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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop 3 CHANGES Following the plenary session on forces, the workshop participants reconvened into five small groups. In each small group the participants individually described anticipated changes that involve the collection, dissemination, and use of spatial data by the year 2010. These were recorded by the small-group facilitators. The exercise continued until participant contributions were effectively exhausted. After clarification and discussion, the small-group participants ranked the five most important changes on the list. The lists were ranked according to the number of votes. The ranked lists (one per group) were presented in a plenary session, and the changes that received the most votes were discussed briefly. The rankings, although interesting as a way of focusing discussions, were not consistent—some groups emphasized the significance of a change, others emphasized the likelihood of a change. The lists of anticipated changes are, in a sense, snapshots of 139 isolated forecasts of future events involving spatial data, with no organizing structure except the small-group rankings. In this form they do not provide a clear view of the trends and interactions the participants had in mind. Subsequent to the workshop the committee undertook an exercise to draw out this kind of information. It reviewed the collection of events in an attempt to give meaning and structure to the whole. The committee found that the anticipated future changes could be classified into 18 general categories (a few of the changes were repeated in two separate categories). The categories are presented below, ordered generally from technical changes to changes that are more societal in nature. The italicized comments after the brief description indicate the anticipated direction of the change, based on the accumulated comments or "snapshot forecasts" from the workshop. The specific changes are tabulated for each category in Appendix E.
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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop Basic computing technologies include computing and communications technologies that affect our ability to access, transmit, and work with spatial data. There will be continued improvements in the areas of computing capacity, miniaturization, and wireless technologies. Analysis and visualization technologies include software tools and techniques that support spatial data analysis and visualization. Advancements will be in key areas of multidimensional viewing, virtual reality, and spatial data search and integration tools. Pervasiveness of technology will be reflected in the availability and intrusion of spatially related technologies (e.g., geographic information systems, mapping) in our daily lives. The use of spatial data will increase as user interface tools provide improved access to spatial data and spatial data technology becomes embedded in other standard software products. Data integration will be supported by standards and other mechanisms that help to integrate data horizontally, vertically, and synergistically. With the availability of data integration tools and standards, spatial data will become common in the general digital environment. Time lag between production and use is a determining factor in the availability of current, timely spatial data. Instrumentation of the environment will become a major source of real-time data. As the time lag between production and use approaches zero, the way data are managed, distributed, and used will be profoundly different. Intelligent instrumentation can support real-time monitoring of the environment, with associated feedback and response. Instrumentation will provide location information and associated processing and analysis to aid vehicle navigation, traffic monitoring, weather and pollution monitoring, farming practices, and a host of other new applications. Data transactions are the individual changes a business makes in its databases. Business transactions will become a major source of data fueling the need for the management of spatial data bases organized by features. Personal systems are technologies and systems that either control or are controlled by individuals. There will be increasing
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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop availability of technology that either controls or is controlled by individuals. The ability for everyone (and everything) to have spatial locators will create opportunities for new applications. There will be positive and negative implications relating to privacy and personal safety. Quality assurance/quality control issues will have greater emphasis, particularly in the area of standards. Workshop attendees advocated the use of metadata standards—in other words, standards for the documentation of data that include information on the data's quality. While users will continue to demand more relevant information on data quality and greater system accountability, much greater research efforts will be needed to define effective metadata standards. Spatial literacy defines the ability to understand and make effective use of spatial data. The ability of people in schools and in the labor force to understand and use spatial data will increase. Partnerships are collaborations between various stakeholders in the spatial data community, including the public, private, and academic sectors. The current trend to promote partnerships will continue in the area of public-private partnerships, where a competitive advantage can be achieved. Data utilities will emerge from such partnerships as suppliers of data operating within the paradigms characteristic of utilities. Spatial data as a commodity treats spatial data as a good that can be bought and sold. Per-unit costs will decline, and technology will make it possible to put large quantities of data in the hands of the public. Consumer application growth will fuel the market for spatial data. The control of data includes data responsibility, cost, stewardship, access, and privacy. There will continue to be conflicting forces to challenge policy makers. Advocates of public data will be challenged by security concerns, rights to privacy, intellectual property rights, and profit (or cost recovery) objectives. Data collection agents include such institutions as local, state, and federal governments, nongovernmental organizations, and commercial companies. The trend toward local government data collection will continue. This will be brought about by continuing declines in federal government budgets and lower-cost
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The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop technology at the local government level. Government cutbacks will cause agencies to focus on mission-specific data. Data security and protection includes security problems and mechanisms to avoid them. Concerns over security and data protection will cause some organizations to restrict public access to data. Security breaches will occasionally interrupt the information infrastructure. Decision-making processes cover the use of spatial data to make decisions at all levels. The potential for higher-quality analyses and decisions (affecting the management and conservation of the environment and its resources) will increase from improved analytical tools and spatial data availability. Citizen involvement includes spatial data use, management, and access at those levels of government where ordinary citizens can participate. The trend toward data collection at the community level and the greatly increased availability of technology by individuals will provide an expanded forum for citizen involvement in the decision-making process. Privatization concerns a shift toward the commercial sector for collection, ownership, and stewardship of spatial data. While the workshop attendees did not rate this as one of the most significant changes, their statements suggested a trend toward increased privatization of data.
Representative terms from entire chapter: