Opinion: INSPIRE`d?

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The label on the box doesn’t really tell you what it contains. INSPIRE (INfrastructure for Spatial InfoRmation in Europe) is a Directive proposed by the European Commission to create a spatial data infrastructure for Europe. But even knowing the full name of the Directive does not actually give you the feel for its potential practical, political and financial impact on the Member States of Europe. The Commission issued the proposal for a Directive on 23 July 2004. INSPIRE aims to improve the interoperability and integration of spatial information across the Union. The vision is to facilitate the sharing of spatial information between public authorities and provide improved public access and better policy development. Initially INSPIRE will cover environmental data, but other themes, such as agriculture and transport, are to be added at a later date. The case for INSPIRE is compelling. Without intervention at a European level, it is argued, the underpinning information base would remain patchy in coverage, variable in quality and difficult to access or use in a cross-boundary context. Remote islands of interoperability would be the best we could expect. It would remain difficult to find information because the metadata (information on the available data sets) would be at best variable, at worst non-existent. Moreover, even when users found data, they would be unable to access or integrate them easily because an overarching architecture at technological, organisational and procedural levels would be inconsistent or absent.

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