The Fifty States Initiative guidelines fail to meet the needs of most SSDI (and consequently impede the NSDI) for several reasons… 1.) The document should state that there are no experts on facilitating data sharing between government entities within the context of the NSDI in the forward. The reader should be cautioned to read the document critically. Otherwise they may mistakenly be given the impression that NSGIC ...more »
The Fifty States Initiative guidelines fail to meet the needs of most SSDI (and consequently impede the NSDI) for several reasons…
1.) The document should state that there are no experts on facilitating data sharing between government entities within the context of the NSDI in the forward. The reader should be cautioned to read the document critically. Otherwise they may mistakenly be given the impression that NSGIC is the authority in this area when there’s not enough accumulated knowledge for there to be an authority on data sharing and the NSDI. The coordinating council should take the responsibility of becoming the data sharing expert in their state(s).
2.) For NSGIC the Fifty States Initiative is more of an inventory of which states actually have a plan, not a guiding document for state coordinating councils. State coordinating councils however may perceive it as a guiding document. My belief is that doing so will result in the failure of their SSDI in most cases. In Indiana 85 out of 92 counties have agreed to provide framework data to the SSDI. The coordinating council was only able to accomplish this after discarding the guidelines.
3.) The document doesn’t encourage the geospatial community to learn how their state and federal laws facilitate and/or complicate data sharing. State coordinating councils must be aware of state and federal public records laws from the beginning as these should affect their strategies and priorities. Also, state laws will affect who maintains what data in which jurisdictions or agencies. Unless councils are aware of this they won’t know who to invite as stakeholders and may fail to invite critical representatives to their board. This should be addressed in section ’2.2 Where are we now?’ of the guidelines. Similarly, the document doesn’t encourage coordinating councils to establish legislative committees to keep track of their states legislative processes, proposed bills and new laws so they can stay informed (and feed that information on up to NSGIC as needed).
4.) The document doesn’t stress how vital intelligence gathering is to coordinating councils. Keeping track of state legislation is one vital intelligence stream that ‘all’ councils must tap into but there are others. The initial activities of newly formed coordinating councils should focus on intelligence gathering, not planning. Without knowledge of their states laws, politics and dominate operating pathologies of government entities (among other things) councils can’t formulate effective plans and make informed decisions. When a coordinating council does get around to formalizing a plan how they will continue to gather intelligence should be integrated into it. This is necessary for ‘all’ councils to be effective.
5.) The focus on the ‘GIS Champion’ needs some elaboration in the document. While it’s necessary to have a politician/executive decision-maker involved in the legislative process, focusing too much on the ‘GIS Champion’ can be self defeating. Having a ‘champion’ implies the coordinating council is helpless and needs someone else to deal with politics. This may be true when dealing with legislative issues but it’s not in most other cases. By making the ‘champion’ part of its guiding criteria NSGIC is fostering a culture of failure. GIS professionals on coordinating councils must learn to deal with state and local politics. They can’t always rely on a ‘champion’ to do their dirty work.
6.) The implementation guidelines (section 5) focus too much on data and not enough on people. Most GIS folks deal with data and technology. This is necessary of course but we can probably muster the expertise to deal with data management and infrastructure related to SSDI. Where the SSDI process begins to break down is when coordinating councils (mostly made up of GIS professionals) deal with people. Managing an SSDI invariably comes down to managing people and relationships between government entities. Councils struggle with this and need guidance and education in basic intermediary and leadership skills. About the strongest leaders we can muster are project managers. A coordinating council isn’t a collection of projects; it’s a collection of people.
7.) Getting local and state government contributing to the SSDI takes consistent face to face ‘dialog’ with key executives and politicians in every jurisdiction. It’s time consuming and often they aren’t cooperative but only because they have genuine concerns. Instead of focusing on local ‘buy-in’ coordinating councils should focus more on 'listening' to state and local officials. Find out what their concerns are regarding data sharing, let them know the council will work on addressing them and then the council should focus on addressing their concerns. Return to officials later and update them on the progress that’s been made and where the council has encountered obstacles. Ask for their input and invite them to join the SSDI/NSDI again. If they still say no then thank them for their time and continue to work on addressing their concerns. Rinse and repeat. Eventually (and it may be years down the road) they’ll say yes. There will be a few exceptions but so what, most will come on board. There’s no quick and easy way to do this and councils have to do the work or it won’t happen. This needs spelled out in the guidelines or coordinating councils are going to do what’s easiest, (mass emails, surveys, tweets, leaflets, letters and postcards which are all largely worthless until relationships are established) not what’s effective which is dialog with officials in their seat of government or agency office.
8.) The guidelines fail to mention that the planning documents of coordinating councils should detail how the state coordinating body will file grievances against the FGDC, the General Services Agency and NSGIC when they fail to hold up their end of the NSDI.
In Indiana we’ve successfully harvested framework data from over 80 of our 92 counties (and 85 have agreed to share framework data). The local framework data we harvest has been available for integration into the NSDI for over a year now. It still hasn’t been integrated into the National Map however and it’s my understanding the USGS is revamping geodata.gov so while the exclusion of our framework data from the NSDI is frustrating for Indiana, it’s understandable, at least in the context of the USGS restructuring. However, our State Geographic Information Officer filled out the necessary paperwork to put Indiana’s spatial data on Data.gov early in 2010. Why isn’t it available? This is just a hyperlink tied to an image of Indiana on http://www.data.gov/statedatasites so it’s not a technical issue which implies we’re being excluded either because of red tape or politics.
There are approximately 6,400,000 Hoosiers taxpayers that aren’t benefiting from the economic development and public safety benefits of having our SSDI integrated into the NSDI. There’s no valid reason why there isn’t a hyperlink to our spatial data on data.gov. There’s a growing awareness in Indiana that to get our state integrated into the NSDI we may have to cram the Indiana Map down the federal throat. The guidelines don't detail that coordinating councils need a plan in place to 'force' their SSDI into the NSDI once they have their SSDI developed.