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Towards a European Policy Framework for Geographic Information

A WORKING DOCUMENT

November 1996


A European policy for geographic information is needed by the European information society. The policy will contribute to providing better and more efficient government, more effective management of scarce resources, and new business opportunities. The policy is necessary to ensure important cross-border initiatives are nurtured and managed cost-effectively.


Table of Contents

B. Specific Actions

  1. Stimulating Public/Private synergy
  2. Market Stimulation
  3. Research and Development.
  4. Standards, Interoperability and Quality.
  5. Awareness, Education and training
  6. Improving our understanding of the market
  7. Defining Global Rules
  8. Conclusion

Appendix Geographic information - technical description


Executive Summary

This communication explains what geographic information is and why it is important for Europe to have a European policy framework for geographic information under which the market for European geographic information content can develop and prosper.

What is so important about geographic information content that we need to take affirmative action at European level?

A major flood occurs for the third consecutive year on a major European waterway, hundreds of towns and villages are devastated, thousands of farms are inundated, the damage is estimated to run into billions of ECU and will take years to rectify. Not all of the damage can be repaired - loss of life was mercifully small.

Surely cross-border, regional flood control and civil protection systems can already cope?

Your morning paper brings appalling news which will directly impact you, your family, your friends, your business and perhaps even your national economy - "Chernobyl 2" has happened. Civil protection forces, environmental groups, agricultural and fisheries departments, hospitals and medical associations - everyone is asking the same questions. When will the fallout arrive? How bad is the situation? How long will it take us to recover? How much economic damage can be expected? How many people will die?

Yet this has happened before, so one expects that emergency services, analytical teams, disaster relief organisations and the like are all well prepared. But can they exchange information quickly and efficiently to enable cooperation?

Less dramatic, but still important, how does an international distributor of goods develop a hundred million ECU regional plan for placing a series of major goods outlets in the most appropriate locations, a project spanning the next decade, with major direct and indirect impact on employment, on transport infrastructure and on environmental issues? Or what about the proposal for a new dam on a river which controls a watershed covering millions of hectares, touching several national boundaries; or the plan for that next industrial complex, to be built near a convenient port - which also happens to lie in an estuary of special environmental importance.

What these scenarios all have in common is - the need for cross border geographic information. The sort of information needed to manage the European integration, trans European networks or smaller cross border infrastructure projects, business development, marketing, prepare for and clean-up after major disasters, to manage today’s road traffic chaos, or to plan for the next century’s land use at local, national and regional level, is European geographic information content.

Such information, in the form of paper maps showing locations, boundaries and relationships, has been instrumental over the past centuries in the development of the nation state. First it was an essential aid to territorial conquest, the exercise of territorial sovereignty and defence. Subsequently it has been used for governing and managing territory in times of peace. Today, and even more so in the future, it will be the key to planning for optimal use of limited resources under pressure from expanding populations to maintain sustainable development.

As the European integration advances and the world goes digital there is an increasing need for cross border and European geographic information at all levels of society especially in digital form. The need is also broadening to encompass much more information than just traditional map-data - such as environmental data, business demographics, traffic information. At present such digital information is scarce and hard to obtain. What does exist is very national and/or application specific in scope. It does not fit easily together with similar data from other Member States nor is it easily transferable to other application areas. In addition there is a difficult transition from the national/military scene to the tradable market, where one key issue is open and fair access.

Geographic information is a complex, rapidly growing and important part of the information society. New geographic information technologies are developing rapidly. The great advantage is that it has the capability of summing up and visualising graphically what vast amounts of data are trying to tell you. There are many applications in international, national and local government, business and research, and culture. Geographic information is important because of its value for planning, land management, marketing studies, environment, renewable energy resources, emergency services, health care, political analysis and many other uses.

Unfortunately, future growth in Europe is hampered by major differences in the way this unique type of information is collected, stored and distributed in different countries and in different sectors of government and commerce. Collecting and disseminating geographic information has been a specialised activity organised by individual nations and professions in different ways making it difficult to combine and exchange national data to create European geographic information.

Geographic information content is also a growing part of multimedia content, which is the key to growth and employment. At present the European content market is worth 150 billion ECU and employs 2 million people. Over the next 10 years this sector is expected to generate 1 million new jobs. A proportion of this will be related to the provision of geographic information.

Following nearly two years of wide ranging consultation among major geographic information suppliers and users, a need has been established to formulate a European policy framework for geographic information through which European geographic information can be created, combined, marketed, used, reused and shared in a cost effective manner for the benefit of the European information society. It has the potential to provide better and more efficient government, more efficient management of scarce resources and new business opportunities for the nascent European geographic information industry.

The major impediments to the widespread and successful use of geographic information in Europe are not technical, but political and organisational. The lack of a European mandate on geographic information is retarding development of joint geographic information strategies which causes unnecessary costs, is stifling new goods and services and is reducing competitiveness.

What is required is a policy framework to set up and maintain a stable, European-wide set of agreed rules, standards, procedures, guidelines andincentives for creating, collecting, updating, exchanging, accessing and using geographic information.

This policy framework must create a favourable business environment for a competitive, plentiful, rich and differentiated supply of European geographic information that is easily identifiable and easily accessible.

The benefits include efficiencies of scale in a unified market, reduced problems for cross border and pan-European projects, efficient technical solutions for future growth, increasing use of European skills, improved market position in geographic information and better results of European-wide planning and decision making.

Europe has the means but needs to demonstrate the will to create a policy framework for geographic information that will benefit the market place and EU citizens. It must include the legal aspects of geographic information to ensure the creation and use of EU-wide datasets and standards. It must also stimulate and challenge private companies and public bodies to invest in the creation of such datasets and to cooperate where appropriate.

The most important political actions needed are to achieve agreement between the Member States:

The Working Party will elaborate a detailed action plan to implement the policy. Subsequently, it will provide the political leadership and vision required to guide the implementation of the action plan. This communication outlines a possible action plan on page 17. The High Level Working Party will also provide the focal point for promoting a sense of unity across disciplines and national borders.

The role of the Commission is to provide the European dimension to actions at national level, acting as a catalyst, to coordinate Member States’ policies building on existing national information holdings and structures. Neither new European organisational structures nor any form of central geographic information data storage are proposed or envisioned. The basic collection and storage of geographic information, creating and dissemination of metadata, and performance of other basic actions, must remain national tasks. The Commission will ensure coordination in regard to global geographic information policy and projects, such as those proposed via the G7 and with regard to the discussions being initiated at global level by the US Secretary of Interior.

1.The political context

In December 1993, the European Commission presented the European Council in Brussels with the White Paper on "Growth, Competitiveness and Employment: The Challenges and Ways Forward into the 21st Century". (1) A critical element was the development of the information society, especially within the triad of the European Union, the United States and Japan. High-level, senior representatives from the industries which would implement the information society met early in 1994 under the chairmanship of Commissioner Martin Bangemann and made recommendations(2) which were presented to the European Council at the Corfu summit in June 1994. These were later elaborated in the Commission's action plan "Europe’s Way to the Information Society" (COM(94) 347 of 19.7.94) which is currently in the process of being updated(3) The European Council in Essen in December 1994 further underlined the importance of the emerging information society on the role of new information services, and especially the content, or the information itself. The G7 Ministerial Conference in Brussels on 25-26 February 1995(4) confirmed the opportunities the information society will offer and stressed the need for global cooperation. Several of the projects defined at this summit involve significant use of geographic information. This concerns especially the projects on Environmental and Natural Resources management, Global Emergency Management and Maritime Information Systems.

Recognising that geographic information is an important part of the information society, French, German, Spanish and Dutch ministers(5) urged the European Commission to take a political initiative to further the creation of seamless, homogeneous, digital data bases of geographic information for Europe and to increase support to organisations such as EUROGI (6) and initiatives such as MEGRIN(7) .

The issues and concerns raised by these ministers have been the focus of a wide ranging series of consultation meetings with the main actors in the European geographic information community, spanning the period December 1994 to June 1996, culminating in this Communication.

A community action in this area is fully in line with the principle of subsidiarity as only the Community is in a position to coordinate Member State action and take European initiatives to develop a European market for European geographic information. Action to coordinate the establishment and use of European geographic information will therefore strengthen interaction and synergy between many different disciplines using geographic information. Interdisciplinary synergy will be an important ingredient for the Fifth Framework Programme for research and development.

The approach proposed is fully compatible with the new emerging priorities for the Information Society and is also included in the Rolling Plan for the Information Society. It contributes to favourable business environment in which the private sector can exploit opportunities and prosper. Public sector action is necessary in specific areas where the market fails. The Herman report(8) calls on the Commission to launch a debate on the future of public services of general interest and of the production of public goods. The debate following this communication will be one of the first to address this issue. This debate will also have profound influence on the production of geographic information. People are put at the centre as the approach focuses primarily on organising geographic information in Europe rather than on technical issues. Clever processing of geographic information leads to new insights about the physical and economic world promoting the knowledge based society. Through its capabilities for communicating information in an intuitive way geographic information can involve citizens in the democratic decision process for all aspects touching upon their daily lives. Creating and using geographic information applications is a highly skilled activity. An increase in the use will also lead to a corresponding increase in high quality employment.

After the fall of communism the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are aspiring to become members of the EU. Regarding geographic information they have had to re-create the information from scratch and are looking for guidance from the EU in order to be compatible once they join.

Action is already being taken in the US. President Clinton issued Executive Order on 11 April 1994 setting up the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, under the guidance of US Secretary of Interior. One of the actions of the order is to require all future geographic information collection, storage and reporting to adhere to the standards of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).

2. Why Geographic Information is more important than ever before.

2.1.Geographic information defined

Geographic information is "information which can be related to a location on the Earth, particularly information on natural phenomena, cultural and human resources"(9) . In the past such information has been expressed in the form of paper maps showing locations, boundaries and relationships. Over the centuries maps have been very important in the development of the nation state, as aids to territorial conquest, sovereignty and defence, and for governing and managing territory in times of peace. Maps are still a valuable tool for scientists, astronomers and explorers to understand and control the natural world. But the term "geographic information" also includes many other types of information which can be "related to a location". Examples of geographic information are address data, market research data, census data, postcodes, health data, data on environment and natural resources, descriptions of transport and utility networks, information on flows of goods, cadaster and land registration information and satellite imagery. The time dimension is an important attribute of geographic information because our world is constantly changing. Today, the information traditionally held on maps, as well as other forms of geographic information, can be stored in digital form, enabling it to be handled by computers. Geographic information systems (GIS) enable different kinds of digital geographic information to be linked, so users can extract and analyse geographic information to support political, economic and scientific decision-making, for example, for managing growth in less favoured areas, understanding the impact of set-aside on agricultural production and rural ecology, or the interaction between industrial activities and environment.

2.2.Why Geographic Information is important

This capability to relate different types of information on activities and resources to a location enables changes over time to be monitored and predicted. It is afundamental capability for the effective management of our complex modern society.

Geographic information is used in a wide range of applications, such as planning, land management, asset management, marketing studies, business development, environment, renewable energy resources, emergency services, health care, political analysis, tourists’ road maps and global studies on disease control. Increasingly, geographic information applications in Europe are providing essential information for management and decision making.

International, national, regional and local governments use geographic information for a host of applications from defence and policing activities through regional planning, strategic studies for renewable energy resources, socio-economic, environmental management and risk avoidance. Day-to-day operational activities include land registration, property taxation or routing of traffic.

In social investigations, geographic information is used to help analyse various attributes of the population such as income, crime, health or the quality of housing for a given area.

Many services of the European Commission and other EU institutions and agencies (e.g. EUROSTAT, the Joint Research Centre in Ispra, the European Environmental Agency, etc.) are major users of geographic information.

Industry and commerce use geographic information in many ways. Utility (power, gas, water, telephone and oil) companies are major investors in digital geographic information technology for managing and monitoring their supply networks, often on an international basis. Businesses use geographic information together with other economic information to determine optimal delivery routes, the location of potential markets or the site of outlets or factories. Constructors of major infrastructure (roads, railways, bridges) use geographic information to estimate the amounts and costs of material needed. In agriculture, forestry, water resources or mining, geographic information is used to assess yields and management strategies. In service industries, consultants draw on geographic information to advise on business efficiency, or to provide services for tourism and transport.

Geographic information is used for the analysis of a wide range of practical environmental issues from global warming and sea-level rise to erosion, flooding and soil, air and water pollution. Air and marine traffic control as well as navigation both with and without satellite based GPS (10) systems are also major application areas.Many activities involving geographic information started before the digital age and are enshrined in national or international law. Legally based land registration is a crucial element in securing a prosperous and stable society. For Western countries this is so obvious and self evident that we tend to forget about it. It has become abundantly clear in the former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union where the lack of proper land registration systems has stifled economic development(11) . As a consequence many support projects from the West including the PHARE and TACIS programmes of the EU are establishing such land registration systems to stimulate investment and the economy.

2.3 The economic value of geographic information

It is possible to estimate the value of the traditional "geographic information industry" and to make forecasts as to its growth over the coming years, although such estimates vary widely depending upon a host of assumptions as to what constitutes the "industry". Various market studies published by reputable research firms, from 1993 to 1995, indicate that geographic information represents a global market for both internal and external data collection and conversion of 460 - 750 million ECU, with an annual growth rates of 15-20%.

Looking at the collection, provision and use of geographic information in Europe as "economic activity" generated within a range of commercial, industrial and governmental sectors, it is possible to justify estimated figures of the order of 10 billion ECU. Several hundred thousand people, with high skill levels, are employed. More detailed figures are being compiled in an EU study, the results of which will be available in the beginning of 1997, as well as in national studies being conducted by EU Member State mapping agencies or associations.

Other aspects of the economic value of geographic information are hard to quantify, but also important. What is the value of a life saved by using geographic information in a civil protection system? What is the true economic value to a food retailer of making the best decision on where to build the next hyper-market in the chain?

Increasing use of geographic information can lead to many new products and services which could have a major impact on the quality of life and competitiveness of European industry as well as on the service level in the public sector.

3. The opportunities - and challenges - for Europe

3.1.Key drivers

Two major forces are driving the development of geographic information at an international level. The first is a growing need for governments and businesses to carry out proper spatial analyses, many of which cross national boundaries, and some of which are global in scope. The second is the ubiquitous availability of cheap, powerful information and communications technology.

Cross border and pan-European activities.

Important areas where geographic information technology is providing new opportunities include critical cross border areas (see Figure 1) and pan-European activities which require very different kinds of information to be brought together. Critical cross border areas are those areas or regions which are shared or affected by several countries, yet must be managed as a whole.

Pan-European activities include those most important for the European community and internationally oriented business, commerce, research and education. They include the setting up and use of geographic information databases and products for major utility networks (oil, gas, water, electricity, telecommunications), defence, transport, marketing, environment and resources (geology, water, soil, renewable energy resources), health care and emergencies, product development and training.Clearly, for these situations it is essential to have shared geographic information of known quality.

3.2.The effect of information technology on geographic information

Cheap, readily available computer power, with networking, powerful software and digital databases, has democratised complex information processing in geographic information. There has been a major change from the long, complex process of data collection and representation required for conventional map-making by professional cartographers to computer-generated maps which can be tailor-made to specific requirements. Electronic technology empowers all persons and create their own maps and data visualisations which they will use to the extent of their abilities. A parallel can be drawn to the advent of desk top publishing and Web technology which is providing publishing capabilities to a mass market.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) permit all information traditionally held on conventional paper maps to be handled and stored in digital form and enable it to be linked to all other kinds of geographic information. Users can extract and analyse geographic information to support political, economic and scientific decision making, such as may be involved in managing growth in less favoured areas, in understanding the impact of set-aside on agricultural production and rural ecology or the interaction between industrial activities and environment. Consequently, the range of persons and institutions involved in collecting geographic information has exploded and there is a growing market for digital topographic map data, satellite imagery, data from censuses and market research studies, postcodes, health data, data on environment and natural resources, transport networks and flows of goods, cadaster and land registration, utility networks, statistics etc. as well as for the means to analyse these datasets.

At the touch of a button, it is possible to retrieve and analyse geographic information on any theme, for any area, at any desired level of resolution provided one has the required data. Consequently, the variety of new geographic information applications is constantly growing (see Table 1 on page 26). In contrast to conventional map-making, many new applications deal with situations which vary both in time and space, so fast computing and rapid updating and modification of databases are essential.

3.3.Existing situation and key players.

The range of people and institutions involved in collecting geographic information has widened. There is a fast-growing market for digital geographic data from many sources as well as for the technology to analyse these datasets. The market is currently more developed in the northern countries but involvement, awareness and use of geographic information in the southern Member States is increasing. Commercial road network databases for vehicle navigation and fleet management, produced by commercial companies, currently cover large parts of Europe.

In Europe, geographic information is collected and disseminated by a range of mandated national institutes such as national mapping agencies, military organisations, cadastral administrations and geodetic surveys according to a wide variety of national standards, and there are private companies that publish a wide range of cartographic products. Conventionally, these organisations produce paper maps at many scales. In some countries they are freely available at a cost, while in others they may still be regarded as military secrets. Increasingly, both public and private organisations are providing geographic information in digital form to meet a wide range of applications.

The collection and dissemination of much European geographic information base data is currently controlled by governments through licensing and copyrights, the details of which vary widely between the different Member States. Many private companies also collect certain base data, as well as much thematic data, especially relating to tourism and transport, and in remote sensing. The market is currently more developed in the northern countries but involvement, awareness and use of geographic information in the southern Member States is increasing rapidly, as evidenced, for instance, by the May 1995 launch of Portugal's SNIG (Sistema Nacional de Informaçáo Geográfica) network. Commercial road network databases for car navigation and truck routing, produced by private companies, currently cover large parts of Europe.

Steps have already been taken to move from purely national geographic information initiatives to a more European approach in mapping, statistics, utilities, environment and transport. In topographical mapping the European National Mapping Agencies (NMA) created CERCO (Comité Européen des Responsables de la Cartographie Officielle) composed of the head of mapping agencies from 32 countries) in 1980 for exchanging practical experience. In 1993 CERCO created the MEGRIN GIE (Multipurpose European Ground Related Information Network - Groupement d'Intérêt Economique under French law) in which mapping agencies from 17 countries participate. Its purpose is to develop closer cooperation in order to be better prepared for providing EU-wide cartographic data.

In addition, many kinds of thematic data are collected by international, national and private agencies: geological surveys, soil surveys, space agencies, demographic studies, censuses, motoring and transport associations, etc. Owners of airborne or space remote sensing platforms have provided data in both photographic and digital form.

Many private companies collect and disseminate digital geographic information, often in the form of added value information products not provided by national mapping agencies. Several commercial organisations, in the form of vendors of technology or data suppliers, have already played major roles in creating European-wide datasets or in providing European-wide technical support for geographic information. At the commercial level, several alliances have been formed between both large corporations and SMEs (small and medium enterprises), in different business sectors, in order to collect and integrate various types of geographic information, especially in the areas of transport and tourism.

At the research level, the European Science Foundation has supported the GISDATA programme to stimulate international research in geographic information(12) . GISIG (13) is a sector specific UETP financed under the COMETT programme to further international training and cooperation in geographic information between industry and universities.

In 1994, with support from the EU IMPACT programme, the European Umbrella Organisation for Geographic Information (EUROGI) was formed to bring together national and European organisations for geographic information that cover fields wider than those addressed by CERCO and MEGRIN. Today 16 countries and 7 European organisations are members, or are in the process of joining, and more new members are expected. It has stimulated discussion on geographic information policies at the European level and has been instrumental in catalysing national geographic information activities in several countries. EUROGI and its members represent geographic information practitioners through national and European geographic information associations and it is well placed to initiate practical consultations on implementing the policy framework.

In a COST 326 action projects for Maritime Information Systems are being developed using geographic information as are some of the G7 projects. On the marine side also the International Hydrographic Office in Monaco is a key player.From the space sector remote sensing earth observation data is being captures by ever more sophisticated instrumentation paying no respect for national borders. Such thematic data is becoming increasingly important for many applications and it has a potential eventually to have a significant impact on the market for geographic information. The organisations involved in capturing, processing and disseminating this data are important actors.

The Centre for Earth Observation (CEO) programme, and EU initiative in the space sector coordinated by the Joint Research Centre in Ispra and DG XII, has been set up to increase the dissemination of space acquired data. The CEO is now in its implementation phase lasting until 1998. The CEO project is compatible and complementary with the policy framework as described here. A number of actions are already being undertaken towards the creation of metadata for earth observation data.

3.4.Europe has many strengths in geographic information.

European strengths in relation to the information market include a wide cultural diversity and much experience in establishing the structures needed to overcome the difficulties inherent in using multiple languages and working within differing technical, legal, social and political systems.

There are very good national topographic data making Europe one of the best mapped regions of the world - but fragmented at national level. Very good nationalthematic geographic information datasets exist, e.g. in the fields of environment, property rights (land registries), traffic logistics, demography, employment, soils, hydrology and geology. There are very high resolution satellites (SPOT(14) and ERS (15) and accompanying expertise in remote sensing. There is a well-organised industry with a highly skilled work force and many professional associations. Actions for improving and setting up standards for geographic information data description and exchange are ongoing in the CEN TC 287 (16) and ISO TC 211 (17) committees the latter with strong European participation.

3.5.Significant inhibitors

Though new geographic information technologies and applications are developing rapidly, future growth in Europe is hampered by major differences in the way geographic information is collected, stored and distributed in the different countries and in different sectors of government and commerce. Although some national markets are well advanced the European market for geographic information has developed slowly and with great difficulty. A dynamic internal market for geographic information does not exist at present in Europe. The existing activities - all very laudable individually - are fragmented and poorly coordinated at European level. EUROGI has still not reached its critical mass to have a major impact and it is still lacking in legitimacy.

Traditionally, geographic information has been a specialised activity organised by individual nation states and professions in different ways. European standards for data definition and exchange are only now emerging, but are complex to use. Provision for basic European geographic information, data sets. supporting technology and knowledge infrastructure has not been well coordinated across disciplines or national boundaries making it difficult and expensive to fit data together from many different sources in a seamless way.

Increasingly, geographic information applications in Europe, in national and local government, in industry and commerce and in research, are providing essential information for management and decision making. However, many projects encounter unnecessary difficulties because of problems of data availability, exchangeability, and compatibility. Building a comprehensive database is expensive and time consuming(18) and incompatibility in data may discourage important developments(19) . Recent estimates based on a market survey of 1000 geographic information users (20) suggest that on average, the costs of data conversion are at least double the costs of externally acquired data! This wasteful overhead is especially acute in Europe because Europe does not yet have a European policy framework for geographic information, though certain organisations such as CERCO and EUROGI have been working to these ends. The primary goal of such a European policy framework for geographic information should be to eliminate the barriers to wider use caused by lack of agreement between nations, disciplines, software vendors, data collectors and users on a range of issues, from the purely technical (such as standards and interoperability) to the legal (copyright, liability) to market related (pricing policy, public/private synergy).

The problems are political and organisational rather than technical. Historical problems in the European geographic information industry include fragmented markets, often governed by differing regulatory systems, and insufficient market size at national level to achieve substantial economies of scale and scope.

The research effort in geographic information is generally dispersed both in national and European programmes. Many projects use or develop geographic information technologies but there is no overall strategy and little coherence in these efforts.

There are few coherent European-wide, or even regional, applications and data sets, except those that have been specifically built for commercial road navigation projects. Most national agencies (whether mapping agencies, statistical institutes or environmental agencies) have no mandate to provide for the cost of collecting and maintaining EU-wide data sets. Few countries have a single mandated point of contact or central authority with overall responsibility for geographic information, even at national level and, if they do, the strengths of the mandates are unequal. International governmental data sets are usually small scale that have arisen primarily from requirements for the European Union to look at wider pan-European policy issues (e.g. the CORINE (21) European Land Cover data). It is likely that in the future, ventures at regional level will need to set up cross-border regional systems to handle geographic information.

The commercial road navigation data include road centre lines for the whole of Europe at 1:10 000 and a growing list of related attributes, but these lack many details and attributes considered essential by users of geographic information in sectors outside road navigation and marketing. Integration of these different data has yet to be achieved.

The data that does exist is hard to find and poorly documented. It is generally not collected following common standards which would permit the data to be useful in different applications.

Although there are good software companies in Europe specialising in geographic information, especially in regard to object oriented technology, most geographic information software in general use is provided from the USA. European suppliers command approximately 20 % of the European market, estimated at 800 MECU. This market share is obtained mainly in the home countries of the vendors through national champions. The European suppliers’ world wide market share is 5% of 3.1 billion ECU. While such imported technology has generated support services and employment and created awareness of geographic information developments elsewhere, many European suppliers feel disadvantaged and threatened(22). There is a clear need to strengthen European geographic information industry and to give it a sense of community and identity at European level. This will also strengthen Europe's position globally.

In addition to the more technical reasons given above the development of European geographic information is still hampered because people still think and act nationally in many respects

This fragmented development history of geographic information in Europe has resulted in quite disparate market development across the Member States. To reap the full benefits of the internal market a European policy framework in the area of geographic information is urgently needed now to develop the European market for geographic information.

4 .A strategy to remove bottlenecks and grasp opportunities.

There is a discernible trend towards ad hoc harmonisation of geographic information in Europe, via the work of CERCO, EUROGI and CEN, as well as from joint projects in industry and business and the activities of pan-European geographic information vendor and user associations. However, progress is being hampered by political and institutional considerations that need to be addressed at the highest levels if the opportunities provided by geographic information technology are to be fully exploited. To remove bottlenecks, reduce unnecessary costs and provide new market opportunities, a coherent European policy framework is needed in which the industry and market can prosper.

What is required is a policy framework to set up and maintain a stable, European-wide set of agreed rules, standards, procedures, guidelines andincentives for creating, collecting, exchanging and using geographic information.

This policy framework must create a favourable business environment for a competitive, plentiful, rich and differentiated supply of European geographic information that is easily identifiable and easily accessible so that

The policy framework must address the technical, organisational and political issues of lowering the cost of collecting, disseminating and using geographic information throughout Europe. It must encompass all aspects of European geographic information - its collection, storage, maintenance, dissemination, integration, harmonisation, use and possible misuse, by and for the largest possible market in Europe, both private and public sector.

The lack of a basic European policy framework geographic information is hampering developments has been demonstrated in practice by several of the projects supported by the Community in the IMPACT and INFO2000 programmes. The projects encountered difficulties in getting access to the data required at a reasonable price and many good project ideas could not be effectively exploited. Under INFO2000 projects are being supported that will start to build an initial framework relating to the availability of base data and metadata and acquire practical experiences in this task. These efforts are highly necessary but far from sufficient.

4.1.Elements which already exist.

The concepts behind the policy framework have existing precursors. Initiatives have been taken in other countries, some European, some in North America where policy actions are being defined and implemented. In several EEA Member States the preliminary discussions prior to this communication have had an effect in accelerating the development of national policies. As a result there is an ever-growing collection of national digital geographic information datasets held by local, regional, national and pan-European data providers and users, both public and private. Such databases need not be physically interlinked, as long as potential users of geographic information know what databases exist, where they are located, who "owns" them, and how they can be accessed and purchased. These questions are answered by establishing metadata (23) information services across Europe. The development of agreed format for geographic information metadata and adoption of this format by European geographic information vendors and users is an important prerequisite for further progress.

Other less visible, less tangible, but equally important aspects include continued support for European associations such as EUROGI and actions to increase the strengths mentioned above; more R&D work to maintain Europe’s position in geographic information innovations both in national and European research programmes such as the 4th and 5th Framework Programmes and GISDATA (24) ; actions to increase awareness of geographic information and its myriad uses; geographic information skills development and training; and not least, the growing awareness of the need for policies at Member State level to help ensure the widest possible market for geographic information, in the private and public sectors. These actions are, however, very limited in size and uncoordinated both on a national and on a European level.

4.2.The main practical objectives for the policy framework are:

1. To provide, at the European level, an open and flexible, framework for organising the provision, distribution and standardisation of geographic information for the benefit of all suppliers and users, both public and private.

2 To achieve European-wide metadata dissemination, through appropriate information exchanges that conform to accepted world-wide practices.

3. To stimulate the convergence of national geographic information policies and to learn from experience at national level to ensure that EU-wide objectives can be met as well, at little additional cost and without further delay or waste of prior work already completed.

4. To lay the foundations for rapid growth in the marketplace by supporting the initiatives and structures needed to guarantee ready access to the wealth of geographic information that already exists in Europe, and to ensure that major tasks in data capture are cost effective, resulting in products and services usable at national and pan-European scales.

5. To develop policies which aid European businesses in effective and efficient development of their home markets in a wide range of sectors by encouraging informed and innovative use of geographic information in all its many forms, and promoting new and sophisticated analysis, visualisation and presentation tools (including the relevant datasets) which can be used by non-experts.

6. To help realise the business opportunities for the European geographic information industry in a global and competitive marketplace.

7. To position Europe in a global context.

4.3.Expected Benefits

Achieving these practical objectives will lead to improving the basis for decision making at European institutions and in private and public organisations at national level. Organisations will be able to choose more effective policies to meet the challenges of the information society and the globalisation of the economy through access to relevant geographic information datasets and tools. This will lead to private organisations becoming more competitive, more profitable, producing higher quality products and giving better service. Similarly, public sector organisations could provide better services to the citizen in a wide range of functions, from better traffic control and more effective emergency services to health and environmental monitoring or urban and rural planning. Greater use of quality geographic information will improve understanding and the quality of management of the total European living space, including environmental, socio-economic, legal, health, employment and other aspects of life.

Particular benefits to be expected from a coherent European policy for geographic information are:

• efficiencies of scale in a unified market, reducing development and conversion costs

• more effective cross-border and pan-European projects, realised sooner

• efficient technical solutions for future growth

• improved European position in European and global markets

• better planning and decision-making Europe-wide

5. Practical actions to be undertaken

With this communication the Commission wishes to launch a debate about the problems and issues at stake regarding geographic information at European level. The actions outlines below should therefore not be seen as the components of a ready made action plan. Rather they constitute a catalogue of potential actions that the Commission would consider appropriate and which are put forward to stimulate the debate.

A. Creating a Favourable Business Environment and Improving the functioning of the Internal Market.

Improved European cooperation and coordination

To avoid duplication of work and to stimulate interdisciplinary synergy, coordination is required at European level, between Member States policies, at EU level and between the actors in the marketplace. Even within the Commission stronger coordination is called for.

Everyone recognises the need for improved coordination but at the same time few are willing to be coordinated. This dilemma can only be overcome through the development of a common goals that everyone can subscribe to and to guide their implementation through strong visionary leadership at high political level.

To provide this leadership the Commission intends to establish a GI2000 High Level Working Party. It will involve representatives from all the leading players in the public and private sectors including user representation and be chaired by the Commission. The approach is the same as that adopted by the Telecommunications Council of 27.9.96 to set up a working party to combat illegal content on the Internet.

Stimulate the creation of base data

The single most important barrier to the development of the market for geographic information is the lack of seamless European base data. Expressed in a simple manner, base data is the data needed by most applications. What base data exactly encompasses will be discussed and defined in close collaboration with the market actors. Effort should first be devoted to producing base data where it does not yet exist. A large part of the topological data produced, inter alia, by the National Mapping Agencies, is base data. However, also other data types such as address data and other data having a linkage function between objects and a position on the earth could qualify as base data.

