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FORCES SHAPING THE FUTURE OF SPATIAL DATA

SPATIAL DATA IN A CHANGING WORLD

To its participants, stakeholders, and practitioners, the world of spatial data may appear well defined, cohesive, and of growing importance to itself and society at large. Viewed from a broader perspective, however, the spatial data community is but one of many sectors heavily dependent on developments in technology and driven by forces that are essentially beyond its control. If the spatial data community wishes to understand its alternative futures and to have any effective part in choosing between them, it must first address the external forces that are likely to be as important in driving the community's futures as they have been in the past.

The workshop participants were asked to help define two sets of external forces: hose that have affected the spatial data community in the past and those that will affect it in the future. This chapter presents the results of those efforts.

TO THE PRESENT

Throughout the workshop, participants were given the opportunity to help in an informal documentation of the major events and forces that have marked and shaped the evolution of current spatial data activities. Although this chronology or time line (see Appendix D) was used more as a device to stimulate thinking and workshop participation than as a definitive exercise, it was analyzed subsequently by the committee to determine whether the historical driving forces that have most affected spatial data activities could be identified. Although not mutually exclusive, the following four principal forces were identified as having been the drivers for most of the changes that occurred over the past three decades:



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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop 2 FORCES SHAPING THE FUTURE OF SPATIAL DATA SPATIAL DATA IN A CHANGING WORLD To its participants, stakeholders, and practitioners, the world of spatial data may appear well defined, cohesive, and of growing importance to itself and society at large. Viewed from a broader perspective, however, the spatial data community is but one of many sectors heavily dependent on developments in technology and driven by forces that are essentially beyond its control. If the spatial data community wishes to understand its alternative futures and to have any effective part in choosing between them, it must first address the external forces that are likely to be as important in driving the community's futures as they have been in the past. The workshop participants were asked to help define two sets of external forces: hose that have affected the spatial data community in the past and those that will affect it in the future. This chapter presents the results of those efforts. TO THE PRESENT Throughout the workshop, participants were given the opportunity to help in an informal documentation of the major events and forces that have marked and shaped the evolution of current spatial data activities. Although this chronology or time line (see Appendix D) was used more as a device to stimulate thinking and workshop participation than as a definitive exercise, it was analyzed subsequently by the committee to determine whether the historical driving forces that have most affected spatial data activities could be identified. Although not mutually exclusive, the following four principal forces were identified as having been the drivers for most of the changes that occurred over the past three decades:

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop Technological developments. Technology, and its rate of change, were predominant forces behind many of the changes that occurred in spatial data activities. Technological developments were driven by defense and other large government-funded efforts such as the space program. Environmental awareness. The environmental movement, which gathered momentum in the late 1960s, provided a major impetus to the collection and creation of spatial data. Location-specific data were needed to monitor impacts on the environment, to support programs for environmental restoration, and to manage and conserve natural resources more effectively. New technologies were developed, notably in the areas of computer mapping and Earth observation through satellite remote sensing. Political unrest and war. National security issues led to the collection and analysis of accurate spatial data throughout much of the globe. Spatial databases were constructed in support of intelligence activities and also as components of new ''smart'' weapons systems. Peace time economy. Spatial data have helped form a foundation for commercial enterprises, such as delivery services, and have also led to enhanced market analyses. At the same time, the use of spatial data has reduced costs and increased efficiencies in a wide variety of areas where it is necessary to manage large networks of geographically dispersed facilities, most notably in the utility industries, transportation, and local governments. Policies and practices of open and affordable access to spatial data have contributed to U.S. leadership in the world markets of spatial data technologies and applications. The peacetime economy has seen the diffusion of defense and intelligence technologies into the civilian sector, a particularly noteworthy example being the global positioning system, which was developed for military purposes but is now widely used as a cost-effective tool for determining geographic position. INTO THE FUTURE For the first workshop exercise, participants were divided into five small groups to produce lists of forces that might shape the future of spatial data activities by the year 2010. The forces were categorized and ranked in the small groups.

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop In a plenary session that followed, the items generated by the small groups were categorized and discussed. The categories were arrayed on a large panel. Many were related to one another and in some cases overlapped. The participants discussed the focus of each category, and a facilitator captured relationships by placing them in close proximity to one another and sometimes by drawing links between them. Figure 1 is a rendering of the results of this exercise. For example, on the right-hand side, environmental surveillance, security, and technology were generally related in the discussions and are grouped accordingly. After the workshop, the committee examined these forces, further categorized them, and identified five principal forces that should motivate spatial data collection and use in the future. In no priority order these are: Synergy of information, technology, and access. In the near term, technology development will continue to have profound effects on spatial data activities. In the longer term, information needs will drive further technological developments. Individuals and groups will find new, expanded, and in many cases unanticipated uses for new technologies. New business practices (and new businesses) will emerge out of this volatile and dynamic synergy between information, technology, and access. Expanding global interdependence. With the end of the cold-war era, commerce and other economic activities will be increasingly global in nature and will drive a globalization of spatial information. In parallel with the globalization of telecommunications and other technology-based industries, the spatial data industry will become increasingly globalized as it becomes easier to integrate and transfer data across national boundaries and as international standards emerge. Increasing emphasis on sustainability. Many of the roots of the concept of sustainability lie in the environmental awareness that emerged beginning in the 1960s, but the concept has been broadened significantly to "embrace the essential components of sustainable development: environmental health, economic prosperity, and social equity and well-being."* *    President's Council on Sustainable Development, 1996, Washington, D.C.

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop Figure 1. Result of workshop identification of forces that might shape the future of spatial data activities by the year 2010.

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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop Emergence of community-based governance. Greater citizen involvement in governance (participatory democracy) will be enabled by readily accessible systems that integrate information from disparate sources.* To an increasing degree, spatial data systems will become commonly used tools for developing compromises and reaching decisions among groups with different positions. The individual. This force includes a wide range of concerns centering on the individual: health, personal rights, privacy, quality of life, and recreation. As spatial information becomes embedded in widely applied information technologies and is increasingly accessible to the general public, new uses and demands will change many of the current practices related to these concerns. *   A similar emphasis on the emergence of community based governance enabled by spatial data and tools is given in the report of the "Congress on Applications of Geographic Information Systems to the Sustainability of Renewable Natural Resources," Renewable Resources Journal 14 (3), Renewable Natural Resources Foundation, Bethesda, Maryland, 30 pp., 1996.

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