consumers, including individuals, corporations, governmental units at all levels, and nonprofit organizations. The Committee envisions the extended NSDI data to be a public asset. Ideally, the creation and development of useful information from these data, provided by service-oriented businesses, will constitute a lucrative marketplace. The private sector will also continue to have a major role in developing and maintaining the data. It will also provide valuable software tools that will enable communities to better serve their citizens.
We are fortunate in the United States that some of the leaders in the geospatial business community are already adopting this mode of thinking and implementation. The New York State Office of Technology has a Data Sharing Cooperative Agreement that recognizes the benefits of data remaining in the public domain (distributed at no more than the cost of reproduction and shipping), enabling access to those data for all users, including value-added information-service marketing firms. There are certainly firms that still try to generate profits by selling digital data that are available to anyone. Once they understand the future, these firms can easily migrate to providing a useful service by enhancing a customer’s use of digital data rather than by selling the data themselves.
The creation and maintenance of spatial data represents a substantial investment by a community. It must be recognized that there is a great disparity among local governments across the country in their ability to support an extended framework from both technical and financial perspectives. While many communities have devised creative ways to finance such systems, others will never be in a position to do so. Regional or even statewide consortia will be required to develop a consistent level of spatial data. Furthermore, in some parts of the country, mechanisms such as Geographic Information Block Grants will be required to overcome this “spatial digital divide.”