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IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY

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Comments and Contributions of Deutscher Dachverband für Geoinformation e.V. (DDGI)


1. Use of Public Information and DDGI´s Mission

One of the main goals of DDGI has always been improving data usability, transfer and exchange to reach an economic and demand oriented use of all available geodata. DDGI´s slogan in this context is: „Pave the way for effective geodata transfer“ and „Make geodata run“. This requirement is important for all relevant - not only ground related - information used in a common Europe.

Therefore DDGI expressly supports the green paper initiative and in general agrees to its content.

2 Need for Action

The green paper deals with a subject, that is of great importance to the economic situation and economic and industrial development in Europe.

  • A better availability of and access to all public information offer new prospects and chances to the European citizens, the industry and also to the public sector. Their work could be done more effectively; also, the existing competetive disadvantage of the European economy and industry could be balanced.
  • Besides, the steps necessary to reach better availability of and access to all public information - as for example the creation of metadata centres, data standardization, value added and data delivery – can play a very important role improving the economic situation in Europe: they open new fields of business, research and development.

3. General Barriers

It is true that it is crucial to find a European solution for a more effective use of public information. But still, there is the feeling that a lot of problems have to be solved:

  • The most important problem is the existing conflict between freedom of information and the requirement to use “return from market”-principles. The background: The trend in many European countries - so in Germany - is to give agencies, that make public products, a new organizational form: they become companies of the public sector. Such companies have to operate in a market oriented way. This development therefore is in conflict with the call for data access at low costs or even free of charge.
  • Some European countries have certain central tasks of the public sector carried out in a decentralized way, e.g. Official Surveying and Mapping in Germany. Moreover, European countries will delegate further central tasks to the next lower level, e.g. to the communities. This trend is also in conflict with the goal of a better use of public information especially with view to the data quality (homogeneity etc.) and a fast and effective data access.
  • The first step improving the use of public information must be the definition of information categories (groups of equal or at least similar kinds of information). It seems senseful to fix such categories on the basis of their potential economic value. But up to now a reliable estimation of economic values cannot be done, because the information market has just started working.
  • The access to public information is usually prescribed by law. So, the very important step to homogenize data access at the European level will surely take long.

It is necessary to insert these points into the catalogue of necessary actions of the green paper.

In some domains of the public sector the European countries have already started to deal with the mentioned problems. One example: The Surveying and Mapping Administration of Germany has recognized the need for actions and plans to create a “catalogue of rules for geodata services in Germany to ease and improve access and use of geodata”. Goals and action plan are similar to the green paper. The results of similar national initiatives should be used as far as possible to realize the green paper. That should be added to the green paper.

4. Building Up of a Metadata Informationsystem

A European solution for an improved use of public information consists of a concept (and realization) for

  • preparation and delivery of already available public information,
  • capturing, preparing and delivering future - homogeneous - public information,
  • metadata about public information.

Capturing and preparation of public information are a very time consuming process, whereas the building up of a metadata informationsystem can be done in a shorter time. This fact is convenient, since in DDGI’s point of view the first central step to reach the European goal is to ease the access to public information. To meet this requirement it is necessary to improve the awareness of public information (i.e. availability, usefulness, quality, owner, price etc.). Thus, availability and easy access to metadata have to be defined as the first step for a Europe wide use of public information. Metadata have to be complete (i.e. correspond to the demand) and homogeneous (i.e. of the same structure).

The creation of a metadata informationsystem should be fixed in the green paper as first and most important step with the following actions to take:

  • definition of public information categories (see above),
  • development of a concept for a homogeneous Europe wide metadata informationsystem (could also be a number of decentralised - e.g. national - solutions, connected via data net),
  • development of a strategy to integrate already existing metadata and metadata systems,
  • development of a strategy to ensure a homogeneous metadata capturing and delivery during future production of public information data in Europe.

Some European countries have begun to build up their own local and global metadata informationsystem, e.g. the German wide solution “InGeoForum” for geodata at all and comparable solutions limited to the region of separate German “Länder” (e.g. the “Geodateninformationsystem” of Baden-Württemberg, consisting of official geodata and their metadata). Even European organizations have already realized metadata solutions for certain fields of the public sector, e.g. CERCO with the “Geospatial Data Description Directory (GDDD)” for geobasisdata. These activities are similar to the green paper. The results of such similar initiatives should be used as far as possible to realize the European metadata informationsystem about public information. That should also be recorded in the green paper.

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