Spatial Data Infrastructure as national strategic asset for resource management

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With increasing demand of natural resources due to rapidly changing landscape in both urban and rural areas, there is an increased emphasis on conservation of resources. Traditionally, national surveys and mapping organization used to take stock of a nation’s resources and feeding information to government and public entities for further next steps. Over the time these organizations developed strategies and processes to standardize access to this information and application. Decision on optimizing and conserving resources are very much data dependent and ICT systems can play an important role in giving vital inputs to government in policy making. The inputs can be useful in policy decisions on various themes such as Topography, Geology, Soil, Land Use, Ground Water, Meteorology etc. Consequently, many organization also developed tools (Geographical Information Systems also termed GIS) for capturing, displaying, analyzing, storing and geographical information.

“Spatial data infrastructure (SDI) is the infrastructure that facilitates the discovery, access, management, distribution, reuse, and preservation of digital geospatial resources. These resources may include maps, data, geospatial services, and tools.”

A spatial data infrastructure (SDI) is a framework of technologies, policies and institutional arrangements that together facilitate creation, exchange and use of geospatial data and related information resources across an information sharing community. SDI extends a GIS by ensuring geospatial data and standards are used to create authoritative datasets and policies that support it. SDI are built with the hope of creating spatially enabled societies. Spatailly enabled societies depict a governance revolution, where decision making, planning and execution are based on spatial information provided from source based repository. SDI is built keeping in mind the need of end-users in mind, for example SDI for geo-physicists who needs datasets for oil & gas shall be very different from scientist who is looking for land quality/ mineral presence datasets.

The purpose of SDI is:

  •  to save time, effort and money in accessing spatial data and using it responsibly
  •  to avoid unnecessary duplication in the harmonization and  standardization of required datasets by promoting and sharing of available data

National Spatial Data Infrastructure comprise of a set of SDIs each set up to serve a certain application of a certain sector. Furthermore a particular application may require data from different levels such as municipal, provincial or national level so there is a requirement of connectivity and data harmonization. Spatial integration of data is based on geometric referencing system and on reasonable compatibility in resolution of different datasets. The semantic aspects of data definition depend greatly on application context. Types of datasets:

  1. The foundation data are produced by national geodetic/ topographical survey organization. Administrative boundaries are often produced and maintained by national statistical organizations. 
  2. The framework datasets provide thematic information in national context. The data are produced, maintained, published and distributed by national survey organizations such as national soil survey institutes, geological surveys, hydrological surveys etc.
  3. The application specific datasets contain information specifically for a particular application such as pollution measurements, water chemistry, smog indices etc.

The access and use of data files is administered through Spatial Data Center. This is done in accordance with set of rules and policies so that all users know and understand the condition for access to and use/ cost/ security of data. The control is drawn by imposing legislation and information policy from senior administration, and set of related/ complimentary policies appropriate to local bodies. The terms that are deliberated by senior administration are:

  • Freedom of access to government information
  • Data protection and privacy
  • Copyright and intellectual property
  • Commercialization of government information

whereas, the regulations identified at local level include

  •  Access and Use
  •  Pricing and financing
  •  Standards
  •  Integrity, quality and accountability

Building a sustainable spatial data center requires expertise in a several areas in conformance with “evolving standards” such as:

  • Infrastructure (Hardware, Application, Security and Network) set up.
  • Development and maintenance of data standards, data quality and performance standards
  • Quality data production by data suppliers
  • Metadata cataloging and management
  • Financial and administrative model to ensure viability and risk-addressing of running a SDI

Championing SDI takes time, effort and buy-in from leadership. Success blocks need to be identified and full conginzance of activities happening form ground up to top is taken by the executing body.

Further Readings

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