What message are we conveying regarding the importance of SDI?
Roger Longhorn, in his editorial in this month’s GeoConnexion, asks the burning question: “What message are we sending to senior level decision makers about the importance and value of Spatial Data Infrastructure – SDI – if we keep misrepresenting what SDI is or is all about?”
Having recently attended the informative GSDI Association’s 10th global SDI conference in Trinidad, I was struck by the number of presentations that continue to show the ‘SDI’ as a ‘thing’ stuck inside a single block or bubble in various diagrams supposedly illustrating the importance of SDIs or how SDIs are implemented or similar. Yet many information infrastructure experts realize that an SDI is NOT something that you can stick in a box on a block diagram.
Look at any of the scores of definitions for “SDI” that appear in academic papers, in national and regional SDI strategy and vision papers, in SDI implementation guides (the few that actually exist) – and you will recognize that SDIs are composed of too many disparate elements – technical, legal, political, societal – to ever be conveniently herded into a single block on a diagram. To my mind, those implementing organizations who stand the best chance of implementing an SDI are those who have recognized that SDI is a process (emphasis added), not a thing, comprising many different and disparate elements, which will be implemented in different ways, at different speeds, different costs (and benefits) and with different impacts.
Furthermore, all too often, SDI initiatives are developed in tandem with e-government activities, but are not integrated efforts.
What are your thoughts? SDI is a process, but is it easier to build support among policy makers by offering tangible products? If so, how do we persuade policy makers to invest in a process, or do we need to offer a bit of both?