network to disseminate public domain data, while private data providers, such as Geographic Data Technology, are using the same system to collect fees for their proprietary data. In this manner the Geography Network is a combination of a geospatial library and an e-business venture. A unique feature of the system is that it allows for a preview of data before any fees are charged for the actual data transfer. It is interesting to note, that in the open environment of the Internet, the FGDC data clearinghouse nodes could become part of The Geography Network. Clearly, The Geography Network will enhance the concept of the NSDI by potentially providing a highly popular and robust starting point for the search of the most complete inventory of spatial data for any part of the world. The ultimate success will be judged by the public in terms of performance, completeness, and ease of use, however, it must also be noted that The Geography Network relies on contributors who have adopted FGDC metadata and content standards. It could be argued that this is exactly the type of public private partnership that will make the NSDI a reality. Private-sector participation in the NSDI will require that guidelines be established and mechanisms put in place to manage users’ access to licensed datasets or elements. Much work needs to be done first to develop the policy for integrating private-sector data within the NSDI (e.g., Will Framework data be completely public domain or free access? Can a free-access version of Framework be made available for those unable or unwilling to pay for data access, as well as a fee-based version for those who will pay? Is it possible to establish consistency in pricing policies?), and then to establish the infrastructure needed to manage access, licensing, and fees. This process should take full advantage of the ever-improving state-of-the-art in e-commerce tools, particularly those dealing with selling digital goods, such as Qpass, which manage the sale and distribution of information from other sites, such as image repositories (e.g., Corbis, 2001), financial databases, and news databases (Qpass, 2001). To address the public-access issue, it may be feasible to implement a public-use category that is free in all cases, even when

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus private sector data are involved (this may be particularly appropriate for Framework data). In addition, there may be added data features or attributes supplied via the private sector (or NGOs or even local governments) that require payment but are fully integrated with the NSDI. This information source, rights, licensing, and payment architecture must be defined and then implemented. Partnership programs with private- and public-sector organizations can help greatly in moving towards this goal by using real-world examples of data sources whose introduction to the NSDI will require these issues to be addressed. Policy guidelines, technology solutions, and organizational structures should each be addressed in partnership projects dealing with this issue. THE GEODATA ALLIANCE—AN INNOVATIVE ORGANIZATIONAL APPROACH FOR DEVELOPMENT OF THE NSDI The committee is encouraged by the efforts of the FGDC to seek creative ways for expanding the participation in the NSDI initiative and to develop a sustainable organizational structure that can build on federal efforts. In addition to the OMB Initiative to establish regional I-Teams to develop the NSDI, the FGDC has also been advocating the establishment of the GeoData Alliance. The GeoData Alliance stems from a presentation at the 1999 GeoData Forum by Dee W.Hock, founder and CEO of Visa International, and Coordinating Director of the Chaordic Alliance. The development of Visa International was based on the need to develop a functional operating organization amongst an extensive set of loosely linked activities in the marketplace. Similarly, a GeoData Alliance could create a more structured organization within what is presently a fairly chaotic and disorganized set of players in the geospatial data arena. The FGDC played a lead role is creating and supporting a broad-based drafting team to develop an organizational design for the alliance. In September 2000, the drafting team generated a report that lays out a detailed blue print for a nonprofit organization with the stated purpose to foster “…trusted inclusive processes to enable the creation, effective and equitable flow, and beneficial use of geo-

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus graphic information…” (GeoData Alliance, 2000). The overriding concept of the GeoData Alliance is “…to create contexts in which diverse individuals and institutions can come together to pursue common interests, collaborating when appropriate and competing vigorously in other ways….” (GeoData Alliance, 2000). An integral aim of the Alliance is to collaboratively develop strategies and plans for the realization of the NSDI. It is interesting to note that one of the recommended practices is to create or support transactional systems that would focus on framework data. At the same time, one of the guiding principles in the creation of the GeoData Alliance is that “Geographic information has inherent value and the creators of that value should be equitably compensated.” This raises perhaps the most difficult obstacle that the NSDI concept faces. Increasingly, equitable compensation takes the form of a licensing agreement for the restricted use of the data from a private vendor or a license from a public agency that is trying to recoup its capital investment. Such licensing agreements are generally in conflict with policies of the U.S. government agencies that traditionally have acquired outright ownership of data. By acquiring ownership, government is able to offer broad access to citizens and the commercial sector to the data it acquires, as well as access to any derived public records. If government licenses rather than purchases data from the private sector, many of these benefits are threatened. Once government begins to acquire information resources by license, it will be forced to license out or contractually limit dissemination of the data. Therefore, the principle of equitable compensation to data creators becomes thorny. The GeoData Alliance is open to individuals, organizations, and other alliances, and is governed by a council of 32 trustees. In the committee’s view, the creation of the GeoData Alliance is a significant step in the evolution of the NSDI and the role of the federal government. It is not clear how the concept of the GeoData Alliance will be reconciled with the OMB-supported I-team initiatives that have already proven to be extremely popular. Although the FGDC has played a significant role in fostering the development of the GeoData Alliance, the committee foresees that the creation of such a nonprofit organization could surrender the preeminent role that the FGDC has played in NSDI activities to date. Since the concept is

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National Spatial Data Infrastructure Partnership Programs: Rethinking the Focus still in its infancy, it is not clear how the different sectors would interact within such an organization. For example, considerable attention should be paid to the balance of power. If it is dominated by the private sector, such an alliance could disrupt the sharing of data that has been a cornerstone of the NSDI concept. It is also important to note that the FGDC has been playing a major role in promoting global data sharing. It has participated in all five Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) conferences, and serves as the organization’s permanent secretariat. Although the GSDI is still a fledging concept, is significant that 43 countries recently sent representatives to Cartagena, Columbia, to the Fifth Global Spatial Data Infrastructure Conference. The FGDC staff provided considerable assistance in the development of a “cookbook,” The Spatial Data Infrastructure Implementation Guide, and support for the GSDI website (GSDI.org). This cookbook provides extensive guidance and recommendations regarding policies, organizational principles, and standards. Indications are that the FGDC involvement in the GSDI setting will lead to a more coherent organization of several of the nation’s international spatial data efforts such as Digital Earth, Global Map, the Global Disaster Information Network, and the United Nations Environmental Programme.

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