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Development of EUROGI: Problems and Prospects

Ian Masser
President, EUROGI
Email: [email protected]

Alison Davey
Assistant Secretary General, EUROGI Email: [email protected]

One of the key objectives of EUROGI is the definition of a European GI policy and the facilitation of a European Geographic Information Infrastructure.

EUROGI – the European Umbrella Organisation for Geographic Information, was set up in November 1993, with the aims of:

  • promoting, stimulating, encouraging and supporting the development and use of geographic information and technology at the European level, and
  • representing the common interest of the geographic information community in Europe.

The members of EUROGI are national associations for geographic information (GI) and pan-European organisations working with geographic information. EUROGI is an “association of associations” or umbrella organisation for geographic information at the European level. Many of its 17 national members are very active in the development of their national spatial information policies and infrastructures.

One of the key objectives of EUROGI is the definition of a European GI policy and the facilitation of a European Geographic Information Infrastructure. Working with the GI community in Europe, EUROGI was instrumental in preparing a draft communication from the European Commission with a view to launching a political debate on the issues involved. ‘GI2000-Towards a European Policy Framework for Geographic Information’ ) outlines clearly the requirement for a policy framework to set up and maintain a stable, Europe-wide set of agreed rules, standards, procedures, guidelines and incentives for creating, collecting, updating, exchanging, accessing and using geographic information, which will build on and, where necessary, complete existing information society frameworks. It is proposed, as a first step, to create a GI2000 High Level Working Party chaired by the Commission, and involving representatives from all leading players in the public and private sectors, including users. The Working Party will produce a detailed action plan to implement the policy. Subsequently, it will provide the political leadership and vision required to guide the implementation of the action plan.

EUROGI has also been strongly involved in encouraging the development of national bodies for GI in most European countries that are able to participate in the spatial policy debate and in raising awareness at all levels of the benefits to be derived from a more coordinated approach.

Work on defining, promoting and implementing the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI – see https://www.gsdi.org) is based on recognition that there is a need for coordination of, and communication between, spatial information policy developments at the local, national, regional and global levels. EUROGI has been very active in this initiative from the first international conference in Germany in 1996.

EUROGI has faced problems in convincing the European Commission to release the GI2000 communication (which was first drafted in 1996). The argument is circular: the Commission requires strong, high-level political support for GI2000 to convince them to release a communication to launch a political debate. EUROGI and the GI community in Europe need to make more effort to lobby politicians to support the development of European policy for geographic information. Political support is essential for policy developments: we need to forget the technical specifications and sell the benefit to the politicians.

In the future EUROGI will continue to push for the release of the GI2000 communication, as a step toward the development of European policy for geographic information. At the same time it will have to place a greater emphasis on the coordination of the jigsaw of national policies developed, in part, by the members of EUROGI. Geographic information policy developments in Europe go hand-in-hand with related policy developments, such as the current European Commission initiative on access to public sector information (see . EUROGI is also a partner in several projects that are part-funded by the European Commission. These include projects on metadata services, the development of brokerages and e-commerce for geographic information, and building community networks of people across Europe. Such projects are some of the building blocks of future European policy in that they test current policies and propose improvements.

A recent review by the membership of the priority actions for EUROGI identified four major areas of activity for the future:

  • represent the interests of the membership at a European level and act as a clearinghouse with respect to information about European initiatives
  • support effective lobbying of the European institutions by the GI community in Europe and influence the direction of GI policy within the European Union
  • provide a contact forum for the members to exchange news, information, cross-fertilisation of ideas and cooperation at the European level
  • represent the European view in Global Spatial Data Infrastructure activities.

As is the case for any membership organisation, the prospects for EUROGI are dependent on the enthusiasm and willingness of its members to take responsibility for implementing these priority actions.

To find out more about EUROGI, I invite you to visit our website at https://www.eurogi.org.