Model Data Distribution, DigitalGlobe Picks Up NextView Contract, and ESRI Introduces Desktop Services

Model Data Distribution Policy


At the National State Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) annual meeting this year, Cy Smith, the state GIS coordinator from Oregon presented a detailed discussion of the accomplishments of the Open Data Consortium (ODC,, work funded by a USGS contract with the GeoData Alliance. ODC has completed a model data distribution policy. Smith was quick to note that the policy is not overwhelming, covering about 12 or 13 pages. It is a recommended approach, based on a large number of alternatives, with an "if…then" format that allows potential users to pick and choose which parts are appropriate for their situations.

The document is principle driven. One key principle: the value of geodata is realized through its widespread use. The document details three data recipient classes, and suggests "who pays what": value providers are charged no fee, data redistributors are charged a fee, data users (who make no change and just "use it" are charged the price of duplication). To determine if products built on the data do in fact require a license, the document suggests this method. If the data is still identifiable or extractable from the new product, it requires a license. The document also includes liability disclaimers appropriate for data sets, maps, and websites.

The ODC established a working group of more than 60 professionals from local and regional government, state and federal government, universities, and the private sector. Together, they have been discussing the various issues of concern and have arrived at a consensus to create this model data distribution policy.

Smith explained that Oregon got involved in the effort to try to harmonize existing, conflicting policies across the state. Confidentiality about employment data was an issue, as was information about threatened and endangered species. The agencies concerned about these issues compiled a white paper with details about the issue and suggested solutions. The bottom line for the state is that it must somehow balance privacy with the right to know. The group exploring the policy in Oregon found that clever use of scale, categorization, and map methodology (using points vs. lines vs. polygons) could provide information, but maintain privacy.

Oregon's pursuit of a statewide policy yielded these suggestions for success: setting up an intergovernmental group, defining GIS roles and responsibilities, working toward a statewide agreement, and, ultimately, endorsement of the document by all parties.

I asked the first question. "How does a data sharing policy mesh with local government's need to do cost recovery?" Oregon is a case in point since local governments are authorized to charge for GIS data. Smith responded that local government sometimes has difficulty seeing that the value of the data is in its use, particularly beyond the local jurisdiction.

Typically, local governments don't see a high enough value in the data to justify the rather large investment required to properly maintain it. Without a high priority being placed on data maintenance at the local level, and without the ability to recover that cost by charging data consumers, there would soon be no data worth sharing. In Oregon Smith has tried to find other funds to pay for local data such that there is no fee charged.

The model policy recommends changing internal accounting practices in local government so as to credit GIS operations departments with some of the additional revenues and the cost savings that accrue from the many uses of GIS data, thereby making it unnecessary for a public agency to sell data to maintain its GIS operation. Another resource, now available on the ODC website, describes 10 ways local governments are paying for geodata operations without charging fees.

DigitalGlobe Picks Up NextView Contract
The next contract for imagery from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) is appropriately called NextView. It follows ClearView, which NIMA split between satellite imagery leaders DigitalGlobe and Space Imaging in January of this year. NextView, a five-year contract with an estimated value of more than $500 million, has been awarded to DigitalGlobe, along with partners BAE SYSTEMS and Ball Aerospace. NextView calls for a new, 1/4 to 1/2-meter resolution satellite expected to launch in 2006. NIMA will fund construction and launch, but DigitalGlobe will own the bird. NIMA will get discounted imagery while the company sells non-discounted imagery to other parties.

Based on reports, both DigitalGlobe and Space Imaging were surprised at the award. The two companies had expected a split award similar to the ClearView contract. The rationale behind the choice is still not public, but in a call to DigitalGlobe, NIMA representatives noted that the company scored well in each of the five categories: business viability, schedule, technical, management, and price. The general sense from my reading and discussing the award with people in imaging is that NIMA will likely fund some further work with Space Imaging. The agency doesn't want to risk Space Imaging going out of business. Having two U.S. imagery providers keeps costs down and provides a "backup" should DigitalGlobe run into delivery problems.

ESRI Introduces Desktop Services
Recently, ESRI took the next step in its drive toward geographic service offerings. After downloading (and installing) a free toolbar, ArcGIS users gain access to a free ArcWeb Sampler suite of capabilities and content and a fee-based ArcWeb USA service. (The latter can be evaluated free for 30 days.) Some of the content has been available from ArcGIS for some time. It's been possible, for example, to tap into data services from the Geography Network since ArcGIS 8.1. What's really new here is that ESRI is offering both content and capabilities, not only to developers (ArcWeb for Developers has been available for approximately nine months) but now, to ArcGIS end-users.

ArcWeb USA, which requires a fee, is made up of free content (like the USGS National Elevation Dataset) and fee-based content (like Geographic Data Tech-nologies Dynamap/2000 U.S. street data) already available on the Geography Network along with the capabilities in the sampler, plus a few more (such as address finding and routing, which appear on the toolbar, but are only available with a subscription to ArcWeb USA). In time, according to the website, there will be an option to choose Tele Atlas data or GDT data. The price, per seat, of all features (available only in the U.S.) is several thousand dollars per year. Of course, you can pick and choose specific services, selecting for example, just the GDT U.S. street data. Prices depend on geographic extent (state vs. country) and how you want it delivered (image vs. feature service). An image service provides just a raster backdrop while a feature service streams vectors to the desktop. The latter, which delivers more information, costs more. The ArcWeb USA package, overall, is less expensive than the parts purchased a la carte.
If the industry plays its cards right, many users of spatial data, surveyors included, may be tapping into Web services before long.

ADENA SCHUTZBERG is the editor of GIS Monitor, a weekly e-mail newsletter from GITC America. She owns ABS Consulting Group, Inc. in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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