Feds strike common chord with geospatial portal

Geospatial One-Stop portal

The Interior Department unveiled the first version of the Geospatial One-Stop portal last week, an e-government initiative of great interest to all who work with geographic-related data.

The portal, www.geodata.gov, will store data collected by federal, state and local governments, so geographic information system (GIS) users can readily find information and combine, enhance and analyze it.

The portal also will enable government agencies to see what data is already available before they collect their own, a boon especially to budget-strapped state and local government.

"Geospatial data is incredibly important to the business of government, especially state and local governments," said Mark Forman, administrator of the Office of Budget and Management's Office of E-Government and Information Technology. "The information is used in so many ways, for so many purposes."

The portal enables users to generate maps and search for categories of GIS data, such as environment and conservation, health and disease, agriculture and geology.

To build the portal, Interior needed a framework for storing and accessing data from different sources. Last fall, the department asked Open GIS Consortium Inc. to develop that framework. For the first release, though, Interior is using one provided by GIS vendor ESRI.

Interior is expected to base future releases of the portal on OGC's framework.

The program team is committed to the standards being developed, said Hank Garie, executive director of the initiative at Interior. This approach applies OGC's work on standards and ensures that the first version meets those standards, he said. "It's the best of both worlds."

The initiative's next phase is to bring in more partners from the state and local levels to integrate their data and increase interoperability, Garie said. His goal is to involve 25 more states by the end of the year.

At the federal level, the portal is vital for other e-government initiatives, including the Disaster Management Egov Initiative and the Recreation.gov portal, Forman said.

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Standards bearer

By basing its Geospatial One-Stop portal on common standards, the Interior Department will enable organizations at all levels of government to build their own portals or systems and still access the governmentwide one, said Mark Reichardt, executive director of outreach and community adoption at Open GIS Consortium Inc. "[The government] really reduces their integration costs," he said.

The architecture that the OGC is developing — which the group plans to turn over to the Office of Management and Budget within the next few weeks — also follows the new way of thinking about architecture fostered by the Federal Enterprise Architecture, said David Schell, OGC president.

The architecture has to be able to adapt to technology, new information and needs, Schell said. "You've got to not just work in a collaborative environment, you've got to create a collaborative environment that is tuned to change," he said.

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