Mapping moves toward Internet

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency has begun working on a project that during the next four years will seek to deliver more maps over the Internet.

Under the $21 million Data Architecture and Gateway Services (DAGS) project awarded to Harris Corp. last month NIMA plans to produce fewer CD-ROM and paper maps and more maps that are accessible via the Internet.

NIMA officials hope the Internet maps will give NIMA customers - the Defense Department CIA and military policy-makers - more up-to-date maps.

Various groups that call on agencies to provide geospatial information also will rely on DAGS. Numerous nongovernmental organizations regularly ask NIMA customers to provide maps for humanitarian missions and initiatives.

In the past these groups have had to rely largely on paper maps which sometimes do not get to the end user quickly enough and "often contain outdated information " said Bill Wood director of the State Department's Office of the Geographer and Global Issues. The office frequently works with NIMA to supply maps to federal agencies such as the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the Agency for International Development and nongovernmental organizations involved in international affairs.

For instance the U.S. Institute of Peace a federally funded group in Washington D.C. that works with policy-makers on humanitarian issues needed current maps delivered quickly to monitor and develop policies on the recent floods of refugees among Rwanda Burundi and Zaire. But the institute did not have up-to-date maps. "It was quite a bit late [in the process] given how quickly things were moving on the ground " said Bob Schmitt an information systems manager at the institute.

The institute turned to the State and Defense departments which delivered NIMA-generated maps via the Internet.

Internet-delivered maps can be delivered in real time cutting out the several days that it takes to send a CD-ROM or paper map said Lynn Martin a contracting officer with NIMA. NIMA officials also expect the Internet maps to save money but how much officials could not say.

Prospects for the Future

But DAGS still has some problems to solve. Wood said the success of Internet-delivered data depends on the end user's computer skills and ability to access the information in the field.

Spending on DAGS has totaled about $13 million. What has been earmarked for DAGS over the next four years - $21.3 million - may increase however. In June NIMA was discussing increasing the value of DAGS to as much as $35 million.

To take the DAGS contract Harris beat out Lockheed Martin Corp. Science Applications International Corp. TRW Corp. and E-Systems Inc.

Harris which manages the contract out of its Melbourne Fla. operation will create a data warehouse which will contain a wide variety of geospatial data.

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