Academic journal article URISA Journal

The Role of Collaboration in Spatial Data Infrastructures

Academic journal article URISA Journal

The Role of Collaboration in Spatial Data Infrastructures

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Geoinformation has become indispensable for solving issues concerned with public safety, spatial planning, the environment, and providing e-services to citizens and companies (European Commission 2007, VROM 2008). Many initiatives since the early 1990s aimed at increasing the availability and accessibility of geographic information through the development of spatial data infrastructures (SDIs) (Onsrund 1999, Masser 1999, Crompvoets 2006). These initiatives seek to facilitate accessing and sharing of spatial data, to reduce the duplication of spatial data collection by both users and producers, and to enable better utilization of spatial data and associated services (Grus, Crompvoets, and Bregt 2010). It is believed that through well-established and properly functioning SDIs, the general economic, social, and environmental benefits can be realized (Masser 2007). SDIs have the potential to spatially enable governments by providing better service to decision makers, politicians, and societies (Rajabifard et al. 2003, Masser et al. 2008). Nonetheless, SDIs are facing challenges to attract users and to meet the requirements of their stakeholders (Georgiadou et al. 2010, Nedovic-Budic et al. 2008, Budhathoki et al. 2008).

Several authors have suggested that stakeholder collaboration plays a key role within SDIs (Nedovic-Budic and Pinto 2000, Warnest 2005, McDougall 2006). Within SDIs, different actors must work together, including planners and decision makers, data collectors, and analysts (De Man 2013). Involved stakeholders need to share experiences and resources to develop SDIs (Akinyemi 2011). Nevertheless, SDIs often are hampered by fragmentation and lack of collaboration between stakeholders (Thellufsen et al. 2009, De Andrade et al. 2011). SDIs remain complex because of the great variety and large number of stakeholders and their different needs (Grus et al. 2010). Moreover, the development of SDIs is a dynamic process (Koerten 2011). As SDIs emerge, the number of stakeholders involved and the relations between them increases. Organizational structures to define SDI policies and practices are changing, emphasizing partnerships, social networks, user participation, and multisectoral collaboration (Craglia and Annoni 2007, Budhathoki et al. 2008, Dfaz et al. 2011). Nevertheless, little research has been conducted that looks explicitly at critical aspects for stakeholders collaboration and evolving dynamics of collaboration processes. More effort is needed to examine stakeholder interaction and collaboration processes within SDIs (Mc Dougall 2006, Elwood 2008, Vandenbroucke et al. 2009).

The term collaboration is ambiguous but generally is defined as stakeholders working together toward a shared goal. By working together, individual entities can pool scarce resources and duplication of services can be minimized to achieve an objective that would not otherwise be possible to obtain as separate actors working independently (Gadja 2004, Frey et al. 2006). Collaboration processes have been analyzed in different branches of science, including public management (Ansell and Gash 2008, Daley 2009, Navarrete et al. 2010), organizational science (Podolny and Page 1998, Todeva and Knoke 2005), and business management (Powell 1990, Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh 2006, Allee 2008). Analyzing critical factors and evolving dynamics can help to understand and evaluate collaboration processes and to develop effective collaboration strategies (D'amour et al. 2005, 0degard, 2006, Fletcher et al. 2009). Much depends on the purpose and the application domain--which factors are relevant and how collaborations evolve (San Martin-Rodriguez et al. 2005).

This research presents an exploratory study on the factors and dynamics of collaboration processes in the context of SDIs. We explored collaboration within two case studies: the national SDIs of the Netherlands and Spain. Our overall aim is to gain a better understanding of critical collaboration factors for the development and implementation of SDIs. …

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