Data sharing in principle but not in practice
According to a recent US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, despite numerous initiatives and administration goals, the lack of coordination between three major departments has led to significant amounts of duplicated geospatial data. One area of overlap specifically highlighted in the report is in the acquisition of road data, with all three agencies independently collecting the same information.
It transpires the departments, Commerce, Interior and Transportation, do not have an effective plan for advancing the sharing of geospatial data despite the specific remit of the Federal Geographic Data Committee to promote coordination among the three agencies. To date, the only goal all three department have achieved was making data available on a clearinghouse. Although the necessary policies for sharing data do exist, implementing those policies hasn’t been a priority as the agencies involved have been focussed on other activities.
Geospatial data silos and data duplication are not new; both have been around for almost as long as people have been collecting the data. Recent technological innovations – cloud computing, improved bandwidth, better data capture techniques, improved search engines and so on – were supposed to revolutionize our access to spatial data and make duplication like this a thing of the past. Instead they only serve to highlight how the major stumbling blocks to progress in sharing data continue to be organizational and administrative. Just how far up the collective ToDo list these data sharing initiatives will go in the wake of this report remains to be seen.