‘Stakeholder consensus is a must for successful SDI’

‘Stakeholder consensus is a must for successful SDI’

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Abdul Karim Al Raeisi
Executive Manager
Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Centre

The need for Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) in an information society is well acknowledged and it is in principle a wonderful concept to create a data sharing platform. What are the essential ingredients for the actual success of an SDI?
SDI is a community-based programme. Therefore, a major element in the success of an SDI is achieving a consensus among all stakeholders on the benefits of the programme being embraced by a wise leadership that envisions the whole process. This can make all the stakeholders collaborate to succeed and excel. This of course can only be achieved if the SDI is well planned i.e. guided by a comprehensive master plan that includes a well-framed vision and a strategic articulation to support the operations and implementation plans, as is the case with Abu Dhabi.

Even in countries where NSDI activity started couple of decades back or more, there still seem to be several issues around sharing of data. Are there any such challenges faced at Abu Dhabi Spatial Data Infrastructure (AD-SDI)?
Abu Dhabi is an emirate (state) in the federal country United Arab Emirates. At Abu Dhabi, we have succeeded in engaging most of the emirate’s government entities, in addition to federal entities, within the AD-SDI. A major challenge was acquiring the entities’ buy-in of value-added services provided by the AD-SDI community i.e. using the AD-SDI as a platform for sharing geospatial information and services.

SDI activity is happening at various levels – global, national and local. While global and national level SDIs are moving at a slow pace, we see that local SDIs like small countries, local governments, enterprise etc are taking off quickly and effectively. What is the right level to build an SDI?
A great deal of SDI activities involve coordination. Our success at AD-SDI springs out of the stakeholders’ willingness to derive the most out of this coordination programme. This would not have been possible if AD-SDI was not aligned with a comprehensive e-government programme while embracing the Abu Dhabi Government’s mission statement and working in line with its vision. This framework has enabled services provisioning and decision support at all levels within the government.

Do you believe that segregating SDIs by applications, for example global SDI for weather and climate analysis, national for country-based applications and local for self governance would contribute to its success?
A successful SDI should be keen to address major applications/ sectors including community development, utilities and infrastructure, information agencies, education and professional development, natural resources and cultural heritage, safety and security, public health and social welfare and business and industry in addition to other government and e-government applications.

To what extent is the government involved in the establishment of AD-SDI vis-à-vis industry and other users?
Setting the SDI framework and the base data are only about establishing the foundations of an SDI. At Abu Dhabi we take pride in being the pioneers of a “Geo-Maturity” programme that evaluates the maturity of the AD-SDI community and the community members, both individuals and sector-grouped. We have envisioned a mature AD-SDI as an initial phase of a programme that includes a geo-intelligence (spatial education and capacity building) programme, a geospatial information technology and services (GITS) core programme and ultimately a GITS enabler that acts as a hub for applied research and development while fostering a globally competitive business environment.

It is often opined by a section of the geospatial community that the need of the hour is not SDI, but only opening the data sources on the Internet. How do you perceive this?
While data sharing is essential for the benefit of the community at large, maintaining data quality and accuracy on one hand and protecting the data on the other hand have to be ultimately considered in reference to authoritative data sources such as agreed standards.

Private industry and public participation are touted to be essential for the success of an SDI. What are your initiatives to facilitate and improve their participation?
Through services provided to the public via Abu Dhabi geospatial portal and through assisting the government entities to spatially enable the e-services provided to clients (including the public), we strive to improve the participation of the public within AD-SDI. Moreover, we are continuously seeking active partnership with the private sector to expedite the alignment of common interest targets toward achieving a mature SDI. This of course is in line with our belief in the public private partnership and working towards the ideal target of an SDI – that of raising the quality of life of the public.

Information propriety and security are major issues in SDIs. What kind of legal framework is being developed in Abu Dhabi to tackle these issues without compromising on development and security needs?
Identifying the best legal framework for creating an SDI depends in large part upon the existing legal framework of the country. Matters such as information proprietary and security must be reflective of the broader culture and in line with societal goals. The legal and policy framework we are developing in Abu Dhabi on such important issues are contributing to the government-wide efforts to develop e-laws.

Standards like the ISO 19000 series and OGC are often considered too complicated for implementation. What is the status of standards implemention at AD-SDI?
These international standards are developed with the global audience in mind. The AD-SDI standards are in alignment with ISO/OGC standards but are customised for use by the relatively smaller community of our stakeholders. The AD-SDI data standards are developed for the Fundamental Geospatial Data Sets (FGDS) defined for shared use by the community. The standards provide definitions for the features and attributes, the spatial relationships among the features, list of attributes and domain values, all pertaining to the local situation. Similarly, the organisational standards, process standards and technology standards are all customised for use by the AD-SDI stakeholder community. In this process, the often abstract and arcane specifications of ISO/OGC are made more intelligible to our group of users.