The guiding principle is that European base data should be created by market actors in fair competition preferably through cooperative ventures between the public and private sectors. The role of the EU is to stimulate the national organisations to cooperate more closely and to encourage greater participation by the private sector in collecting base data, acting as an honest broker. No single actor or group of actors is likely to be the sole provider of a certain kind of base data.

In this context the Commission is a customer of geographic information for its own purposes of managing the various EU policies such as agricultural policy, transport policy regional policy etc. Pull from these policies will act as a strong market force encouraging the creation of some pan-European base data sets in accordance with normal public procurement rules. This is to be encouraged, as the availability of such data sets can bring benefit to other applications.

Developing base data will involve supporting stronger cooperation between Member State agencies (NMAs, National Statistical Institutes, census bureaux, environmental agencies, river and coastal authorities, etc.) as well as private industry for creating geographic base data which are seamless across Europe. This is probably the area where political leadership and vision is most required.

It will be necessary to examine the functioning of the market for example by research, review and examination of the effects on the development of the geographic information market of pricing criteria adopted by national agencies and private data suppliers.

Stimulate the creation of metadata services

The purpose of metadata is to improve the possibilities for locating existing information and for sharing such information across different applications.

Apart from the absence of European base data, there is a general lack of awareness of the mainly national data that does exist. This includes lack of information on the commercial conditions of usage of such data as well as information on its scope and quality.

Metadata means data about data. It is proposed to stimulate the creation of EU-wide metadata services offering information about existing geographic information datasets. Commercially oriented organisations interested in selling data should be interested in providing feed for such services or maybe even for setting up and running such services although initial studies indicate that there is a weak business case for such services. There may therefore well be a case for public sector intervention as this appears to be an area where the market fails.

A European metadata standard is currently under development, but there is a need to encourage or even oblige data producers to document the data they possess in a standardised way and to ensure that this documentation is widely available and cheaply accessible, preferably in electronic form. It is important that any final standard is suitable for all types of geographic information, not just topographic data.

The EU contribution would be to stimulate the creation of EU-wide services that combine individual or national services into truly European services through appropriate networking. Common interconnection rules and standards need to be established and ways of creating single entry points to such services need to be defined.

Lowering legal barriers and reducing potential risks

Geographic information, like other types of information, is affected by legal rules covering copyright, data protection, personal privacy, liability for misuse and non-benign use of information. However, because of its nature, the problems are heavily accentuated. Nevertheless there does not seem at this stage to be a need for specific action for geographic information other than one of involvement of the key players when legal issues pertaining to the information market in general are being discussed or implemented at European level.

The Commission intends to involve the actors and keep them informed through the High Level Working Party mentioned above.

The green paper on access to public sector information elaborated in the context of the INFO2000 programme will be published shortly. The debate that will follow will be a good occasion to involve the geographic information key players in this important issue which also has profound implications for the market for geographic information.

B. Specific Actions

  1. Stimulating Public/Private synergy

Encourage the creation of public/private partnerships so that the wealth of public sector geographic information can be better exploited by the private sector for use in new and useful business and public sector applications. This is not only applicable to base data as described above, but to any type of thematic or application data. The private sector can add value to public sector data and thus expand the market. In addition business to business alliances should be encouraged.

Devising methods to stimulate suitable partnerships and alliances will be one of the practical tasks of the High Level Working Party.

Market Stimulation

The development of a market for geographic information is based on a underlying technologically oriented industry. This comprises manufactures of hardware including terrestrial and space borne instrumentation for data capture , developers of data management and analysis software and an associated services and systems integration industry. Any one of these can develop only if the others are healthy. The policy framework must create favourable conditions for entrepreneurial initiative and technological innovation to thrive in this area.

It is proposed to stimulate the market with better information particularly with respect to financing schemes resulting in better use of existing EU, national and private financial instruments as opposed to proving traditional public subvention. This approach may prove to be more dynamic, and in accordance with the needs of industry as it does not relieve companies of their commercial responsibilities. In the face of severe budgetary restrictions, this model is certainly more economic and less demanding on public spending. Existing EU wide networks such as the MIDAS network under the INFO2000 programme could be tasked with providing this kind of information.

Research and Development.

It is suggested that the existing efforts regarding geographic information and geographic information systems in the Communities R&D programmes should be clustered under the 5th Framework Programme, ensuring better exploitation of synergy, concertation and reflection of users' and industry's needs. This will be an improvement to the present situation where projects pertaining to geographic information are scattered throughout the programmes with little or no interaction between them. Encouragement to, and integration with, other European efforts such as the GISDATA programme funded by the European Science Foundation, the COST 326 framework for developing maritime electronic navigational charts and new EUREKA projects, should also be sought. Components of a coordinated approach to geographic information R&D would include the development of new algorithms and modelling techniques involving advanced spatial and temporal analysis procedures and integration with new visualisation methodologies, such as virtual reality.

The approach developed under the 4th Framework Programme for research and industry task forces will be applied in the area of geographic information.

Standards, Interoperability and Quality.

This action will support the development of geographic information standards both at European and world level.

Work on standards in geographic information is already underway under CEN, but needs to be reinforced, particularly by validating the newly developed standards in practical projects. Stronger information flow is needed to users about how to implement the standards, as well as positive encouragement to do so. The return flow of information back into the standardisation process from users regarding their present and future needs is currently lacking altogether.

It will be important for Europe to dispose of common reference and projection systems for geographic information. This is an area that the High Level Working Party will examine with priority to arrive at a consensus.

Finally a plurality and differentiation of products at different quality levels and prices are needed to encourage a thriving market in data. Therefore it is necessary to develop quality metrics and quality metadata facilitating the comparison between competing products. These metrics might include descriptors for precision, reliability and consistency for the data and service levels for data providers.

The initiative for these actions will be taken by the Commission in consultation with the High Level Working Party. The practical work should be done mainly by the European standardisation organisations CEN, CENELEC (electrotechnical standards) and ETSI (telecommunications standards) as appropriate together with the interested market actors. European standards should be funded jointly by key players and the EU to ensure that they correspond closely to the needs of users.

Awareness, Education and training

The purpose will be to increase the awareness of information providers and potential users of geographic information of the benefits of understanding the spatial aspects of their data, and the need to have certain skills. Awareness actions must be aimed at new and existing users as well as decision makers.

