Last week I attended the JIIDE conference, that took place here in Sevilla. This is the official conference for both portuguese and spanish spatial data infraestructures. The presentations were diverse and rich in content and there were working groups for INSPIRE and conformance running in parallel.
You could see some trends in how SDIs are evolving through all the Iberian Peninsula. Geograma explained to us that hiding data behind paywalls or registering sites makes us less compliant. But on the other hand, maybe it doesn’t matter because as José Fernández (IECA) showed us, data is going more and more open and free. Why should someone pay for data generated on a public administration? It has already been payed by taxes and a paywall is just another stone on the way of generating added value to the data. And above all this, every country has a different payment and access system, so it is virtually impossible to query the same data on different countries easily, which was one of the goals for INSPIRE.
Transparency, interoperability, quality, conflation,… keywords through all the conference. As an example of conflation and reusability, IECA was created by the union of the geospatial information department and the statistics department of the government of Andalucía. This allows them to localize statistic data that, once the privacy details are removed, can be easily shared. Creative Commons is the main license for all their products.
On a statal level, now we have the CNIG, who unifies all the data from Spain and allows us to download (or buy) data. Here, the map is not the central issue, but just another product you can use.
And still, there are many things INSPIRE has yet to solve. There are a lot of abstract requirements the nodes are not sure how to solve. All data has to have quality metadata associated to it, but, is there any quality minimum required for the data? How close the scales should be? What precision? And above all, how are the different public administrations supposed to handle all this without specific financing from Europe? Or what is worst: why do Europe ignore the conclusions reached by several working groups on different countries? Why reinventing the wheel?
There was another subject running through all the conference: why do SDIs have less users than open data portals? Is it because the type of data? Is it because we don’t focus on usability? Why do they choose data from worse quality (or not government certified)? It looks like we have to work more on usability and user interaction.
Should SDI focus on developing applications around the data? Or should they just focus on being a data repository third party companies can query to generate added value? Should we merge with the opendata portals even if that means lose part of the focus on spatial data?
Javier López, explained the problem about persistent identifiers. We have to assume that the entities generating data will not be persistent. But their data should survive those entities and we should be able to trace back who created the data and who have been maintaining it. How to achieve this without being too dependent on some specific platform? How to create a standard that survives through the years?
We also had the visit of Rodrigo Barriga Vargas (IPGH) who told us about GeoSUR, an initiative to create, conform and share quality spatial data in America. He told us how lucky we are to have INSPIRE as a gubernamental initiative to force us to follow standards.
But the best thing was to see how GeoNetwork is being used more and more and we have happy users advocating that it is the only SDI that makes sense.