Report of International Workshop on Spatial Data Infrastructures` Cost-Benefit / Return on Investment


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This report provides a summary of the outcomes of a two-day workshop organized by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in partnership with the US Federal Geographic Data Committee, GeoConnections Canada, and the Geoide Network. This was the first meeting specifically dedicated to assessing the socio-economic impacts of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDIs), and for this purpose brought together experts directly involved in such studies to share experience and develop a network of good practice. The meeting was hosted by the JRC on the 12-13 January 2006 at its premises in Ispra, Italy.

The meeting was timely because there is a growing awareness across governments and communities of practitioners that much more attention needs to be paid to assessing the social and economic impacts of SDIs now that a significant number of such infrastructures is being established. The few studies available and summarised in this report provide useful guidance on the range of methods available but are all characterised by a large number of assumptions the validity of which has yet to be tested. This is because they are by and large ex-ante studies undertaken to justify political and financial support, and we have yet to see enough studies of SDIs in practice able to assess the extent to which initial assumptions are valid. Moreover, work to date has focused primarily on set-up costs, and short term efficiency benefits which are relatively easier to assess, than wider measures including indirect and organisational costs, and longer term social, political and economic benefits. With this in mind, the following recommendations are made:

1. To develop a shared portfolio of studies at different levels of granularity: the micro level (e.g. time saving, expenditure reduced or avoided within organisations), mesolevel (cross organisational, regional, sectoral), and macro-level (national or international comparative studies, cross-sectoral studies) and build the knowledge base of assumptions made, assessment methods, and outcomes.

2. To develop a clearer and shared definition of SDI components and their interactions, so that studies of such components (e.g. geo-portals) can also be assessed for their contribution to the overall SDI framework.

3. To give priority to longitudinal studies of SDIs in progress, for which an initial assessment was made, to validate the assumptions made, and identify the risk factors involved. This may include self-assessment but the more it is shared and
open to scrutiny, the more cumulative knowledge can be developed.

4. To develop a theoretical framework underpinning the identification of SDI benefits (i.e. what kind of benefits, both positive and negative, would we expect and why from an SDI)

5. To pay particular attention to identifying user communities, and eliciting their assessment of value deriving from an SDI

6. To pay particular attention to regional SDIs, and to application-driven approaches as ways to identify more easily stakeholders, user communities, and potential benefits.

7. To regularly exchange experiences with related fields, particularly in the GI technology, and utilities sectors, and e-government to share results, and find synergies for undertaking joint assessment studies including surveys.

8. To develop greater understanding of total geo-spatial investments across government programmes and develop a baseline against which additional SDI costs can be related to.

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