resource management and allocation mandates.2 Reliable spatial data and technologies are needed to monitor and manage urban growth; maximize social, environmental, and economic well-being; and achieve important long-term goals related to quality of life. Without relevant and accurate spatial data at the base, GIS and related technologies (e.g., the global positioning system [GPS], remote sensing, computer mapping, and spatial analysis) are useless. Furthermore, tools for analysis and decision support are required for the application of geographic data to real-world issues.

Public and private institutions are making resources available for long-term decisions about the collection, management, and use of spatial data (NRC, 1997). The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), representing 17 federal agencies, coordinates the development of the NSDI (Box 2.1). The NSDI encompasses policies, standards, and procedures for organizations to cooperatively produce and share geographic data and information. It is being developed in cooperation with organizations from state, local, and tribal governments; the academic community; and the private sector.

In the United States, geographic data collection is a multibillion-dollar business. In 1993, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget conducted a survey and found that total annual expenditure in federal agencies alone was close to $4 billion.3 Another estimate places total annual revenues from GIS hardware, software, and data sales at $7 billion in 1999, with the GIS data industry being the most significant sub-sector (Longley et al., 2001).

Developing, maintaining, and disseminating reliable spatial data has been a major challenge to many organizations. Without a coordinated effort, duplicate data for the same locality or region could be collected by multiple organizations using various definitions of time, at different spatial scales, and with varying degrees of accuracy. In the United States, President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order 12906 established the NSDI and set a significant milestone in coordinating spatial data development (see Box 2.1).

The NSDI is evolving, and its strategic goals have been redefined to reflect various stakeholders’ input and current trends. Of NSDI’s many activities, three have significant implications and direct applicability to the development of spatial data and GIS technology at HUD. They are the development of data standards, the development of framework data and the geospatial data clearinghouse, and the establishment of partnerships with state, local, private sectors, and local communities.


See NRC (2002c) for discussion of federal data collection and dissemination.


Source: FGDC web page, <>.

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