New institutions could make licensing a more powerful and attractive tool for government agencies, commercial firms, and other affected stakeholders. The possibilities include model licenses, multiagency licenses, automated search capabilities, and an integrated National Commons and Marketplace. Because geographic data sharing and exchange relationships are complex, fundamental improvements cannot be based on a single strategy or intervention. Rather, agencies must evaluate their mandates and missions and consult constituencies to identify strategies and interventions that, taken together, yield the greatest net benefits. These benefits should extend beyond the agency and their immediate stakeholders to embrace the broader public interest.
A well-organized geographic data commons connecting users and contributors and an efficient market connecting buyers and sellers could make agency licensing more efficient, reduce wasteful duplication between agencies, accelerate the availability of local datasets in the public domain and commons, improve archiving of geographic data, increase the range of geographic data products available to consumers, and foster competition among private vendors. Such a National Commons and Marketplace might be government-operated, vendor-operated, a stand-alone for-profit business, or a nonprofit organization. Major components also could be operated by different entities. Assessment of options should address and accommodate the interrelationships and interdependencies among technical, institutional, legal, and economic issues. Whatever the chosen path, strong agency leadership will be needed to ensure maximum benefits.
Recommendation: Federal agencies should investigate options for and encourage development of a National Commons and Marketplace in Geographic Information.