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El Salvador uploads its own data in the cloud

There are different institutions in El Salvador generating some kind of geographic information, however the National Center of Registers/Leadership of the National Register and Geographic Institute is the state place responsible for generating and providing the biggest and most varied geographic information which, as a country, it demands. This institutions collect, generate, save and use a significant number of data for their own purposes, like registers, topographic maps, spatial planning, environment, emergencies y natural disasters, social emergency, security or private investment topics. Nonetheless, that geographic information is very expensive in its production and maintenance, specially when it is individually responsible for the institutions. Besides the cost, ends up being very common that such information is hardly accessible, available or usable by society. Nor is it clear that such data is being used on the private sector for the creation of values and the provision of services. One of the reasons that explain this phenomenon is the lack of coordination and plans integrally upheld in terms of information between institutions. In El Salvador, there is little availability of such information and its production costs are high. It becomes more difficult to obtain and access geographic data by public, private or academic actors interested in using it to perform analysis and make decisions. There is also a certain dispersion of information, largely due to the lack of coordination between producer institutions.

In this sense, it becomes essential for the country the implementation of a geographical information policy, which will standardize and regulate the role of the different actors present in this sector. A policy with such large-scale reach should consider elements such as the role of geographic information on the development, the definition of coordination mechanisms between the different entities, the establishment of the “rules of the game” to facilitate the exchange of data, information and knowledge, the harmonization of teleinformatics infrastructure and the basic agreements on issues like property, quality, access and information security. Therefore, the idea of implementing a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) in El Salvador gained strength due to the participation of the National Center of Registers(CNR)/Leadership of the National Register and Geographic Institute (DIGCN) and the Ministry of the Environment (MARN) on the workshop for the establishment of CP‐IDEA in february 2000 and thus, in november of that year, the holders of the National Center of Registers, Ministry of Environment and Vice-ministry of Housing and Urban Development (VMVDU) convened top-level executives of institutions that produce geographic information, to constitute a committee to deal with the creation of the SDI. Finally, in march 2001 took place the first Simposium to the establishment of the SDI. In later years, a number of initiatives for the development of geospatial information were made, particularly the establishment of a clearinghouse. However, rotation of institutional personnel, lack of resources, institutional care and implementation costs of geoportals owners did not allowed the development of an SDI in El Salvador.

Since that date, the CNR/DIGCN started and continued with the technical capability to advance the publication of geospatial information, preparing the national cartography or basic data in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), as well as other state entities, which are thematic geographic information producers, such as Ministry of Environment, Vice-ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Health Ministry, among others.

In the past few years, CNR did a number of institutional actions, being one of them the subject of the Spatial Data Infrastructure. At the current time there is in El Salvador an institutional consensus about the need of having an SDI for the country. This topic was part of the modernization agenda of the Technical Secretariat of the President, the CNR’s technical worries and also the needs of MARN and VMVDU. Recently, the Congress of El Salvador passed a law of Planning and Territorial Development proposing the creation of the National Territorial Information System (SINIT) as a basic system of socio-territorial indicators to characterize synthetic and objectively, the country in its different spheres. In this context, the SINIT is a gateway to the IDE.

Due to the above-mentioned and to the fact that CNR is the entity authorized by the State, being responsible to officially guarantee the geographic, cartographic and cadastral information of the national territory trough the Leadership of the National Register and Geographic Institute and also the National Register. By means of the decree no. 462 of the Legislative Assembly, CNR assumes all duties assigned to the National Register and Geographic Institute taking the first steps to lead the project “For the Conformation of El Salvador”s Spacial Data”, in which users interested in consulting official maps of El Salvador no longer have to spend days and even weeks locating maps of interest, obtaining permissions to use them or paying for its use. Since July 2013 they can consult and obtain this information through the first map service in the cloud that operates a government institution in Latin America. What is considered an innovative service to El Salvador as well as for the region.

The cloud offers an innovative scheme to keep maps and other digital data available to the public. The costs associated with the maintenance and operation of geoservices in the cloud nuvem are generally smaller than the alternative of maintaining these services on local servers. The cloud provides a scalable system in which DIGCN can increase or decrease the broadband used dynamically, responding to specific needs. Additionaly, is not necessary count on own servers or devote significant time of CNR/DIGCN”s personnel to operate and maintain the hardware and software associated with the old geoservices.

With the publication of the BETA version of the geoportal of the National Registers Center, this project is realized, where is possible now view geographic information, such as the official map of the Republic of El Salvador and the relief map, both in scale 1:200,000, services and unloading of spatial data; Only a part of the geographic assets of DIGCN is available today in this new service, but gradually be released over geographic coverage in the coming years, will be offered more and better services will be consolidated and the provisions display in BETA the geoportal.

The service is free access, no cost, is very fast and stable thanks to its availability on Amazon”s cloud.

The project to put geospatial information and services associated with the Republic of El Salvador in the cloud had since from the beginning with financial, technological and institutional resources IGCN / CNR, with the support of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History – IPGH – and CAF Bank Development in Latin America as well as the enthusiastic participation of ESRI technology, which from the beginning has shown interest in supporting initiatives in the cloud by the geographical institutes in the region. In the words of the Secretary General of IPGH, Santiago Borrero, and GeoSUR Program Coordinator, Eric van Praag, “A good part of the future of these organizations depends on the shape and intensity to that address new technologies for the management of spatial information as such and facilitates the new platform developed in the cloud.”

The initial phase of the project has a duration of two years. To visit the BETA test: https://www.cnr.gob.sv/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=953&Itemid=327.

The greatest difficulty lies in implementing an IDE interagency coordination. To achieve this, a clear definition of the responsibilities of each institution is essential. The legal environment of El Salvador provides a clear division of roles between the primary producer of basic data (CNR) and the producers of basic data (MARN, VMVDU, MINEC, and others).

The CNR / DIGCN is positive that marked the political will to address the issue of FDI should be accompanied by a process of interagency coordination and articulation that has as its purpose to put in place a common vision. The project can be a great catalyst and a platform for joint working to achieve this purpose and operatively translate the policy guidelines.

Due to what was said, CNR initially invited three institutions to be part of a technical table, which arise institutional reform, fundamental to consolidate IDE El Salvador through the different components (geographic information, metadata, services, downloads and others), intending that other institutions gradually integrate, as well as cooperation that can contribute to this effort.

The CNR / DIGN assumed the mission to lead, strengthen and maintain the initiative of the IDE, which places us at the national level and in the Central region.