Digital Earth: A political sphere

As with everything else in 2000, presidential politics is affecting the

course of Digital Earth. Given the current political atmosphere, there's

no guarantee that Digital Earth will have the necessary support to go forward,

even if Vice President Al Gore is elected president.

That puts even more emphasis on the alpha version workshop that will

be held next week. It's important from the point of view of funding, for

one thing. The Digital Earth Steering Committee in April agreed to solicit,

at the least, seed funding from the various agencies involved. More details

are expected at the workshop.

That in turn could be instrumental in prompting increased interest from

the private sector, which is seen as a pivotal requirement for future progress

on Digital Earth. If the government is perceived as ready to pony up some

money for the initiative, that may be enough to convince those in industry

that there will be sufficient interest for them to continue their involvement.

All of those components will be needed if the backers of Digital Earth are

to convince the new Congress and administration that the initiative deserves

more resources, particularly with so many similar-looking projects already

in place.

"We hope next year to be able to show there will be some substantial benefits

that will come out of Digital Earth," said Ivan DeLoatch, chief of the data

acquisition branch at the Environmental Protection Agency. "We need to show

the business case for Digital Earth. We hope that, at the least, that's

what will come out of the alpha version discussions."

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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