The Geographic Foundation of America's Information-Based Society

 June 2003: An FGDC white paper on how organizations and projects are building the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

The concept of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) was formally introduced in a 1993 study by the National Research Council, "Towards a Coordinated Spatial Data Infrastructure for the Nation," that was the latest step in the evolution of concepts for geographic data development and sharing. The report states, "unless the NSDI is robust and the spatial data bases, policies, and standards are in place to facilitate the access and use of spatial data nationally, opportunities in areas from environment to development will be lost." The report states further, "although spatial data are necessary for a spatial data infrastructure, they are not sufficient. Of equal importance are the individuals, institutions, and technological and value systems that make it a functional entity, one that serves as a basis for much of the business of a nation."

Within this context, a vision for the NSDI was articulated and major Federal activities have been initiated, re-engineered, and realigned to build a national geospatial information delivery system for the Nation.

The NDSI Vision:
"Current and accurate geospatial data will be readily available to contribute locally, nationally, and globally to economic growth, environmental quality and stability, and social progress." (Source - "The 1994 Plan for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure - Building the Foundation of an Information Based Society," by the FGDC, March 1994).

The National Spatial Data Infrastructure:
The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) facilitates implementation of the NSDI in cooperation with organizations from State, local and tribal governments, the academic community, and the private sector as charged in Office of Management and Budget Circular A-16 (Revised August 2002). The NSDI is the technology, policies, standards, human resources, and related activities necessary to acquire, process, distribute, use, maintain, and preserve spatial data throughout all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, and academia. It provides a base or structure of relationships among data producers and users and focuses on processes that facilitate data sharing. The NSDI is a set of business processes and new ways of accessing, sharing and using geographic data that enable far more comprehensive analysis of data to help decision-makers locate and choose information that meets their needs. Specific examples of these new business processes are partnering with other agencies for data, using NSDI metadata standards to document data; following NSDI content standards for framework data; and providing access to data using NSDI Clearinghouse technology. The Interagency Geospatial Preparedness Team in the Department of Homeland Security is a good implementation example of these coordination activities.

Geospatial One-Stop:
Geospatial One-stop is a Presidential E-Government initiative. Its purpose is to demonstrate how geospatial information promotes e-government by using this information to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for all national sectors to address their business needs. It is intended to build upon existing capabilities and ongoing agency programs to accelerate the implementation of the NSDI. At the same time it will increase Federal agency accountability for the stewardship and sharing of geospatial information. Final development and implementation of NSDI framework data standards, and the enhancement of clearinghouse technology to promote data accessibility through a one-stop portal are specific actions currently underway to support implementation of the NSDI.

Federal Agency Initiatives and Activities:
Federal initiatives such as the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) The National Map, Census Bureau's Master Address File/TIGER Modernization, the Bureau of Land Management's National Integrated Land System, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Interagency Geospatial Preparedness Team and Multi-Hazard Mapping, and a myriad of other Federal programs and projects that depend upon spatial data, help to implement the NSDI. These agencies are developing geospatial products and business cases through partnerships with each other, as well as, with other non-Federal agencies for the production and dissemination of data according to American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/FGDC Standards using open-standard service specifications. Each program addresses a specific agency mission but at the same time helps other programs and agencies at all levels of government to fulfill theirs by leveraging these efforts, simplifying processes, and adopting NSDI practices. Collectively, the programs ensure that nationally complete and consistent base geographic data in the public domain are readily available. The foundation of these efforts is partnerships between and among governments at all levels and the private sector to provide for long-term data stewardship, enhancement, and sharing.

Tying It All Together:
While the FGDC leads Federal coordination of OMB Circular A-l6 related activities and evolution of the NSDI, successful implementation will be achieved through the coordinated actions of many programs, individuals and organizations from all levels of government and all sectors using the agreed upon business rules of the NSDI.

Consistent implementation of common NSDI practices and full engagement by all levels of government will enable the Federal government to coordinate efforts with State and local governments, continue to develop best practices and standards, and co-invest and align resources for mutual benefit. The synthesis of agency initiatives/actions are an integrated approach that implements the NSDI by ensuring the availability of geospatial information, by documenting its essential characteristics, and by promoting its sharing and application.

Web Resources
Federal Geographic Data Committee:
Geospatial One-Stop:
U.S. Geological Survey - The National Map:
U.S. Census Bureau - Master Address File/TIGER Modernization:
Bureau of Land Management - National Integrated Land System:
Federal Emergency Management Agency - Multi-Hazard Mapping: