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Towards a Spatial 'Development' Infrastructure

SDevI ImageToday’s data revolution is providing big dividends for those with spatial data infrastructures (SDI) in place, and more particularly, for those with ‘National Spatial Data Infrastructures’ (NSDI), where every level of society from government, private entities, non-governmental organisations to academia are all interconnected and sharing data. A NSDI improves quality of data, reduces costs related to geographic information sharing, reduces duplication of effort among silo entities, and essentially – makes more types of data available and more accessible by all – helping decision leaders provide for a more informed society.
For countries that are still developing their economies – the advantages of a more sophisticated NSDI creates a bigger gulf between those that have it, and those that don’t. Though the core challenge is presumed to be financially related, Mark Sorensen – President of the GPC Group argues the greater challenge is much more about uncoordinated investments and the need to think of it holistically – more like a ‘Spatial Development Infrastructure’ (SDI). Mark said “In lesser developed countries, much ongoing development work is being funded through international grants, loans and technical assistance projects, many of which are being supported with GIS, but there is typically no structure for managing and sharing commonly needed information, or for the coordination and tracking of development projects.  Projects often make substantial investment in the collection of geographic and geographic-related statistical information that is used once for a specific purpose, and then either discarded, re-sold or re-used by the consultant on other projects, or provided to the local project sponsor with no capacity or infrastructure to manage or use it”.

Having worked with several developing countries around the world to build SDIs, GPC and our broad spectrum of colleagues, partners and clients have seen some common issues, challenges, and opportunities on which we base a concept paper towards reshaping legacy approaches towards a Spatial ‘Development’ Infrastructure concept that is more in tune with the needs of the developing world. The Concept Note proposes an approach that will encourage countries and the donor community to recognize SDI as an enabling environment for more effective, resilient and sustainable development management and as a governance capacity building matter worthy of direct investment.  It also addresses mechanisms to encourage or require project data to be repatriated to the host country upon project completion.  These two mechanisms will provide the catalyst that is needed to increase GIS and SDI adoption, significantly improve evidence based project planning and execution, reduce project risks and thereby attracting additional public and private investment, as well as strengthen the institutional and technical capacities for better functioning government and societies over time. Enabling lesser developed countries to take steps towards a longer-term and sustainable infrastructure would be a better form of investment for their futures. For more detail, please read here: SDI Concept Paper

Related Articles and Papers:

Lance, K.T., Georgiadou, P.Y. and A.K., Bregt, 2013. Opening the black box of donor influence on Digital Africa.  International Journal of Digital Earth 6 (Supplement 2): 1-21. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17538947.2012.699560 
Lance, K.T., Georgiadou, P.Y. and A.K. Bregt, 2009. Cross-agency coordination in the shadow of hierarchy: joining up government geospatial information systems. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 23(2): 249-269. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13658810801909615 
Lance, K., 2005. Cross-agency alignment of geospatial investments for spatial data infrastructure development.  Keynote address, In: Proceedings of the ISPRS Workshop on Service and Application of Spatial Data Infrastructure, October 14-16, 2005, Hangzhou, P.R.China. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228645947 
Lance, K., Georgiadou, Y., and A. Bregt, 2005. Tracking geospatial investments in Africa. In: Proceedings of AfricaGIS 2005, October 31 - November 4, 2005, Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236027689
Lance, K. and Y. Georgiadou, 2005. No management without measurement: towards a GDI business model for Africa. GIM International 19(2). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236027189
Lance, K., 2006. Inter-agency geospatial investment coordination. Invited speaker at International workshop on spatial data infrastructures' cost-benefit-return on investment, Ispra, Italy, 12-13 January 2006: Joint Research Centre (JRC).
Lance, K., Georgiadou, Y., and A. Bregt, 2005.  Tracking geospatial investments in Africa. Presented at AfricaGIS 2005, October 31 - November 4, 2005, Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa.
Lance, K. and Y. Georgiadou, 2004. Innovations in Funding Spatial Data Infrastructure in Developing Countries. 7th International Conference on Global Spatial Data Infrastructure, February 4, 2004.