National Spatial Data Infrastructure Gets a C- Grade

February 11, 2015  - By

The Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) has released its Report Card on the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), and given the NSDI a C- grade. The NSDI aims to promote sharing of geospatial data throughout all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, and the academic community.

“Federal agencies have worked for many years to improve their geospatial programs, but the COGO member organizations believe that the national data sets and delivery systems (the NSDI) generally need improvement,” said Michael Vanhook, COGO chairman. “It is time for the federal government to more effectively engage the entire stakeholder community to ensure that America has the highest quality geospatial infrastructure. Doing so will allow us to more efficiently and effectively deal with society’s needs, and to reduce duplication of effort.”

The Executive Summary of the report calls out the need for greater data sharing between government and the private sector.

“The federal government jump-started many of the innovations and collaborations that create the current geospatial environment. However, as noted in the 2009 National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) report ‘The Changing Geospatial Landscape,’ the federal government is no longer the dominant data producer. Federal providers of geographic information cannot continue to think of themselves as players separate from the community of private sector, state, local, tribal, and other stakeholders…

“The relative shifts in data production from the federal government to the private sector and state and local government call for new forms of partnership. Furthermore, the hodgepodge of existing data sharing agreements are stifling productivity and are a serious impediment to use even in times of emergency. There is an urgent need to reexamine the relationships between data providers and users to establish a fair and equitable geospatial data marketplace that serves the full range of applications.”


According to the Executive Summary, “The Expert Panel concludes that the Framework requires attention, and that several actions need to take place.

  • The concept of the Framework needs to be reaffirmed.
  • A new model for Framework data needs to be adopted, and this new model must acknowledge the importance of local partners.
  • The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) needs to emphasize that the Framework is part of its Strategic Plan, and that it will work in collaboration with non-federal and non-governmental partners to build an effective NSDI Framework.”

As stated in the report’s foreword, COGO “recognizes the individual contributions of all federal, state, regional, tribal, and local government agencies that have worked in concert with the private and academic sectors to develop the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) as it exists today. This work has spanned entire careers, and COGO applauds the sincerity of their efforts and the value of their contributions.”

COGO represents 170,000 individual geospatial practitioners. “Together, the coalition is delivering this assessment to help Congress, the administration, federal agency executives, and others understand the importance of geospatial data to the nation, as well as shortcomings of the NSDI,” COGO said in a statement.

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About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.