4
A FORECAST

The forces and agents of change identified in early sessions of the workshop can be used to generate a forecast for the future. Some aspects of this forecast appear more certain than others. For example, it appears likely that technology will continue to increase in sophistication, speed, and information-processing ability. It is less certain how legislative bodies will deal with such issues as open access, intellectual property rights, patents, tax research credits, and market forces related to the development of that technology.

This chapter presents some of those forecasted certainties and uncertainties within a framework provided by the future forces identified in Chapter 2. When possible, the discussion, which parallels the forces, identifies both the pathways that will enable a particular forecast to emerge and the impediments that may prevent it.

TECHNOLOGY

The sense of the workshop participants was that there is a high probability that technology changes will continue to accelerate and that the growth rates of information and telecommunications technologies will increase. Wireless technologies will be part of that growth, which will help reduce the requirement for traditional infrastructure. It is less certain how new technological advances will be brought into society, how technological changes will be affected by existing mechanisms, or how the mechanisms themselves will change. For example, patents have a life of 17 years, technology purchases depreciate on 5-year cycles, and research tax credits are taken over 3 years. These time frames are already much longer than the life cycles of many new technologies



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 21
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop 4 A FORECAST The forces and agents of change identified in early sessions of the workshop can be used to generate a forecast for the future. Some aspects of this forecast appear more certain than others. For example, it appears likely that technology will continue to increase in sophistication, speed, and information-processing ability. It is less certain how legislative bodies will deal with such issues as open access, intellectual property rights, patents, tax research credits, and market forces related to the development of that technology. This chapter presents some of those forecasted certainties and uncertainties within a framework provided by the future forces identified in Chapter 2. When possible, the discussion, which parallels the forces, identifies both the pathways that will enable a particular forecast to emerge and the impediments that may prevent it. TECHNOLOGY The sense of the workshop participants was that there is a high probability that technology changes will continue to accelerate and that the growth rates of information and telecommunications technologies will increase. Wireless technologies will be part of that growth, which will help reduce the requirement for traditional infrastructure. It is less certain how new technological advances will be brought into society, how technological changes will be affected by existing mechanisms, or how the mechanisms themselves will change. For example, patents have a life of 17 years, technology purchases depreciate on 5-year cycles, and research tax credits are taken over 3 years. These time frames are already much longer than the life cycles of many new technologies

OCR for page 21
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop and will become more so if the pace of technological change continues to accelerate. Regardless of how technology diffuses into society, the workshop discussion indicated that "technological seepage patterns" probably will continue to impact our institutions. Global positioning systems have seeped into law enforcement, biological monitoring, and recreational applications. Likewise, emerging technological innovations will continue to seep into and change social and political institutions. Standards will probably be one of the enabling mechanisms for the coordination, adoption, and development of technology seepage. However, it is less certain how this technology seepage will change the workplace or what impact processing spatial data in the workplace will have on the definition of work, the role of workers, and the structure of working organizations. ECONOMICS AND MARKETS The evolution of the peacetime economy was identified in Chapter 2 as a major force driving the spatial data community. New applications for spatial data will continue to emerge, stimulating the continued growth of a spatial data industry providing data, software, and associated services. In Chapter 3 a parallel trend was identified toward privatization of spatial data functions traditionally associated with government. Partnerships between public and private sectors were identified by workshop participants as a significant pathway that can facilitate economic growth. Despite these forces and changes, there continue to be many sources of uncertainty regarding the future. The concept of information as a commodity is still relatively new, and there is little experience with the problems associated with operating an open market in data. The necessary mechanisms to protect ownership of data and intellectual property may not exist or may be impossible to enforce in an age of open telecommunications. While the current trend toward public-private partnerships may be driven by short-term economic considerations, in the longer term it is likely that social forces related to equity, access, accountability, and governance will become more important. But the extent of these arrangements will depend on how far organizations and

OCR for page 21
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop individuals are willing to go in promoting the ''community good,'' since it can often take more effort to cooperate than to act independently. In the presence of such uncertainty, one way to effect change would be through the development of a coherent national policy on spatial data and technology. For example, consider current U.S. public policy and land information. Property taxes are the largest source of funding for local governments, mortgage interest is the most common source of large deductions from family income tax, and local taxes are deductible from federal taxes. Public policy as expressed in the U.S. tax code thus creates a demand for information, which in turn leads to information use and increased business for various elements of the spatial data community. Workshop participants discussed many areas where legislative actions might impact the future of spatial data and technology, including patents, intellectual property rights, database liability, and tax research credits. Many of these issues will be discussed and resolved in a context that is much broader than the spatial data community and over which the spatial data community has growing but nevertheless limited influence. ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY The workshop discussion indicated that there is a high probability that environmental issues will continue to be important in national policy, but how the nation will deal with these issues is less certain. The concepts of sustainability and environmentally sensitive development also will be important in the national and international arenas. Environmental degradation and reduction in biological diversity will probably remain issues, with implications for the robustness of the environment and its ability to withstand change. To date, environmental concerns, monitoring, and mitigation efforts appear to be dominated by problems caused by point sources, such as smokestacks or effluent discharge pipes. The nonpoint-source problems of agricultural runoff, groundwater quality, and watershed management require very different approaches to monitoring and mitigation. Increased instrumentation and measurement of the environment will provide a more complete, higher-resolution

OCR for page 21
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop picture of the world in which we live and one that is better suited to addressing nonpoint-source problems. While we can be reasonably confident that spatial data technologies will emerge to make it economically feasible to collect and maintain such data, it is much less certain how these data will be incorporated into policy making or how the data will affect use and management of the environment. THE INDIVIDUAL AND LOCAL GOVERNANCE Education and governance emerged from the workshop as two important societal issues and forces. The current trend is away from a strong central government toward local autonomy and initiative, and it seems likely this trend will continue. It is much less certain how local solutions will be harmonized and synthesized upward and how such efforts will be funded. Workshop participants were generally confident that federal agencies and the bases of federal governance will be modified as part of and in response to this trend toward local autonomy. In the short term, public-sector costs will probably rise faster than public-sector revenues, leading to continued pressure for public-private partnerships and other mechanisms for cost sharing. What will emerge from this reshaping of public-sector roles is uncertain. Despite these structural problems, governments at all levels are likely to make use of a variety of mechanisms to stimulate the information industry and direct its course. New federal mandates may focus on building a modern information-age industrial community. State and local governments may see benefits to their communities that can be stimulated by tax incentives. Workshop participants felt confident that new technologies would ultimately lead to the empowerment of many individuals through better and more rapid access to public data, the ability to present data in more persuasive ways, improved communications and technologies to support collaboration, and the power of the Internet and the World Wide Web for rapid publication and dissemination of ideas and data. In the future, public data sources will reflect transactions immediately, reducing or avoiding the lengthy delays that have traditionally impeded effective decision-making.

OCR for page 21
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop In the education area, workshop participants agreed that decisions about how we cultivate our human resources in grades K-12, in college, and beyond need to be made soon. Possible actions in this area range from developing a means to accommodate the older student, to adding spatial thinking to kindergarten classroom instruction. There is certainty that the society of 2010 will require increased use of spatial data and spatial thinking in problem solving, at scales from the human genome to the human body to the environment to galaxies. There is a transition in systems planning that involves greater citizen participation, which could require different types of users and uses of spatial data. It remains uncertain whether the citizens of this nation will be adequately prepared in 2010 to reason spatially or to deal with spatial data.

OCR for page 21
The Future of Spatial Data and Society: Summary of a Workshop This page in the original is blank.