Academic journal article URISA Journal

Evaluating Access to Spatial Data Information in Rwanda

Academic journal article URISA Journal

Evaluating Access to Spatial Data Information in Rwanda

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Geospatial information (GI) is becoming more important everyday at all levels of society for it plays a central role in supporting economies, improving business effectiveness in the private sector, enabling more efficient governmental operations, and increasing citizens' quality of life (Genovese et al. 2009). In a broader sense, the term GI includes geospatial data and the services used in providing the data (Poplin 2010). The fact that GI and analysis lie at the heart of nearly all major international peace, global health, and economic development problems is recognized (United Nations--UN 2011). Virtually everyone uses GI, so the same information can be used by all segments of society--citizens, businesses, and public bodies--usually for different reasons. Kelly et al. (1995) noted that GI is increasingly valuable for making decisions and solving problems in economic development, environmental management, emergency response, and public health and safety.

There is the debate on how society accesses geospatial data and assigns values to products. Despite their importance, assessing the value of digital GI products, services, and infrastructures is particularly complex because of their specific characteristics as nonstandard economic goods and the nature of the market itself (Krek and Frank 2000, Krek 2006). Geospatial data forms a substantial component of public-sector information (PSI), which already is recognized as a valuable national resource, for a greater proportion of decisions regarding resource management and provision of public services are spatial in nature (Yawson et al. 2010). The economic benefits accruable to the state from such information are maximized by increasing its distribution and use through inexpensive mechanisms (OECD 2001, Eckardt 2008). Williamson et al. (2006) rightly noted that the ability of society to meet sustainable development objectives is a complex and temporal process involving multiple stakeholders. It requires data to be accessed and shared as information that is accurate, well maintained, and sufficiently reliable for use by a spatially literate society.

Spatial data sharing (SDS) is commonly advocated on the basis that there are tangible benefits through improved efficiencies (Azad and Wiggins 1995). With the costliness of data production, using existing data in applications reduces cost. Data value increases when used (National Research Council 1997, McDougall 2009). Onsrud and Rushton (1995) argue that the value and utility of GI comes from its use, and the more it is used, the greater becomes society's ability to evaluate and address the wide range of pressing problems. Another perspective to SDS is the need to create connections among widely dispersed databases (Calkins and Weatherbe 1995). With the democratization of mapping, the model of data production is changing, with the most crucial changes appearing in the role of the national mapping agencies (NMAs). Traditionally, governments produced and disseminated spatial data. These roles, particularly those of NMAs, have changed dramatically in the past 10 to 15 years. Map production and service-based agencies have been downsized and their operations outsourced to private enterprises. The focus of governments is far more business oriented and budget driven in contrast to the traditional public-good and service perspectives. The reasons for sharing public information have remained the same, but it is the imperatives and business needs that have become the new focus (McDougall 2009).

Spatial data infrastructures (SDIs) are being developed because of the huge potential to ensure standardization, harmonization, and integration of information across agencies and to reduce duplication of efforts in spatial data production (Williamson et al. 2003, Crompvoets et al. 2008). SDIs provide an enabling platform to facilitate SDS (Mohammadi et al. 2009). Much work has already been done on developing aspects of SDS, e. …

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