Education and training programmes should be developed under existing national and EU training initiatives, such as SOCRATES and LEONARDO, aimed at decision makers at all levels, as well as support to the development of geographic information professions in the EU. This goes beyond surveying into new professions specialising in spatial combination and visualisation of data. It is proposed that basic knowledge about geographic information is taught in secondary school and that no one leaves university with a technically oriented degree without having been exposed to basic geographic information analysis and visualisation techniques.

Under the INFO2000 programme an action is being launched for the development of a masters degree in information engineering. This will include a number of modules pertaining to designing and exploiting geographic information.

Improving our understanding of the market

Actions and resources are needed to be able to monitor and analyse the geographic information market. Resources are needed to collect, analyse and disseminate this information in order to assist the Commission to help it define, refine and monitor policy, but also as an impartial information source for market actors.

Defining Global Rules

By organising geographic information at European scale, the Union can far better contribute to and influence the discussion about global rules for sharing and inter-operation of geographic information. The purpose is to analyse global issues relevant to all mankind such as the evolution of global weather, preservation of rain forest, agriculture, radioactive contamination etc. Global policies in these areas can only be meaningfully debated and developed when the appropriate information is compatible and circulates at global level. Contacts for greater information sharing at global level have already been initiated between the US Secretary of Interior and Commissioner Bangemann.

The G7 projects which involve significant use of geographic information must be followed closely to ensure that developments therein are compatible with the emerging European policy framework and that there is a flow of information between the projects and the High Level Task Force for mutual benefit. As previously mentioned this especially concerns the projects on Environmental and Natural Resources management, Global Emergency Management and Maritime Information Systems.

ISO(26) work in geographic information has just started. Committees have been established with strong European participation ensuring that international standards will be strongly influenced by the European approach. This demonstrates clearly that only a single European voice is one that will be heard. This work needs full support of the European geographic information community to ensure that this marginal European advantage is maintained and preferably expanded for the benefit of European industry.

Conclusion

The major impediments to the widespread and successful use of geographic information in Europe are not technical, but political and organisational.

The development of new goods and services is being stifled by the high costs of data acquisition, conversion and dissemination. As a result, European success in the global geographic information market is threatened.

A European policy for geographic information will address the need for political and organisational co-ordination and provide a fertile environment for technical development. It will contribute to providing better and more efficient government, more effective management of scarce resources, and new business opportunities, and ensure important European cross-border initiatives are nurtured and managed cost-effectively.

The concept of a European geographic information policy is gathering support via a wide consultation process amongst the major actors, initiated by the Commission. The approach is compatible with the etirging priorities for the Information Society and in line with the principle of subsidiarity, as only the Community is in a position to take initiatives to develop a European market for geographic information.

The Member States are invited to cooperate with the Commission to provide the political support and visionary leadership both at national and European level to achieve the goals set out in this Communication and to commit the resources necessary.

Europe must act now or miss out.

Appendix Geographic information - technical description

To understand the importance of geographic information, and the difficulty in collecting, comparing, or even sharing geographic information, it is necessary to understand the phrase "related to a location" in the definition: Geographic information is "information which can be related to a location on the Earth, particularly information on natural phenomena, cultural and human resources"(27) .

Geographic information is created by adding a spatial attribute to many other types of information, e.g. "my house" or "my name" or "the chemical factory XYZ" (various types of information) is located at "123 Avenue du Bois" or "in commune ABC" or "ten km north of Gare Centrale in city W" (all valid locations). Thus the relation can be a specific set of co-ordinates, or can cover less precise locations or areas, such as addresses, postal codes or administrative boundaries, regions or even whole countries. Most geographic information also includes a time dimension, since the world is not a static place.

To be of further use for analytical purposes planning, taxation etc., these locations must also be expressed in such a way as to permit physical comparisons of data from different locations. This is accomplished by creating co-ordinate systems, whether used for map referencing at national level, or for marine, air or even celestial navigation. Now, location "123 Ave. du Bois" can be assigned a specific, physical location in the target co-ordinate system and any information attached to this location can be viewed, analysed or compared in relation to other locations in the vicinity, and the information attached to those locations. This ability to attach a multitude of different types of information to both "logical" locations (e.g. an address) and physical representations of those locations (e.g. specific map co-ordinates) is what makes geographic information so useful.

Geographic information is used in a wide range of applications, from tourists’ road maps to global studies on disease control. It can be divided into two major classes: base data (sometimes called core data or framework data), which are necessary for most applications, and application-specific data, often referred to as thematic data.

Base data may include basic co-ordinates (28) for determining geographic locations; elevation data used to describe terrain; data on the location of natural objects, such as rivers, coasts and lakes, and major features such as roads, railways, towns and cities; administrative boundaries at national, regional and local levels (e.g. NUTS(29) boundaries and post-code districts); and linkage data (e.g. relating addresses to co-ordinate systems). The key factor for deciding what is or is not "base data" is how often it is needed or used in a wide range of applications across many disciplines, as opposed to a specific application.

Application-specific data covers all other kinds of geographic information that may be used in one application but not in all. Examples include socio-economic data from planning studies and censuses and natural resource data such as soil information or ground water quality, or special purpose versions of the base data (e.g. the use of road centre lines for auto navigation). Application specific data are largely thematic and may range from measures of reflected radiation captured by remote sensing sensors to data on utility networks to information about land ownership, land use and natural resources, or demography and health.

In Europe, base data are collected and disseminated by a range of mandated national institutes such as National Mapping Agencies, Military Organisations, Cadastral and Geodetic Surveys according to a wide variety of national standards, and there are private companies that publish a wide range of cartographic products. Conventionally, these organisations produce paper maps at a wide range of scales, which in some countries are freely available at a cost, while in others they may still be regarded as military secrets. In addition, many kinds of thematic data are collected by international, national and private agencies.

Increasingly, both public and private organisations are providing geographic information in digital form to meet a wide range of applications. By means of computerised GIS digital data can be exchanged, used, modified and combined with other spatial and non-spatial data in an unlimited number of ways yielding new insights. However, such exchange, conversion and integration is not always a straightforward activity. Identifying ways and means to better re-use existing geographic information data is also important and will lead to increased market size by permitting new information products and services to be created at lower cost.

Table 1. Examples of new geographic information products and services Business - Spatial Decision support systems for industry: Where to locate an industry, how to manage environmental issues, how to manage emergency in case of heavy polluting accident. GIS brings tools to manage those problems; GIS enables to combine various data types and extract relevant data to help investment decision process.- Real Estate analyses Public service - Spatial decision support for public services: land-use management, location of health care facilities, optimisation and control of Emergency Services, road pricing and traffic monitoring as function of traffic density (city traffic management system).- The analysis of the distribution of crime by the police- Results of epidemiological analyses can be significantly improved by using GIS. Transport and tourism - In-car real time navigation (Advance Transport Telematics)- Tourism - optimising and allocation of resources.- New database systems designed to cope with complex data: the GIS is able to combine and analyse complex data and extract relevant information which otherwise would be difficult or expensive to obtain (e.g. weather forecasting models, hydrological models,…)- Portable office with linked laptop, GPS receiver and cellular phone, will enable real time positioning and tracking of vehicles e.g. to optimise goods delivery, to reduce costs and environmental impact.- Marine and river navigation, air transport optimisation- Personalised navigation systems for the blind Agriculture - Real time yield recording systems in combine harvesters- Systems for adjusting fertiliser applications to soil fertility- Crop yield monitoring, modelling, policy and set aside. Visualisation and cartography - Multimedia systems for visual planning and enhancing value of conventional databases are providing "visual GIS" for a host of applications ranging from real estate through street planning to landscape architecture and environmental clean-up.- Digital data collection tools : e.g. GPS makes mapping operations easier and faster; Environmental protection and natural resource management - On-line monitoring systems for natural hazards, real-time modelling and consequences analysis (landslides, eruptions, earthquakes, flooding, forest fires, hurricanes).- Energy collectors from wind, sun and tides: Implementation of these collectors require a very deep knowledge of the environment, first to optimise their efficiency, secondly to reduce their impact on the environment, GIS tools are essential for both. - Design packages for energy efficient local and design of buildings: micro-climatic studies enable better planning of housing and building design, in order to improve energy efficiency.- Automated samplers for pollutants in soil, water and air- Environmentally sensitive extraction of natural resources , modelling sources of renewable energy resources- Managing fish stocks needs combination of various geographical information to determine potential place, monitor water quality and fish movements.


(1) White Paper on "Growth, Competitiveness and Employment:) The Challenges and Ways Forward into the 21st Century", Supplement 6/93, Bulletin of the European Communities, ISBN 92-826-7000-7, available from the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, L-2985, Luxembourg.

(2) Europe and the Global Information Society: Recommendations to the European Council", 26 May 1994.

(3) The implications of the information society for EU policies - Preparing the next steps" - COM(96)395 24.7.96

(4) The G7 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and the USA.

(5) The French Minister for Equipment, Transport and Tourism, M. Bosson, in a letter to President Delors, suggested that the EU provide a stronger political impetus to geographic information at the European level to further the creation of seamless homogeneous digital maps of Europe. He also referred to activities in the United States relating to the establishment and development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and the positive influence of US President Clinton's Executive Order of 11 April 1994, which set the whole process in motion. Subsequently, Commissioner Bangemann received letters from Mr Rexrodt, German Minister of Economics, and from Mr Borell, Spanish Minister of Public Works, Transport and Environment, both urging a stronger political initiative from the European Commission and increasing support to EUROGI to help develop the market.

(6) European Umbrella Organisation for Geographic Information, an independent pan-European "association of associations" created in 1994 under an initiative of the IMPACT programme of DG XIII/E.

(7) MEGRIN - "Multipurpose European Ground Related Information Network" set up by CERCO ( Comité Européen des Responsables de la Cartographie Officielle ) in 1993.

(8) Resolution of the European Parliament of 19.9.96 - no A4-0244/96 on the Commissions action plan for the information society (COM(94)347 - C4-0093/94)

(9) GIS Dictionary" - A Standards Committee Publication of the Association for Geographic Information (AGI), UK, Version no. 1.1, STA/06/91, published January 1991.

(10) Global Positioning System. A system of US defence satellites for military and civil navigation

(11) Hernando de Soto (Peruvian entrepreneur and economist), "The Missing Ingredient", Economist , 11 September 1993.

(12) The European Science Foundation GISDATA research programme was set up in 1992 and involves collaboration between university and government research organisations in all European countries.

(13) GISIG (Geographical Information Systems International Group is a European-wide consortium of GI groups in universities and industry, direct from Genoa and originally set up under the COMETT programme. It is promoted by the Genova Richerche Consortium.

(14) Satellite pour l'observation de la Terre

(15) European Remote Sensing Satellite from the European Space Agency (ESA)

(16) CEN, the European Committee on Standards, set up its Technical Committee TC 287 with the aim of creating the standards required in the field of geographic information. Within its further technical committee, TC 278, the topic of geographic information data standards for road, transport and traffic telematics purposes is also addressed.

(17) ISO also set up two technical committees, ISO TC 211 for geographic information and ISO TC 204 for road telematics.

(18) Fabrizio Jemma , letter to GISDATA and GISIG members from Eurimage , 28 July 1995

(19) "The Basic Geographic Information of the Baltic Drainage Basin", National Board of Waters and the Environment, Helsinki 1994. ISBN 951-47-9696-9.

(20) Petra Gartzen, Dataquest Europe Ltd., from study on GI in Europe.

(21) Commission work programme concerning an experimental project for gathering, coordinating and ensuring the consistency of information on the state of the environment and natural resources in the Community, 1985-1990. Now this programme has been taken over by the European Environment Agency.

(22) There is also a danger that larger foreign competitors will simply "buy up" their European competitors, as in the case of Microsoft’s take-over of NextBase Ltd (UK) in 1995.

(23) Metadata is defined as data which describes the characteristics of a data set such as content and quality, and provides details on points of contact to view or to acquire the data.

(24) The European Science Foundation GISDATA research programme was set up in 1992 and involves collaboration between university and government research organisations in all European countries.

It is important that this cooperation includes Switzerland to avoid an important geographical "hole" in Europe as well as the countries of Central and Eastern Europe already prior to EU membership

(26) ISO also set up two technical committees, ISO TC 211 for geographic information and ISO TC 204 for road telematics.

(27) "GIS Dictionary" - A Standards Committee Publication of the Association for Geographic Information (AGI), UK, Version no. 1.1, STA/06/91, published January 1991".

(28) also knows as geodetic frameworks or reference systems

(29) Nomenclature des Unités Territoriales Statistiques defined and used by EUROSTAT



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