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Brig. Khalifa Al Romaithi
Military Survey Department,
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Eemirates
In the UAE the need for geospatial information to provide assistance in the planning and development of land resources and to cope with the economic boom has been felt since the early 1990’s. SDI, then emerged as an adequate and efficient framework to achieve this and became a high priority in many government policies. Furthermore, through the years, SDI gained more momentum on a strategic level as it could potentially be a very significant contributor to economic wealth in the emerging field of electronic commerce. However, there are many challenges for an SDI to overcome to accomplish the expected objectives. These include areas of education, technology, applications and policy amongst others.
Particularly in this field, the UAE needs more generic legislation and policies that provide a framework for issues such as access of information, intellectual property, copyright, privacy protection, liability and policies related to data access and exchange.
Resolution of these complex issues needs to take into account the different points of view, requirements and objectives of the various stakeholders. In addition, the issues of international standards, rapidly changing technology, and limited budgets have to be addressed.
This paper will discuss some of the pre-establishing issues related to the development and implementation of the SDI in the UAE and proposing ideas as learned form day to day practices.
The Problem of Awareness
The examination of the spatial data community in the UAE has shown that there is a substantial lack of awareness among government agencies regarding the value and the role of spatial information in decision-making.. Most decisions are made on the basis of sole organizational interest rather than on objective decision analysis. This tendency is more acute in spatial decisions.
The result of this lack of awareness is the emphasis on more visible and tangible projects such as road construction and housing development. It is not always obvious to the decision makers that these projects would be executed more effectively and efficiently if proper planning, based on spatial data, were undertaken.
The examination of the UAE spatial data situation has also indicated that SDI is still a largely unheard of initiative. Fundamental misunderstandings of SDI and an overall limited knowledge of SDI have been noticed. It has also been noted that some spatial data producer agencies may not be aware of new concepts in geospatial data management, making it difficult for them to effectively serve the geospatial data user community, who depend on them for the foundation and base data products. These agencies should be made aware of new procedures and concepts, especially a shift to digital direction to be able to deliver appropriate geospatial data products to the user community. To increase the awareness of the role of geospatial data in decision-making, government departments responsible for various aspects of land management and rural development should make the information sourcing more visible in their decision-making processes.
There is the need for a deliberate policy to encourage decision makers to use more spatial information consciously. This could be achieved by requiring resource management, spatial services agencies and departments at all levels of government to budget, and account for the usage of spatial data in their decision-making processes and demonstrate that all levels have been involved in the decision-making process [McLaughlin, 2001].
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