The construction activity for urban development has seen a shift from over head and surface based utility lines to underground utility lines. These underground lines contributed by: telephone, power, cable TV, fibre optics, traffic signals, gas line etc are forming a kind of spider’s web. This web gets further complicated in the scenario where deregulation of the services is leading to multiple players providing a given service. These utility lines are often at risk of being damaged unknowingly during the process of excavation or construction either at the same place or in the nearby area. This lead to the urban development work, calling for coordination meet amongst the various service provider prior to any work being undertaken. This was quite evident when the reworking of urban infrastructure like city highways, telephone cable, power line was initiated.
All this only vindicates the move by the urban bodies to come up with urban SDIs. The city of Riyadh which has already taken a step in this direction in September 2006, will ‘enable public and private agencies to share mapping data and to distribute data changes and updates in near real-time.’ The recent news of EU Satellite Centre [EUSC] with Joint Research Centre [JRC] providing scientific support to the international donors planning the distribution of aid in Lebanon through provision of high resolution satellite imageries is a step in this direction. It is said that the JRC and EUSC would establish an SDI for detailed assessment of the damages and reconstruction planning. The Web GIS article ‘Digging Information System’ for the city of Madinah is an initiative on similar lines with focus on the coordination aspect for on-site construction. The availability of this system on web increases the usability of this system. The Dubai GIS Center under the Dubai Municipality [DM] is the one point source for spatial datasets like: base maps, landuse maps, infrastructure data and operations data. What is impressive the list of government and private partners which are listed as strategic partner to the DM, which would ultimately contribute to the updation of the spatial data sets maintained by DM. In Feb 2006, a workshop was organized on SDI for UAE, the initiative which soon after was approved by the Emirates. The Qatar SDI has an excellent system data sharing amongst the participating agencies, where the agencies can publish their data for sharing. The data sharing is regulated to be in the framework of national spatial data standards. These activities are monitored by Center for GIS at Qatar.
The common denominator for all the virtues of urban SDI and the various initiatives taken would be the service to the stakeholders and the coordination amongst them. The service elements could be influenced by the amount of data which can be accessed through Web GIS Application. The enterprise solutions offered by leading geospatial vendors would continue to evolve, with a skeptical look by the general public: ‘Will Google Earth or Microsoft Local Live, in future, to provide geospatial tools for utility service management, a small domain compared to the issues they would like to address?’