Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tiny SDI

Does a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) make sense for small countries? After all, an SDI, like any other infrastructure takes financial investment, time and effort to build. And small countries might feel that they don't have the tax dollars to spend on esoteric-sounding "SDI". Karen Richardson and Alan Mills make the case for SDIs in Ascension Island, St. Helena, Rodrigues Island, Montserrat and the Caribbean's smallest country, St. Kitts & Nevis - Small Islands SDI (686KB PDF).


Lawn Ranger said...

1) I don't know what a SDI is.

2) If a Spatial Data Infrastructure is a logical framework for storing and accessing geographic data across multiple units of an organization, I don't understand why the same framework (populated differently, given different conditions in the individual units) could not be used for multiple small islands. . . . . even in a centralized data warehouse, such as the OECS GIS and Remote Sensing Centre (which exists in Alternate Universe # 345-548).

3) In the specific case of small islands, in general I don't think that SDI or GIS produce cost-effective results unless there is a substantial change in traditional data access and freedom of information. In my experience (going back to a paper that Louis Potter of the BVI and I co-authored back in 1995), the BVI and Anguilla seem to have made such changes; other places, such as the USVI, where information from an automated cadastral information system was not even available to government-sponsored researchers, have not.

Bruce Potter
Island Resources Foundation

Vijay said...

1. A good question for many persons. The USA describes its National SDI as "the technology, policies, standards, human resources, and related activities necessary to acquire, process, distribute, use, maintain, and preserve spatial data". Europe expresses its need for an SDI due to "fragmentation of datasets and sources, gaps in availability, lack of harmonisation between datasets at different geographical scales and duplication of information collection. These problems make it difficult to identify, access and use data that is available". And your simpler definition in #2 is fine too.

2. Well put. And hyper-leaps to Alternate Universe # 345-548 were unsuccessful.

3. I'd like to know what persons from Anguilla, the BVI and the USVI think about their SDIs or lack thereof?

LISA-KAY said...

Based on the definitions above, the BVI has some of the makings of a SDI; people, procedures and technology but the policies are lacking. GIS had advanced in the BVI since the last four years. The creation of a SDI is the next step. We have already adopted the ISO metadata standard and are currently uploading datasets to our Enterprise Server. The creation of a portal will follow. There is a draft policy of data sharing but this has to be approved by the Heads of the related Departments. This details the procedure for data sharing among the National GIS committee stakeholders in the first instance. The BVI is also now assembling its submission for the Global map of the world project. So with that said the SDI, NSDI and eventually GSDI is not a far way off.

Lisa Kay S Lewis GISP
BVI National GIS Coordinator

AlanM said...

Good to see some debate on this issue. One point Lisa Kay is saying is the point I was trying to get across in the article - that often baby steps are needed but I also reiterate that often it is not so much the idea of a SDI that is important, it is identifying the uses of shared GIS data (e.g. conserving the mountain chicken) that create the need for the tools that an SDI create: the metadata, catalog and steerage that gives savings on all ready stretched budgets.

The debate Bruce and Louis started so many years ago is still the basis for so much of what needs to change in SIDS. Even in the islands Karen and I wrote about, some stakeholders feel excluded from access to the technology and data because they cannot work within the "market price" principal - the engineers, architects and surveyors can afford data but environmentalists, joe and jo public and NGOs cannot.

SDI in SIDS will rarely be the all singing all dancing clearinghouses either up and running or dreamed of (and I think more dreamed than realised), but by sharing experiences between these states, and demonstrating to policy and decision makers, we can keep taking the baby steps to make the systems work. Those SIDS who are believed to be lagging behind can then see if there are solutions elsewhere in the world, that they can adopt and adapt to.

Alan Mills

Vijay said...

In the IEEE 2008 article Geographic Factors Complicating Hazard Responses on Small Islands Dr. Smith of the UNLV mentions that "Remoteness often also results in
a lack of essential baseline hazard
data" ... referring to spatial data.

Alan Jones said...

There's been so much talk about caribbean SDI's for so long. I will tap into a couple of Alan Mills' comments as they dovetail with my long-held views i.e. we can get so bogged down with these terms....SDI being one of them....but the fact is they mean different things to different people. It's no use aiming straight for a off small chunk and chew that instead and swallow it. By definition small island states such as ours generally have to go one step at a time. Resources are limited. We have seen so many examples where donor/aid money has been put into big projects and as soon as that money runs out teh projects just wither on the vine because the gov't can't (or is unwilling) to continue the investment. Bigger is definately not always better in this context. what is more important is good steady incremental growth in capabilities and data sets. I have often said that there is far too little regional cooperation bewteen Gov't entities...particularly in the GIS field. Why reinvent the wheel every time when some other country has already developed it an application or whatever.Gov't to Gov't contracts often work far better (and have far greater staying power) than deals involving out of region consultants who have little in the way of vested interests. ( I would hasten to add that ther are some exceptions to that rule - Alan Mills being one of them).
The other point I would make is that revenue generation arising from GIS products and services shoudl not be undervalued. Getting funding from your gov't cn be very hard for something that is viewed merely as a drain on the Treasury. If you can leverage the GIS to produce a steady revenue stream then it will help to obtain consistant corresponding funding from the Gov't into the future. this will help expand the GIS itself which clearly is the long term goal. Eventually of course those persons who do not have the resources to purchase GIS data etc can then be provided with it at discounted or nominal rates (eg NGO s etc). It becomes a win-win situation. From our experience the model to be followed in the small island states in the Caribbean is very different to the USA where the heavy state and federal tax revenues can effectively subsidise free data delivery to the public.
To my mind developing the GIS generally is more important than aiming for a fully fledged SDI.Within the region it seems that every entity wants to retain its own data (data is power it would seem)and the central GIS depository has worked very well in the Cayman Islands, albeit with a hint of SDI in some areas.
We also have to carefully consider economies of scale in all of this as to have a small GIS capability in many different govt entities may end up being less efficient than having a central core.
Anyway, maybe some food for thought.....