Spatial data infrastructure

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A spatial data infrastructure (SDI) is a framework of spatial data, metadata, users and tools that are interactively connected in order to create, share, and use spatial data in an efficient and flexible way. Also defined as the technology, policies, standards, human resources, and related activities necessary to acquire, process, distribute, use, maintain, and preserve spatial data [1]. The U.S. National Research Council first established this term in 1993.

Spatial Data Infrastructure allows for collaboration and cooperation across many organizations that deal with the same or similar spatial data. The idea behind this principle is that a wide database of spatial data is accessible to many users and groups in order to share and utilize the data. This collaboration increases the accuracy and availability of the data that is available to the entire network. This infrastructure enhances a GIS by establishing standards and procedures to be used within it.

One of the main principles is that data and metadata should not be managed centrally, but by the data originator and/or owner, and that tools and services connect via computer networks to the various data sources. A GIS is often the platform for deploying an individual node within an SDI. To achieve these objectives, effective coordination between all the users is necessary and there must be a clear definition of standards and policies.

Due to their nature (size, cost, number of users,) SDIs are often funded or run by government organizations, however a number of SDIs in the private sector do exist. An example of an existing SDI is the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) in the United States. In Europe, INSPIRE is a European Commission initiative to build a European SDI beyond national boundaries. Ultimately the United Nations Spatial Data Infrastructure UNSDI will do the same for over 30 UN Funds, Programmes, Specialized Agencies and member countries.

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